Your Chihuahua keeps barking for different reasons. And slowly, you start to have enough of it.
But there’s a problem…
You have no idea what’s causing your Chi to bark so often. Or how to stop it.
Head up! I’ve got you covered! Read on to discover:
- The answer to why your Chihuahua is barking.
- The #1 way to deal with excessive barking wherever you are.
- What separation anxiety is and how it could lead to barking, plus how to deal with it.
- Practical steps on how to unteach your Chi from barking at strangers (tip #19 says it all).
- And more…
Table of contents
Why do Chihuahuas bark so much (at nothing)?
Chihuahuas bark so much because of excess energy. Excess energy comes from a lack of physical exercise and mental stimulation. As a result, Chihuahuas find barking as an outlet. The simple solution is getting rid of that energy through exercise and mentally stimulating games.
If you want to solve this, make sure to check out tip #1 and #8.
Why do Chihuahuas bark at night?
Chihuahuas bark at night because they hear sounds that humans may not notice. It could be a neighbor coming home late, or animals running around. If they resort to excessive barking, tell them ‘stop’ or ‘quiet.’ Or take them walking at night to tire them out.
If your Chihuahua barks at night, read tip #5, #6 & #7.
Why do Chihuahuas bark at other (big) dogs?
Chihuahuas bark at other dogs because they feel vulnerable or fearful. They show aggressive behavior when other (big) dogs are around. They may even lunge at or attack other dogs. But with socialization, Chihuahuas can learn to welcome the presence of other dogs.
Check out tip #2 and #15 if your Chihuahua has the tendency to bark at other (big) dogs.
Why do Chihuahuas bark at strangers?
Chihuahuas bark at strangers because they are territorial. It’s an instinct for them to alert the owner that someone is approaching their territory. This behavior can be addressed by desensitization and counter-conditioning. These are methods to change your Chihuahua’s reaction to strangers.
For this Chihuahua barking problem, it’s best to check out tip #13, #17, and #18.
19 tips on how to stop your Chihuahua from barking
#1: Tire them out through plenty of exercise
How can a pet so small stir quite a storm with their barking?
They bark at the passing ice cream truck. At the neighbor’s cat.
One moment they’re asleep. Then the next, they’re barking for all they’re worth.
I can hear you asking, ‘But Petya, why don’t we just let them be? Barking is what they do, after all.’
And it’s true. Barking is an instinct ingrained in the dog’s system. They use it to deter animals and communicate with other dogs.
And they use it to tell you, ‘I found something interesting, human. Come check it out.’
But you have to draw the line when barking is no longer appropriate. What I mean by inappropriate is when Chis bark at:
- Other animals.
- Postal workers.
- Passing vehicles and people.
- Barking that bothers you and other people.
Consider looking at your Chihuahua’s energy levels. These are very energetic dogs.
So if they don’t get enough exercise, they’ll find a way to lease the pent up energy.
And that’s mostly barking.
Many owners find this barking annoying. If this is a constant scenario, then it could affect your quality of life.
If your Chi barks to release excess energy, the solution is simple.
Note: Spend between 30 minutes and 2 hours for exercise daily. Take them for a walk or a run. You can also play a game of frisbee or fetch.
If they get plenty of exercise, they will be so tired they won’t resort to inappropriate barking.
#2: Get to the root of the barking
Imagine these scenarios:
Your Chihuahua barks because of imminent danger and you’re trying to make them stop.
Your Chihuahua is barking for inappropriate reasons and you’re letting them.
This is the reason why knowing why your Chihuahua barks is vital.
Many times, sounds and other stimuli trigger a non-stop barking. It could be a mouse in the walls or critters outside the house.
Sometimes it’s just someone passing by. Other times they sense or hear things humans can’t.
Barking becomes a problem if it affects your quality of life. Also, if it bothers other people.
Note: If you know why they bark, then you can tailor the solution to the specific stimulus.
#3: Help your Chihuahua get through separation anxiety
Separation anxiety can affect both you and your dog in a lot of ways.
That’s because they engage in problem behaviors once you’re gone. And barking is one of those.
But how will you know if your Chi’s barking is caused by separation anxiety?
When you step out of that door, wait a few minutes. If your Chi begins barking as if there’s no tomorrow, then you’ve got the answer.
To prevent separation anxiety:
This research suggests exposing the dog to people and situations outside the home between 5 to 10 months old.
But what if your dog is already an adult?
Well…good news – it’s not too late. You can still desensitize them to your leaving and being gone.
Here’s a suggestion for a minor separation anxiety problem:
- Go through the motions that your dog knows as signals when you’re about to leave. For instance, put on your shoes and your scarf.
- Go to the couch and sit down.
- Do this several times a day.
- Eventually, leave the couch and go to the next room (or outside). Then return to the couch.
- Lengthen the time you’re away from the couch.
Sooner or later, your dog will get used to you not being in the same room.
Note: Don’t make a big fuss about your leaving and coming home. Ignore your dog a few minutes after your arrival. Then calmly pet them (given that they’re also calm).
If the separation anxiety is severe:
- Continue with the desensitization technique as outlined above.
- Use positive reinforcement when teaching your dog basic commands such as sit, down, and stay.
- Don’t be scared to seek a professional’s help to correct your dog’s behavior.
#4: Ignore if they’re barking for attention
Sometimes dog owners make small mistakes. Such as unwittingly rewarding their dog for barking.
Think of it this way:
Your Chihuahua uses barking to get your attention. You respond by yelling at them to make them stop.
Or you give them what they want.
Either way, you give them attention, even if it is negative attention. Without you realizing it, you’ve taught your Chi to bark to get what they want.
This is further reinforced when you pet them or give them meals when they bark.
Before this gets any worse, STOP!
Stop rewarding them for misbehaving.
I suggest ignoring your pooch whenever they bark for attention. They have to know that barking will get them nowhere.
Note: Wait for them to become quiet or calm before giving them attention.
#5: Teach them the ‘speak’ and ‘quiet’ commands
Get the most out of your Chihuahua’s obedience training. Use the basic commands to teach your dog to stop barking.
But before you do that, make sure they already know how to ‘speak.’ If they do, teaching them the ‘quiet’ command is easier.
If they don’t, here’s one way to do it:
- Get your dog to bark. If you have a vocal dog, it’s easier to achieve. If not, think of ways that make your Chi excited enough to bark.
- As soon as your Chihuahua barks, mark this behavior by saying ‘speak!’ Then give them a treat.
- Repeat until they bark on command.
Some reminders when teaching the speak command:
- Teaching this trick can lead to nuisance barking. So reward them only when you’re asking them to bark.
- Reward your dog when they do just one bark. One bark is way better than a barking spree.
- Some dogs actually learn to bark at a lower volume. Whispering, you might say.
Here’s a Beagle doing just that:
If Niko the Beagle can do it, so can your Chi.
Now let’s go to the quiet command.
- Make your Chi speak (meaning: bark).
- While barking, place a treat in front of their nose.
- If they stop barking to sniff the treat, give them the treat, and pet them. You can also use encouraging words such as ‘Good boy/girl.’
- Repeat until your dog learns the quiet command.
Note: Be consistent with the use of commands. If you use ‘quiet,’ use the word in all instances that you ask them to stop barking. Avoid using other words such as ‘enough,’ ‘stop,’ or ‘no.’ Choose one word and stick to it.
#6: Investigate things together
Dogs have a far superior sense of smell and hearing. When they bark, they are trying to tell you something.
There’s no harm in satisfying their curiosity. And make sure you get involved as you both investigate the source of their barking.
Put them on a leash and let them take you to where they saw the squirrel. Or where the leaves rustled.
Let them sniff around. Then take them back inside the house.
If they bark at the door or window, go check it out. Reassure them that there’s no need to be worried.
#7: Let them out to do their business
Sometimes your Chi barks for the simplest reason.
If they are barking in front of the door, chances are they want to go out.
Make sure you let them out to do their business before sleeping. This is to avoid any chances of them barking in the middle of the night.
#8: Provide them mental stimulation
Chihuahuas need plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Without these, behavior problems might occur.
As a result, they may chew on inappropriate things, and bark endlessly.
Aside from exercise in tip #1, Chihuahuas will benefit from interactive toys and puzzles.
These toys are not just for entertainment purposes. You can use these toys to regulate their food intake, especially if they’re losing weight.
These toys will also keep their mind sharp and hone their scavenging ability.
Some have movable pieces where treats are hidden. Your Chi needs to figure out how to move those pieces and get the yummy treats.
Other toys need to be knocked around for the treats to come out.
For a mentally stimulating activity, do the ‘find the treats’ game. You can do a different variation such as this one:
Have your Chi locate their meal around the house. This is a fun game because it provides both physical and mental stimulation.
Note: A physically and mentally tired Chi is calm. And a calm Chi is less likely to engage in inappropriate barking.
#9: Keep them busy (so they don’t bark out of boredom)
Chihuahuas don’t bark for nothing.
Just because you can’t see or hear something doesn’t mean your Chi can’t. But sometimes, they just bark because they’re bored.
‘Boredom barking’ is a long, high-pitched bark occurring in intervals. It could be very annoying.
Chihuahuas get bored because they have nothing else to do.
This is true if you have to leave them at home while you work. The hours of waiting for you could get to them.
One way to fight boredom is by giving your Chi plenty of exercise. I have discussed this in #1.
I suggest taking your Chi for a walk in the morning and in the evening before bedtime.
Don’t forget to spend time with them as well. Play games such as tug of war or simple ball games.
Other fun activities include chasing bubbles, swimming or splashing around in kiddie pools.
If your Chi loves digging, get them a digging box. Let them dig to their heart’s content. Or if they don’t dig right away, try hiding some of their toys in the sand.
Provide them toys as well to keep them occupied.
A stuffed Kong is a terrific choice because it’s very easy to play. It can also keep your Chi busy for the next 30 minutes or so.
#10: Use calming tablets and essential oils
Calming tablets help your Chi to stay calm. Especially in situations that bring about environmental stress.
These are easy to chew so your Chi can take it as is. Or you can put it inside a small piece of meat or banana.
Some calming tablets are made with antioxidants that strengthen the immune system.
Look for a brand that has chamomile in the ingredients.
Because chamomile relieves pain and an upset stomach. It also works as a sedative to calm a nervous dog.
Note: Get your vet’s approval before using any calming tablets.
Aside from calming tablets, consider diffusing essential oils. Do essential oils work for dogs as they do for humans? They do!
This research studied 32 dogs with a history of travel-induced excitement whenever in their owner’s car. Each of the dogs was observed under 2 conditions:
- The control condition – where dogs were not exposed to any odor.
- The experiment condition – where dogs were exposed to the scent of lavender.
The researcher found out that during the experiment condition, the dogs rested and sat more. In addition, they did less moving and vocalization.
If you want to use essential oils, here are some suggestions:
- Lavender – sleep and relaxation.
- Vanilla – relaxation and stress relief.
- Sandalwood – relaxation and anxiety relief.
- Lemon oil – relieves anxiety and depression.
- Rose and geranium – reduce stress and anxiety.
- Jasmine – promotes and improves sleep quality.
Warning: Some essential oils, such as sandalwood and citrus, can have stimulating effects on some dogs. Reaction to these essential oils depends on the individual dog. If a scent relaxes your Chi but doesn’t promote sleep, consider using it during the day.
#11: Choose positive reinforcement over punishment
It’s easy for owners to lose patience sometimes. That’s why they end up yelling ‘Bad dog!’ at their Chihuahua for barking.
And now there are two of them ‘barking.’
Your Chi got your attention this way, so they would bark some more.
Instead of yelling, tell your dog to stop or keep quiet. As soon as they stop barking, give them a treat, and praise them.
Or give them affection.
I should also mention the importance of not using the crate to punish your Chi.
The crate should be a safe place for them. They should feel happy to be in their crate, to rest, and to spend time alone.
If they associate their crate with punishment, it will be difficult to leave them at home. Besides, if you put them in the crate as punishment, they would only cry.
Note: According to this study, frequent punishment causes small dogs to become more anxious. But if you use positive reinforcements, they become less anxious.
#12: Use soft calming music to block noises
Some Chihuahuas are reactive to even the tiniest sound.
Which could make them bark at almost anything they hear.
If this is the case, try playing calming music. This one has more than 11 hours of soothing music for your pooch:
Many dog owners shared that the music helped their Chi sleep soundly. This is because the music masks the sounds from outside.
#13: Desensitize to outdoor noise or other stimuli
Your Chihuahua barks at people passing by your house. So you pull over the curtains so your Chi won’t see them.
Or you put their crate or bed far away from the windows and doors.
While measures like these remove the stimuli, these are only temporary solutions.
What you need is to acclimate your Chihuahua to things that cause them to bark inappropriately.
This is called desensitization.
Desensitization is a method to help your Chi change their responses to certain stimuli. It requires repeated and gradual exposure to the stimulus.
If sounds make them bark, here’s a way to desensitize:
- Play an audio recording of the sound that makes your Chihuahua bark.
- Play it at a volume that does not bother them.
- Reward them if they are calm.
- Play the sound at this volume for several days. Then slowly increase the volume.
- Keep giving your Chi treats as long as they remain calm.
- If it bothers them, turn down the volume and rest for the day.
If it’s people your Chihuahua barks at, here’s a suggestion for desensitization:
- Enlist the help of a friend, particularly one that your dog doesn’t know.
- Have them walk in front of your house. But make them begin at a far distance so as not to rile up your Chi immediately.
- Reward your Chihuahua with tasty treats when they remain calm or quiet.
- If they bark, ignore them, and don’t give them a treat.
Note: Desensitization can take time to work. But with consistency and patience, it will pay off.
#14: Counter-condition your Chihuahua
Desensitization and counter-conditioning go hand in hand.
Once you have desensitized your Chihuahua to the stimuli, it’s time to take the next step…
Building a positive association between your dog and the stimulus.
Counter-conditioning requires pairing of the stimulus with favorable things such as treats. This is to change your Chi’s response to the stimulus.
So now get some treats or your Chihuahua’s favorite toy. Make sure they are calm before starting the training.
- Play the sound at a low volume.
- When the sound is heard, give your Chi some treats or play with them.
- When they’re done eating or playing, turn off the sound. You do this so that your Chi associates the sound with something positive.
Repeat the steps for several days. It will take time until your Chihuahua becomes excited whenever they hear the sound.
And when they react this way, this is your signal to increase the volume a little.
Soon they will associate the sound with eating or playing.
Caution: If you have done these steps and your Chi still barks unnecessarily, consult your vet.
#15: Socialize with other dogs
It can be stressful for Chihuahuas when there are other dogs around.
The Chihuahua could either become aggressive by lunging at other dogs or bark nonstop.
Socializing can go a long way in making your Chihuahua calm around other dogs. Through socialization, they learn to be relaxed around others.
But if they’re not exposed to other dogs, they could become aggressive. They would bark at dogs that pass by the house. Or at dogs, you come across during your walks.
Though Chihuahuas are fearful, they will bark nonstop and raise their hackles to appear braver than they are to the other dog.
Sometimes Chihuahuas have valid reasons for reacting this way. It could be that they sense the aggression of the other dog.
Also, it could be that your Chihuahua is threatened by the bigger dog. Or the other dog charges at your Chihuahua, no matter how friendly the agenda is.
However, if your dog reacts this way even to friendly dogs, then it’s something that must be corrected.
That being said, it’s always better to socialize your Chihuahua right from when they are puppies.
It’s true that they prefer the company of other Chihuahuas. But Chihuahuas can have friendly relationships with other breeds.
So expose them to other dogs early on.
If your Chi hadn’t been exposed to other dogs during puppyhood, here’s what you can do:
- Ask the help of a friend who has a calm dog.
- With your Chi on a harness and leash, walk past the other dog. Make sure you are at a distance that is comfortable for your Chihuahua. And ensure that your Chi sees the other dog.
- If your Chi does not bark, give them praises and some yummy treats.
- If your Chihuahua barks, retreat a little further.
- Keep doing the steps to condition your pooch to see the other dog.
- If your Chihuahua got used to seeing the other dog without a reaction, walk closer to the other dog.
If this training is a success, then your Chihuahua could learn to be welcoming of other dogs’ presence.
#16: Distract or interrupt your Chihuahua
Sometimes it only takes a distraction to stop your Chihuahua’s excessive barking.
Do this by designating a way to interrupt them. A firm ‘No’ or a hand clap will do.
Do it when your Chihuahua is about to bark.
But if any of these doesn’t work, use a training tool such as a pet corrector.
A pet corrector interrupts a dog’s barking by emitting a hiss of air. The hissing sound is like a cat’s or a snake’s hiss.
When the sound interrupts the dog, command them to sit. Reward them if they obey.
You can also distract them by having a game of fetch or hide and seek. Play music, or turn the TV on to block sounds.
Caution: If they can’t focus on these games, stop playing with them. They might associate these fun activities with the sounds of things that worry them.
#17: Address they’re being territorial
There are 2 reasons why dogs bark when people come to your house:
- They are excited.
- They want people to go away.
If it isn’t excitement, then your Chihuahua is being territorial. To address this, you can do any of the following:
Prevent your Chihuahua from rushing to the door. Put them in another room and use a baby door or any barrier to confine them.
This is useful in situations when you have no time to prepare for a visitor.
Or, train your dog to do something else in place of barking. For instance, teach them to go to their crate when the doorbell rings.
#18: Teach them to stop barking at strangers
It isn’t uncommon for a Chihuahua to bark at what they see while on a walk.
After all, they’ve got this reputation for being little yappers.
But you can train your Chihuahua to not bark when not necessary. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take a route that isn’t full of triggers. Find an area that has fewer people.
Use this route during this training. After your Chihuahua learned how to be calm in the presence of strangers, you can take routes that have more activity.
- Use a harness and a leash. You’ll have better control this way. Plus, you can avoid neck injuries.
- When your Chihuahua starts barking, remain calm.
If you tense up, your Chihuahua will pick it up. It will make them bark more.
Instead, stay calm and continue walking.
- Once your Chihuahua stops barking, take a pause to give them a high-value reward. It could be something that you don’t always give them. For example, ham, dehydrated chicken, or dried fish.
- Reward your Chihuahua with treats and praises for the times they are not barking.
#19: Enroll in a canine obedience class
Attend an obedience class if it’s difficult to correct your Chihuahua’s barking.
You and your Chihuahua will learn a lot from these classes. You’ll learn ways to control negative behaviors such as barking.