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Barking

Chihuahua Barking

Overview

The Chihuahua has somewhat of a reputation for being a barker. In fact, lots of people believe that Chihuahuas will bark just about non-stop, and there are indeed owners that will attest that their puppy or dog goes a bit berserk on a regular basis. 

However, just like any dog breed, some Chihuahuas can get quite riled up, some are rather quiet, and some are only vocal during certain situations. 

This section will cover different barking scenarios, and exact steps to get your Chihuahua to stop. 

Common Reasons for Barking

Chihuahua puppy under a blanket
Mocha, at 7 months old,
photo courtesy of Norma
We have to remember that a dog's bark is his voice; so there are a lot of different reasons for barking including:
  • Wanting attention
  • Boredom
  • An outward show of being alert to a change in surroundings
  • Trying to draw your attention to something that is considered noteworthy
  • Canine instinct to alert you to others that are encroaching on your territory
  • As a defense mechanism to ward off something thought of as a threat
So, in essence, a Chihuahua may be barking to say, 'Come here!' or to say, 'Keep away!', or even 'Look at that!'.  How you react to barking will vary, depending on the situation. 

When a Chihuahua Puppy Barks At Night

Overview: Having a puppy bark all night long or start barking early in the morning before you're ready to wake up is certainly one of the most frustrating issues that new owners face. And one thing is for sure; it can leave you worn out and sleep deprived. You may not know if your Chihuahua is lonely, has to go to the bathroom, is uncomfortable, or if it's something else entirely. 

Fortunately, when you have the right set-up for your puppy and a firm plan in place, it's much easier to cope with this. And, when you react in the right way, this sort of barking can be resolved rather quickly. 
6 month old Chihuahua, black and white
Imoogi, 
at 6 months old,
photo courtesy of Marisa
What to do:

1. Create a safe, secure, and comforting environment that offers the chance to self-soothe. 

• You'll want your Chi to be in a secure, defined area that holds food, water, and certain toys. In this way, your puppy will have the ability to eat, drink, and stay busy without you rushing over. 
• Using a small canine playpen like the IRIS 24'' Pet Playpen with Door is a good method to do this. These are also great for keeping a pup confined to limit housebreaking accidents and/or destructive chewing, and to serve as a dog's area when you're away from home.  
• Within the pen, there should also be a quality bed. Since young pups can get easily chilled and because most like to feel snuggled, a small bolster bed like the K&H Self-Warming Lounge Sleeper is a good choice. 
• There should be a water bowl; make sure that this is filled with fresh water.

• You'll also want to have some food within reach. Young Chihuahua puppies under 3 months old should have food available at all times, including nighttime. 
So, for puppies this age, have some kibble in a small bowl. Additionally, have some in a small treat dispensing toy, that can be placed in the pen after the pup falls asleep, so that it's found in the morning. 

For puppies over 3 months, just the treat dispensing toy can be used. 

One like the Busy Buddy Twist 'n Treat Puppy Toy in Size Extra Small is specifically designed for young puppies so that it's not too challenging, and is adjustable. You can make it tempting by adding a dab of liquid fish oil or peanut butter to the edges. 
Chihuahua puppy sleeping
Tia, at 13 weeks old,
photo courtesy of Melissa
• A companion toy can be helpful. These are often used to provide comfort to dogs that are home alone. One like the Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy is a good-sized stuffed animal that emits a rhythmic, soothing heartbeat. There is also an option to have it radiate a comforting warmth, which can be great for tiny pups. It essentially mimics a living dog. 
2. Now that your puppy has the right setup, know when and how to respond to barking. 
• Many owners assume that a puppy may be barking due to having to go to the bathroom. However, until house training has been underway for some time and there is a strong sense of what is expected, a young puppy will not be barking to be brought outside.

This is not to say that the pup won't go to the bathroom if you take him out; most likely he will once he's there. The bladder often 'wakes up' once the pup does. 

So, there are two approaches to this. If you highly suspect a housebreaking need, you can bring the pup out. However, if you have pee pads within the pen, there's a good chance that a puppy will pee on them, and fall back asleep (see next point). 
You may wonder how it is that the pup will know to use the pads. He won't. It'll be by default. When in a defined space that holds a bed, food and water bowls, and toys, you will line the only other available areas with pee pads. Since dogs rarely soil their own belongings, pee and poo are deposited on the pads as the only option. 
If you do bring your puppy out, this should be done with minimal lighting and very limited speaking to show that it is a serious time. If you give pats, play, or even speak much, this can prompt a puppy to bark at night, knowing that attention will be received after doing so. 
• If your Chihuahua has just gone to the bathroom and you know that is not the cause, or you have decided to have him use the pads, it'll be time to teach self-soothing lessons. This is always easier said than done. After all, it is human instinct to want to go to a puppy in need. And, it's awfully hard to ignore constant barking. 

However, every time that you respond to barking, you are teaching the pup a lesson that barking means you'll come over. What reason would he have to stop? 
Chihuahua puppy wearing a shirt and curled up
Bandit, longhaired Chi,
photo courtesy of Patricia
And, it's even worse if you wait but then eventually give in to the barking, because then you are teaching the lesson that if the pup barks long enough, it will result in you going over. Now, there's motivation to bark even longer and harder. 

This can have lasting effects, in which barking continues for many more months that it would otherwise. 

It's hard for a new puppy to get accustomed to his new home, and there should certainly be empathy. However, you also want your Chihuahua to learn to be secure with himself and to be independent enough that you do not need to be right by his side for everything to be okay. 

When you know that your puppy is safe within a playpen, is warm, and has food, water, and toys, if you ignore barking until the pup wears out and falls back asleep, this will lead to nighttime barking lasting only a matter of weeks. 

When a Chihuahua Barks Like Mad at Home

Maybe your Chihuahua sits on the sofa, looking out the window, and barks like a maniac. Or maybe, while you're trying to relax, your Chi starts barking and just won't stop. 

You might shush him, keep saying 'no' but are being ignored, or are listened to momentarily before the barking kicks in again. No doubt, this sort of incessant barking can be exceedingly frustrating, and it may seem as if you have no control over your dog. 

There are 3 steps to resolving this:

1. Ensure that all essential needs are being met. 
2. Establish yourself as leader, so that your commands are listened to. 
3. Interrupt and distract. 

So, let's dive into these.

1. Ensure that all needs are being met. 

• You will want to be sure that your Chihuahua is receiving enough daily exercise. This is vital for good health, but also has the very important benefit of allowing a dog to release pent-up energy. 
The very minimum requirement is two 20-minute walks per day. But, many Chihuahuas need more than this. If your Chihuahua seems overly hyper, try adding on 10 minutes to each walk. Also, be sure to have cardio sessions; fetch is the easiest and more effective way to give a dog a good workout. Stock up on some mini tennis balls, and have a 15 to 20 minute session each day. If you can schedule this happen at the times that your dog typically gets antsy, all the better. 
Chihuahua sticking out tongue
Sugar, at 5 years old,
photo courtesy of Dawn Crisman 
• Provide enough mental stimulation. This includes things that you can do with your dog, such as puzzle games, playing hide n' seek, heading out to explore new places, and command training. 

This also involves things a dog can do by himself, and a good collection of toys including chew toys and interactive 'stay busy' toys will give a dog options to pass the time. It can help to rotate toys; keep half out and half tucked away (aside from the most-loved favorites). Every week or so, swap them, and your Chi will always have some 'new' ones. 
• A low-key environment will help. It's common for dogs to pick up on the household vibe and mimic it. So, if there is loud music, blaring TVs, children screaming, other pets running around, lots of foot traffic, or an otherwise chaotic scene, it's near impossible for a Chihuahua to remain calm. He's going to bark at all this sort of stimuli. 
2. Establish yourself as leader. 

Before you can train your Chihuahua to stop barking, you need to be sure that you've established the fact that you should be listened to. You may assume that your dog sees you as leader, but this is not always the case.
One of the easiest and fastest ways to make this clear is to expect a 'Sit' before any food is given; this includes both meals and snacks. You'll want to command a 'Sit', wait for a count of 5 once it is followed, and then place the bowl down or offer the treat. 
Additional methods include always keeping your dog in a heeling position when walking (to your immediate left side), and having the dog enter and exit the through the doorway to the house after the human does so. 
3. Interrupt and distract. 

For this, you will need a way to interrupt the barking. Sometimes, a loud hand clap and a quick firm 'Hey' or 'No' works. Typically, once leadership is established, this will work. However, if you find that it does not, you may want to incorporate a training tool. 

You will find that The Company of Animals Pet Corrector is a safe yet effective method to gain a dog's attention. It is used by canine trainers, and works by releasing a short hiss of compressed air. This particular sound usually works very well to cause a dog to stop and take pause.
Once your Chihuahua has stopped barking and you have his attention for a moment, you'll want to redirect his focus elsewhere. 

You can work on a few commands, play a game together, or direct your dog to an intriguing toy. Typically, one that makes an interesting noise or one that speaks will do the trick. And the Pet Qwerks Talking Babble Ball is a great choice for this. 

When a Chihuahua Barks at Visitors

Handling this type of barking is a bit different, because when a Chihuahua barks in response to visitors to the home, this is a valid reason. It's canine instinct to alert others that someone is approaching or entering the territory. So, trying to completely stop this will be in vain. 

However, a good goal to have is to teach your Chihuahua that just a few barks is all that is needed. In fact, you can teach your dog that letting out a few barks is actually appreciated. Your Chi will learn that his job as 'watch dog' is going well, and you'll have quiet once those initial alert barks are done. 

To train your Chihuahua for this, you will want to:
  • Have established yourself as leader
  • Have your Chihuahua trained to obey a 'Sit'
  • Have special treats at the ready
You can then practice how you want your dog to respond to visitors by:

1. Having a helper take the role of visitor. 

2. Be inside the house, approximately 10 to 15 feet from the door, with your Chihuahua on leash and harness, and some training treats in your pocket. 

3. When you know that your helper is about to reach the door, command a 'Sit'. 

4. Place the leash on the floor, with your foot firmly on it to prevent your dog from moving about; note that using a harness and not a collar will allow you to do this without causing neck injury. 

5. When the doorbell rings or your helper enters (depending on what typically takes place at your home that triggers your Chihuahua to bark):
  • Allow for a few barks.
  • Say 'Okay' in firm voice, to let your dog know that you appreciate the alert, but that you approve of the visitor. 
  • Palm and offer a training treat to praise the alert.
  • If your Chi has risen, order a 'Sit' and give praise when this is obeyed.
  • Have the person slowly enter or step forward.
  • If your Chihuahua barks again, give a firm 'No' and have your helper stop in place. If your Chihuahua does not listen to this, and keeps barking, consider using a behavior corrector (as previously mentioned) to cause him to take pause. 
  • During this pause in which your Chi has stopped barking, give reward again, as your helper walks forward and fully enters the house. 
  • Each bark from this point onward is met with immediate interruption, yet a reward when stopping. Every 20 to 30 seconds in which there is no barking, reward is given. 
6. As you go about greeting your helper and settling down for the visit, your Chihuahua may be circling you, since it is common for Chihuahuas to compete with visitors for attention. Have your helper toss a ball a few times to your dog or otherwise interact to show that everyone can get along.  

When a Chihuahua Barks While Being Walked

Chihuahua dressed up
Chiquita, at 7 years old,
photo courtesy of Tina Behrens
Every dog has a certain amount of stimuli that they can handle before they start barking. For some dogs, it takes quite a bit. However, it's not uncommon for Chihuahuas to bark at everything that they see. Other dogs, people, cars driving by, and even birds in trees. 

You can help curb this type of barking by: 
• Starting off with walks on a calm, non-distracting route. It's near impossible to train a dog to stop barking while walking if there are non-stop triggers. 

So, you'll want to start taking walks in areas that have very little to no cars, few pets, and a quiet atmosphere. Once your Chihuahua learns how to stay composed, you can gradually work your way up to routes that have more activity. 
• Keep your Chihuahua on leash and harness. This allow you better control. Additionally, harnesses help prevent collapsed trachea, which is a common and serious issue seen with this breed. 

A great harness that fits Chi of all sizes, as small as a neck size of 7.5 inches, is The Original EcoBark Comfort and Control Dog Harness
You will want to be using a retractable leash, so that you can keep your Chihuahua in a heeling position to your immediate left. Note that if your dog is ahead of you, the following steps will not work. 

Have the leash adjusted to the exact length needed to keep your dog in position. Hold the handle in your right hand, have your left hand holding the cord near your left hip, and your Chihuahua to your left side, neither ahead or behind. 

The Flexi Classic Cord Retractable Leash is a terrific choice for this; it is lightweight, has a comfortable grip and a brake button, and extends up to 16 feet for times when you want to let it out. 
• When your Chihuahua barks, do not tense up, stop, or otherwise respond. Typically, owners tend to tense up, since they are used to feeling embarrassed that their dog is making a ruckus or there's an immediate increase to stress levels due to frustration over the situation. It's also common for owners to stop, thinking that they are supposed to do something to deal with the barking. 

But, if you do either of these things, you'll be acknowledging that the barking is warranted. After all, it made you physically react, so you are responding to the trigger too. 

Instead, stay relaxed and keep walking. You can safely do this because your Chihuahua will be wearing a harness and you'll be in control because the leash will be kept short. 

• As you move away from the trigger, barking will naturally cease. As soon as it does, stop and offer a reward treat that you have in your pocket. This is an important aspect of this training; when done enough times, your dog will learn that remaining quiet brings about a super-tasty treat. 

Do note that the training treat must be something that is not normally given. It should also be moist and super flavorful. And of course, you'll want to avoid ingredients like chemical preservatives or fillers. One like Zuke's Mini Naturals Fresh Peanut Butter Training Treats is a terrific choice. 

• Throughout the walk, randomly give praise and reward at times when your Chihuahua is not barking. With practice, you can simply slow down as your dog mouths the treat from your palm as you say 'Good, dog'; a full stop is not necessary for these times. 

With enough practice, your Chihuahua will learn that barking is ignored; the trigger is so irrelevant that his human did not care to react. And that not barking brings about good things: praise and reward

When you feel that your dog is ready, switch to a route with slightly more distractions and triggers, working your way up to your preferred walking route. Do keep in mind that every dog has their limits, and a route packed with commotion may be too much for any Chihuahua. 
Did you find this article to be helpful? If so, you'll love The GIANT Book of Chihuahua Care
Other Articles That You May Like: 
How to Help a Clingy Chihuahua - If your puppy needs to always be by your side or your adult keeps to you like a shadow, these tips can help build self-confidence and a step towards more independence. 
Chihuahua Allergies - Steps to remove or limit allergens, and how to provide relief for itching and other common issues. 
Helping a Chihuahua Be Okay When Home Alone - If your dog has a hard time while you're gone, there are some things you can do to help. 
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