It’s no secret. Chihuahuas love to bark. Like all dogs, barking is a perfectly normal behavior. But, when our Chihuahuas won’t stop barking, it becomes a problem.
We agree with our neighbors, friends, and family, when they complain about annoying Chihuahua barking. This natural dog behavior can quickly become excessive and obsessive. Because barking is a natural behavior for all breeds (not just Chihuahuas), rather than focusing on stopping all barking, you will want to focus on how to stop excessive barking.
Do Chihuahuas bark a lot?
The simple answer is: they can. Chihuahuas, just like all breeds of dogs, are individuals. So, you may meet a Chihuahua who rarely barks, or a Chihuahua who never stops barking! Barking is both a nature and a nurture behavior, which means both genetics and training play a role on if a Chihuahua will bark a lot.
Why do Chihuahuas bark?
Unfortunately, since our Chihuahuas speak “dog”, we can only guess at what causes them to bark. However, based on contextual clues (what is happening before/during their barking), these are some of the reasons we have compiled as to why Chihuahuas bark:
- They’re excited
- They’re bored
- They feel vulnerable or in danger
- They’re being bossy (“I want that toy/treat/attention/etc”)
- They’re guarding their territory
- They’re barking because their pack is barking
- They’re barking because they see another animal/stranger/scary new object
- They’re alone/feel isolated
- They’re stuck (trapped behind the couch or safe in a kennel, if they don’t want to be there, they’ll let you know)
- They’re trying to get attention from you/another person
Why do Chihuahuas bark at nothing?
Sometimes it may even appear that they are barking for no reason at all…that nothing on the above list is the reason behind your Chihuahua’s barking problems. However, like all dogs, Chihuahuas have a much more developed sense of hearing, smell, and sight than humans, so there is a good chance they are barking at something, it just may be something you can’t see, hear, or smell.
How to Train a Chihuahua to Stop Barking
The first step in solving any problem behavior is to figure out the reason why it is occurring in the first place. So, for a behavior like barking, if you can, you want to identify what thing (or things) trigger your Chihuahua’s barking.
Once you know what is causing your Chihuahua to bark, you will want to follow a few simple guidelines that will make fixing the problem much easier:
- Do not yell or scream at your Chihuahua. Many Chihuahuas will just identify this as you joining in on their barking festivities. Others will just build a negative association between whatever is causing them to bark and you getting angry which in turn could cause them to bark more!
- Do not offer your Chihuahua a treat while he is barking. Presentation of a reward should occur before the bad behavior occurs or after you are able to get the bad behavior to stop. Otherwise you are just rewarding the barking.
Always remember, everything we do is either strengthening or weakening the behavior, so we want to try to communicate with our Chihuahuas as clearly as possible so that we are only reinforcing the good behavior of being quiet or stopping barking when asked.
Because the trigger for the barking can mean different methods need to be applied to fix the problem, we are going to address a few of the most common Chihuahua barking problems: barking at other dogs, barking at strangers/other people, barking at night/when alone.
How to Teach Your Chihuahua to Stop Barking at Other Dogs and Strangers
Barking at other dogs can be a result of a few different things: fear, guarding of territory, or excitement. So, as we mentioned earlier, the best way to make progress in training the behavior is to try to identify why your Chihuahua is barking.
If your Chihuahua is barking at other dogs or barking at strangers out of fear you will want to make sure you are not asking your Chihuahua to interact or otherwise be in a situation where he feels vulnerable. It is okay to hold your Chihuahua, or ask the owner of the other dog (or the new person) to please keep them at a further distance. As your Chihuahua begins to feel more confident, you can progress to no longer holding him and then to having him be closer and closer to the new dog or person (when this happens with people, ask them to throw treats toward your Chihuahua, but to not come closer, not make eye contact, and not try to pet). This process may take days, weeks, months, or even years depending on how severe the fear is.
If at any point your Chihuahua starts fear-barking again, it just means you progressed too quickly. Also, be very careful to not let your Chihuahua have a bad social experience with other dogs or people during this time. Being growled at, lunged at, or even bitten by another will just solidify the fear. It is better to have a Chihuahua who feels safe (and is quiet) with you, then to have one who is overtly social with strange dogs who may be unsafe.
If your Chihuahua is barking at other dogs or barking at people to guard his territory you will want to remove the him from the territory or take away the resource. Basically, you want to teach him that “if you guard it, you lose it”. As long as he’s being good, he gets his territory back, and he can keep it for as long as he remembers to be polite.
If your Chihuahua is barking at other dogs or people out of excitement you will need to start out by trying to prevent him from getting overly excited by new “friends” by engaging with him before he reaches that state of arousal. If he likes toys, play! Does your Chihuahua like food? Do some easy tricks. If he likes to “wrestle” with your hands, play a game of wrestle!
You also do not want to let him meet any “friends” when he is barking. This step is very hard, because we all love having friendly Chihuahuas, but remember, everything you do is telling him if you like or don’t like a behavior. So, by giving him what he wants while he’s doing his excited barking, you’re telling him you like the barking.
How to Teach Your Chihuahua to Stop Barking at Night or When Alone
Chihuahuas are social creatures. In fact, this is one of the facts we share in our article 7 Things You Should Know about Chihuahuas. They get very attached to their person and their dog family-members. So, when they are separated from their owners or their dog-family, they can become stressed and frustrated. This stress will often lead to excessive barking.
Just as we mentioned above, when working on solving barking as a result of being alone, everything you do is telling your Chihuahua if you like or don’t like a behavior. So, if your Chihuahua is in his crate at night, barking, going to get him will strengthen the barking behavior, because he wanted you to come get him. As long as you remember this very important piece of advice, solving this type of problem barking can be done in just two steps:
- Make sure your Chihuahua has plenty to keep him busy while he is alone. You can try enrichment or puzzle feeders, food-toys (such as Kongs which you can stuff and freeze with various yummy foods), bones or chewies, new toys, and so on. Giving your Chihuahua something to entertain him while he is alone will keep his mind off the fact that he does not have his family with him. Make sure, though, that you don’t leave for so long that the items lose their novelty. Start with short duration by himself and build to longer duration. Also, try to rotate the items so that they stay “new” and interesting.
- If your Chihuahua is barking, whining, or howling while he is alone (or in his crate at night), whatever you do…do not go to him. Checking on him, letting him out, and so on are all going to make the barking worse, because he was barking to get you to come back. As hard as it is, you will need to wait until he is quiet, then go to get him.
Be consistent. Be patient. And don’t forget to reward good behavior!
Have any tips to stop Chihuahua barking that we missed? Let us know in the comments!