How to Train a Chihuahua to Stop Barking

Chihuahua barking

Does your Chihuahua bark up a storm at every little thing he sees? Well, you aren't alone. Excessive and inappropriate barking is one of the most common behavioral problems reported by Chihuahua owners.

Some Chihuahuas bark only when there's a knock at the front door, while others bark at the television, vacuum cleaner, broom, radio, other pets, pedestrians walking outside, or for no apparent at all. This behavior can become a nuisance and make life difficult for both you and your family, but you can train even the most vocal Chihuahua to stop barking by following the tips listed below.

Is Barking Really That Bad?

Chihuahuas bark for a variety of reasons, some of which are appropriate while others are not. Barking in itself isn't necessarily bad. From large Mastiffs to small Chihuahuas, all dogs communicate through barking. If your pint-sized canine companion sees a large dog roaming the yard, he may bark loudly to alert you of the other dog's presence. Other Chihuahuas bark when they need food or water. And let's hope this never happens, but a Chihuahua may also bark when there's an intruder trying to enter the home.

There are times, however, when a Chihuahua's excessive barking is a nuisance. Perhaps your Chihuahua barks at 6:00 AM every morning when the neighbor leaves for work, or maybe he barks when the mailman drops off packages at your front door. Scenarios such as these can disturb your sleep, anger your neighbors, and promote a chaotic and stressful environment in your home. As an owner, it's your responsibility to define when it's acceptable for your Chihuahua to bark and when it's not.

Why Chihuahuas Bark

The first step to controlling your Chihuahua's barking is understanding why he does it.

  • Boredom: Some Chihuahuas bark because they are bored. Being social "pack" animals, Chihuahuas need just as much attention as larger breeds, and failure to provide your Chihuahua with daily attention can lead to barking problems. If you leave him alone all day, your Chihuahua may bark at passing cars simply because there's no other form of physical or mental stimulation available. Also, leaving the television running is NOT suitable stimulation to prevent boredom.
  • Frightened: Another common reason why Chihuahuas bark is because they are threatened or frightened. Whether it's the presence of a stranger at the front door, Fourth of July fireworks, thunderstorms, or the vacuum cleaner running (yes, some are afraid of vacuum cleaners), Chihuahuas often bark when frightened. Potential threats trigger this same visceral reaction, prompting them to bark. You can often tell if fear is causing your Chihuahua to bark by examining his posture. Frightened Chihuahuas tend to push their ears back and hold their tail low.
  • Territorial: Chihuahuas are territorial and may bark when another pet or person encroaches upon their space. If your Chihuahua has a crate, for instance, he may bark, growl and exhibit other signs of aggression when another pet attempts to enter. A Chihuahua may also exhibit territorial aggression when another pet approaches while he's eating or drinking.
  • Needs Something: Just like babies cry when they need milk, a Chihuahua may bark when he needs something such as food, water, or when he needs to go potty. These barks are generally softer and shorter than barks caused by territorial aggression or a perceived threat.
  • Separation Anxiety: Does your Chihuahua whine, whimper or bark when you leave the house? This is a characteristic sign of separation anxiety, which occurs when a Chihuahua feels the constant need to be with his owner at all times. Some owners disregard separation anxiety as being harmless or even cute, but it causes severe stress and anxiety.
  • Dementia: One of the lesser-known causes of excessive barking is dementia. According to a study cited by PetMD, up to half of all dogs over the age of 11 show signs of dementia. Also known as canine cognitive dysfunction, it affects the dog's mood, cognitive function, memory and learning. One of the side effects of dementia is barking, as dogs suffering from this disease are likely to vocalize at inappropriate times.
  • Excitement: When a Chihuahua is excited, his natural reaction is to bark. This excitement can come from any number of sources, such as a new toy, a treat, going for a car ride, or seeing their owner come home after a long day. Excitement barking is also a way of getting of your attention, saying "hey, I'm ready to play."

How to Stop Your Chihuahua from Barking

Long-coat Chihuahua not barking

Not all barking is bad, and owners shouldn't attempt to prohibit it altogether. Chihuahuas make excellent watch dogs, alerting owners to the presence of intruders or nefarious individuals. But if you teach your Chihuahua not to bark at strange noises in the middle of the night, an intruder could sneak into your home undetected. Of course, there are times when it's not acceptable for a Chihuahua to bark -- and you should focus your training efforts on these situations..

Step #1) Don't Reward Your Chihuahua for Barking

While it's unlikely that you give your Chihuahua a treat for barking, you could still be encouraging this behavior by showing affection or playing with him. In an effort to keep their Chihuahuas quiet, some owners toss a squeaky toy across the room. This doesn't just mask the problem, though; it makes the problem worse by encouraging them to bark. If you reward your Chihuahua for barking -- treats, affection, playtime, attention, car rides, etc. -- he will continue this behavior.

Step #2) Don't Punish or Scold Your Chihuahua for Barking

On the other hand, you also shouldn't punish or scold your Chihuahua for barking. Some owners assume that yelling "BAD BOY/GIRL" or "NO!" will stop this behavior. Normally, this has the opposite effect by further exciting the Chihuahua. This is because loud and negative commands sound similar to barks, so when you yell "NO!" your Chihuahua might respond by barking more loudly.

Step #3) Reward Your Chihuahua for Not Barking

As with most dog training techniques, the secret to successfully teaching a Chihuahua to stop barking is positive reinforcement. If your Chihuahua remains quiet in situations when he normally barks, reward him with a treat and affection. Does your Chihuahua bark when the neighbor pulls into his or her driveway? Reward him the next time he doesn't bark at the neighbor. Positive reinforcement is the key to stopping this behavior.

Step #3) Teach the 'Speak' Command

Why should you teach your Chihuahua the "speak" command? Well, it's difficult to teach the "quiet" command unless your Chihuahua knows how to bark on command. For the "speak" command, have a friend or family member approach your front door. Immediately before this person rings the door bell, tell your Chihuahua to "speak." If he barks, reward him with a treat and affection. It may take a few tries, but he will eventually associate the verbal command with the action itself.

Step #4) Teach the 'Quiet' Command

Next, teach the "quiet" command to your Chihuahua. To do this, have your Chihuahua bark using the "speak" command. After your Chihuahua barks, place a treat in front of his nose. He should immediately stop barking to sniff and inspect the treat, in which case you should reward him with the treat and affection. Rinse and repeat until your Chihuahua learns the command. Using the "quiet" command, you can stop your Chihuahua from barking at inappropriate times.

Step #5) Provide Plenty of Exercise

If you were to examine the lifestyle of Chihuahuas with barking problems, you would notice many of them share a common characteristic: they don't get enough exercise. Owners often assume Chihuahuas don't need frequent exercise because of the breed's small size. When a Chihuahua doesn't get enough exercise, though, he'll have built-up energy that's released through barking and other forms of inappropriate behavior. To prevent this from happening, give your Chihuahua at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, consisting of walking, playing fetch, tug the rope, or just running around in the yard.

What About Shock Collars and Spray Collars?

Say "no" to shock collar training

We do NOT condone the use of shock collars to stop a Chihuahua from barking. Often marketed under gimmicky names like "e-collars" and "collar-mounted electronic training aids," these collars emit an electrical shock directly into the Chihuahua's neck. Some of them are operated manually, while others automatically apply the shock when a bark is detected. The latter are particularly troublesome since they shock for all barks, both good and bad.

Whether it's manual or automatic, you should avoid using shock collars when training your Chihuahua. While typically not fatal, they still cause pain and discomfort. Can you imagine being shocked in your neck? It's not pleasant, and there have even been reports of dogs sustaining second and third-degree burns around their neck from wearing shock collars.

Aside from the pain and potential harm shock collars cause, their effectiveness is questionable at best. In a study titled "The Welfare Consequences and Efficacy of Training Pet Dogs with Remote Electronic Training Collars in Comparison to Reward-Based Training," researchers from Lincoln University in the UK found that shock collars were no more effective at training dogs than traditional recall and control chasing techniques.

Spray collars are less invasive than shock collars but still a poor choice when training a Chihuahua not to bark. They work -- and I use the term "work" loosely -- by spraying substances like citronella or lemon juice in the dog's face when he barks. The short bursts of citronella or lemon juice sting the dog's eyes and nasal passages, punishing him for barking.

Rather than exposing your Chihuahua to pain and discomfort, follow the steps listed above to teach your Chihuahua his barking boundaries. As long as you remain consistent with your training efforts, your Chihuahua will learn when barking is acceptable and when it's not.

How do you stop your Chihuahua from barking? Let us know in the comments section below!

References:

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/how_to_stop_barking.html

http://www.cesarsway.com/tips/dogtraining/Dog-Barking-101

http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/understanding-why-dogs-bark




27 Responses to “How to Train a Chihuahua to Stop Barking”

  1. Kevin Hardy says:

    I have a four year old chihuahua that I didn’t socialize enough, well almost not at all. I used to live in San Francisco and so my last chihuahua was well socialized but then we moved to Southern California. After moving around a bit I moved into a house with some other people. Two days after moving in a dog belonging to one of the house mates killed my dog which absolutely devastated me and my Basenji. The dog that killed him was a whippet. There was another chihuahua that lived there and there had never been a problem between the two. Anyway after moving out my Basenji was so lonely and I eventually got another Chihuahua, but after what happened to Queequeg I was very reluctant to expose LB to other dogs. And living in SoCal we are not in contact with neighborhood dogs nearly as much as SF. MY Basenji passed away last summer and we have adopted another dog who gets along with my chihuahua just fine, but the problem is when we meet other dogs LB is afraid and barks and stays back away. It’s this one tone bark over and over. How can we overcome this? I want him to be happy, not afraid. Plus it’s really irritating I feel like my fear is definitely adding to the situation. Any advice is greatly appreciated !

    • BrIttany Koch says:

      Hi! In reading your post I think you answered your own question. I’m not an expert, though I do have a 10 year old chihuahua who is very well behaved and I can say this, you are right on about your pup internalizing YOUR fear. Chihuahuas are amazing in the way they connect with their owners. If you are terrified he’s going to be scared too or try to protect your feelings by avoiding the stressful situation at all costs. There are tons of great strategies that I’m sure you will find if you haven’t already by searching online something like “how to socialize my scared chihuahua”, but YOU need to practice feeling good about these encounters as well. Hope this helped a little bit! I’m glad you chose to get another one and I’m deeply sorry for your loss.

  2. Honeybears mama says:

    I have a six-month-old Chihuahua and when I got her she came from my abusive home so for the first few weeks it was rough but after she got used to us she was doing good on going downstairs to go potty and then coming back upstairs but now all the sudden she is in heat and she now seems to pee anywhere and everywhere especially my daughters bed or where she sleeps he’s very aggressive to her I don’t know why she acts like that with my daughter barks all the time all day all night very aggressive doesn’t listen to me when I call your name she’ll take off for a little bit and then she finally comes back after we find her I’m hoping that this is normal just because she’s in heat for the first time .. when I got her she was sweet and real cuddly but ever since she has gone in heat she has turned into 360 does anybody have any suggestions?

  3. Muneca says:

    My chi is 3mths old and she barks all the time…I live in an apartment and I got her a big playpen and a lot of toys but all she does is bark cause she wants out …but when I take her out she’s in my garbage taking it out …biting my toe/ feet she likes to play aggressively…crapping and peeing every where…she’s my first chi never had one and she’s really stressing me to the point that I cannot enjoy her…im am going to try the spray bottle …Thanks Jack

  4. Shona says:

    I have an 8 month old chi and he keeps attempting to mate with anyone leg or arm he does bark but I nipped that in the bud he was bought for my 50th birthday and he is hard work especially feeding he refuses all wet food dry complete fresh chicken cooked but likes thin sandwich ham, I know it is high in salt advice would be appreciated he has started to bite strangers that enter my home help please I am in the UK.

  5. Jack says:

    The best way to train a Chi to not bark is a spray bottle. Squirting them with water and saying shh.. Works. Most times you don’t have to spray them beywhen they see you pick up the bottle they stop.

    • Emily Stevenson says:

      Seconding this. It doesn’t actually harm the dog but they really dislike the squirt. And like Jack says, after the first squirt or two, 90% of the time you can stop or prevent bad behavior just by brandishing the squirt bottle.

      I adopted an 8 year old Chihuahua who barked ferociously any time my senior cats approached her. But after getting squirted a couple times for barking at them, after that all it took was for me to grab the spray bottle when the cats got close, and she would see it and her posture would instantly become less aggressive and any little half-growls ended. Then, because she was showing relaxed behavior, I was able to reward her with a little piece of cheese every couple of minutes for as long as she stayed calm. Eventually she learned that I wanted her to ignore the cats and she started doing so.

  6. Cynthia says:

    Hi I’m Cindy in San Diego with 5 baby chihuahuas the mama the older daughter and the surrogate mother that also breastfeeds the puppies, SO MUCH responsibility & have learned a new language… Wolf wolf wolf wolf bark bark bark bark bark woof woof woof bark bark bark

  7. David says:

    I am not a dog hater, friends have dogs and can tolerate quite a bit.

    However the flat downstairs has a Chihuahua and it barks at anything.

    Thankfully it does not do it at night because if it did I would be taking it further with the Owner no problems. There has already being a complaint about barking in the flats early in the morning but it wasn’t me and unfortunately it was before this tenant moved in.

    I do suffer from Anxiety and on my days off work and weekends it does wind me up quite a bit. I am very respectful of neighbors and always shall be. But this dog drives me insane.

    Maybe the owner does not realize the loudness and annoyance but I am sure to complain sooner or later but do not want to offend or upset her.

    Maybe I will speak to her daughter the next time I see her.

    • Laney says:

      Please talk to the parent and not the child. Don’t wait until you are on your last nerve. Think about how you can have a conversation and not a confrontation with the owner. Ask someone to help you come up with a calm way to approach the owner. You also could call a local vet or trainer and tell them about the situation and see if they have any suggestions that might help. Oh another place would be the local humane society and ask if they have a behaviorist and something they could suggest. I want to stress that you don’t wait until you are stressed and angry and approach them with compassion.

  8. Robin says:

    I RESCUE a little Terrell chihuahua from running around on a boat dock. I figure he was just droped off and left. But sence I have had him,Ihave reasure him with lots of Love. But he never stops barking. I taught him how to walk on a leash. But he barks all the time on his walk. How can I teach him to stop barking all the time. And yes I let him out to use the bathroom but barks even at each time weither its 2:00 am in the morning. Please help me with him. Hes driveing my neighbors crazy. Thank you

  9. Karen says:

    I have had my 9 wk. old chi for 2 days and have yet to hear her bark. Been sifting around for ideas on how to train because I know once she starts I will have to get on it right away. One thing I do know is, do not play aggressively with the puppy, (of any breed). It seems to hard wire them to overreact to alot of social situations with other dogs and people.

    • Geordie says:

      I know how to teach your 9week old chihuahua to bark on command, i taught our chihuahua to bark on command our dog was “speaking” by the time she was seven weeks old how to do it look at yr dog or make sure yr dog has yr full attention then repeat to him/her “SSSSPPEAK”when you pronounce the word emphasise the word and when you do this make a barking shape with your hand and always keep your hand gesture facing your face not facing at the dog otherwise the result can be dentrimental to the dog as he or she may think you mean bite so NEVER do the hand gesture facing your hand at the dog. The best time to teach him/ her is when their wanting to play keep getting yr dogs attention and persevere dont give up be patient and dont expect any results straight away but you never know your dog may pick it up quickly our chihuhua did it at seven weeks and i once had a german shepherd took 3 months before she barked but when she did having said that chihuahua’s are the number one dog for intelligence and i would have to agree.

    • Debbie says:

      I wish I had heard this earlier. It makes sense.

  10. angela says:

    Hey my name’s is Angela I have a 2 year chiwawa that my family and adopted and we are haveing a hard time with him a got cops called on me cause he barks at everything even the wind he can go out said and bark for hours if you let him I don’t know what to do we really love the dog we would love to keep him but is there any thing anyone can help me with or tell me what I can do to help him to stop barking he barks at the wind and people at cars and nabors only when his putsaid the min he goses out his all ready barking we go out to see him but there is nothing there I don’t know what to do any help thanks

  11. Jan says:

    We have 2 Chihuahuas that are 11 months old and have had them since they were 7 weeks old. They are siblings, brother being much more aggressive than the sister. We have always traveled with them to the many horse shows we go to through out the year. In the beginning they were passive and lovable. But as they got older the male became protective and has snapped aggressively at anyone who comes up to him or us. We opted to carry them in slings so that they don’t startle the horses or get stepped on by some or the bigger dogs at the shows. So I believe they are at times protecting us from strangers or they are afraid and biting to defend themselves. They have never been attacked by any other animal and they have never been physically disciplined. At home I use a water bottle and spray them when they get aggressively with each other. It works well, but isn’t practicable in public. Do you have any suggestions on how to prevent aggressive biting of people when they are approached?

  12. leza says:

    My puppy boy is 4 months old and barks at everything, he still has accidents in my house and im nearly at my wits end trying to stop him. And advice please all welcome

  13. Jennifer says:

    I have a chi, shes about 2 years old. I was wrong in spoiling her and are now trying t teach her to stop barking at everyone. I am also trying to get her to stop crying and throwing a hissy fit everytime i leave the room. i have been teaching her the basic demands like stay, sit, down, but she forgets sometimes…. How do i get her to stop whining and not to bark at friends and family?

  14. jojo says:

    So far, so good. My two Chis don’t bark at the bell anymore, but they still bark when someone enters the house. Still, I’m glad at the progress they made today!

  15. trollforpup says:

    my dog actualy obeyed me…i feel WAY more relieved

    • COCO says:

      Chihuahua in general are born to be one thing, your most loyal and devoted companion. I know that if I hooked him up to a chain all day he would shake and probably have a heart attack..

      My main problem with him is he thinks her is a 100lb pit bull trapped in 10lb body. He approaches dogs who are showing their teeth with saliva swirling out of his mouth. HE HAS NO FEAR.

      I moved from a single family home to an apartment building full of dogs big and small. He has no idea why all thee dogs are in his yard I guess.

      It is frustrating because I cannot stop and talk to anyone with out him barking. The funny thing is once he knows who you are, he is just a big ball of love who loves to play.

      Years ago I had a retriever. I used a milk jug with pennies. it worked great on him, 2 weeks later no more barking. I used it on coco and he stood and shook and would not come ear me all da. He is so sensitive.

      He does all the basics sit, heel, rollover etc. Even when someone stop s to talk, I will tell him to sit. He sits just fine while barking and barking and tail just a wagging like it’s a joke.

      so good luck everyone!

      He is 7 years old and I took him off my daughter’s hands ne she went to culinary school and was

      • Janet says:

        I too have a chihuahua and he also thinks he is a big boy trapped in a little boys body. He tries to attack all big dogs pitts, shepards you name it. Also tries to attack my neighbors! I’ve had him since he was 4 wks. old & he is now 3-1/2 yrs. old & I have tried numerous ways to train him & nothing seems to work, he is afraid of anything that comes his way. He even attacks me if I have a male friend visit he turns against me & will sit on my friends lap & if I get up to walk around he tries to attack me I don’t understand this but when we are alone he is the most ” Loving” little boy and he makes me laugh soo. I love my little boy dearly & I know he loves me & when he does try and bite me he then goes in a corner and starts crying as if he doesn’t know why !!! He has a serious imbalance I believe, it’s as if he’s dr. Jeckl and mr Hide !

  16. TonyM says:

    Hopefully, the new wave of knowledge that seems to be sweeping through the pet world is to, on one hand start treating dogs right (stop chaining up i the yard all day, etc) and stop treating them like human babies.

    Unfortunately, I just don’t think it’s ever going to sink in with a lot of Chi owners. My neighbors love their Chihuahua, completely agree with Cesar Milan on training and treating their Chi like a dog (no jumping on people or the furniture, etc.), and yet in practice let the dog do whatever he wants. Guess what? I feel like I’m living next door to someone with a car that has a faulty hair-trigger car alarm that goes off 40 times a day and won’t fix it. Too few Chi owners care about training their pup.

    • Anne says:

      I disagree Tom. You can’t just chain your dog outdoor and leave them. Dogs are social animals and need to be around others (dogs, people etc). If you keep them chained up all day or in the yard all day with little contact they are likely to develop serious illness like cancer or other issues — it is a form of neglect. Also as a chihuahua owner I know how difficult but loving they can be. You can never keep a chihuahua outside all day because not only are they sensitive to cold, they are sensitive small changes in the environment. Also chihuahuas love their person, they love to cuddle or be beside their person(or people) all the time or at very least always know where they are. Plus they aren’t easy to train (or when they are its hard to get them to listen) and worse to get them to stop barking (I’ve tried everything) and they don’t like to listen to you. So before you start judging, know what you are talking about

      • Kelly says:

        Perhaps you should take time to fully read the post before YOU start judging, Anne. He clearly said to STOP chaining dogs up outside all day. Sheesh.

      • Joe says:

        Anne, Tom did not say it was good to keep a dog chained to a tree (that is cruel). However, it’s not fair for someone to have a nuisance dog that keeps people up all night barking. Many cities are starting to issue fines for barking dogs and this is good. Also, this breed of dog responds better when you begin training it at a very young age. People should not treat dogs likes humans this does not imply that the dog should be abused but it is a pet. A pet is not a human. You can love and care for your pet but at the end of the day it’s a pet dog that should be trained responsibly.

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