How to Train Your Small Dog to Stop Barking

Medium
2-12 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Your Chihuahua is a real character. He weighs less than a small cat and yet has this way of ruling the roost. If this little chap wants a certain seat on the sofa, then it's a brave (or foolish) person who'd attempt to move him. Another example of his strength of character, is his bark. The family jokes that he makes a great guard dog, as nothing can move outside without him voicing his opinion. 

However, you can have too much of a good thing, especially with regards to barking. It's getting a little grating on the nerves that every time someone comes to the door you eardrums are strained by the loud volley of barking. 

You've tried shouting but he doesn't take the slightest notice. The only thing that makes him go quiet is if you give him a treat... but that's only because he can't bark and chew at the same time. 

What hope is there to cure him of this bad habit? 

Actually, you can train even a small dog not to bark, but be prepared for the long haul in order to achieve it.

Defining Tasks

Training a small dog to stop barking is self-explanatory. It's about gaining control of your dog's behavior and having him stop barking on command. In addition, there are strategies you can put in place which reduce the likelihood of him raising his voice in the first instance. 

As with everything to do with dog training, use reward-based methods. This relies on rewarding the dog's good behavior. He then learns that repeating certain actions on command earn him a treat, and so he repeats them willingly. 

If you have a puppy, start as you mean to go on. By letting the dog know at an early age what behavior is acceptable and what isn't, then he's less likely to develop bad habits. But don't despair if you have an adult or senior dog, because you can teach an old dog new tricks--and teach them to be quiet. 

Getting Started

You need minimal equipment for this command. The principle requirements are an endless source of patience and commitment to the task in the long term. In addition, it's helpful to have: 

  •  Treats
  • A bag on your belt to keep treats in 

The Ground Rules Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
How does setting ground rules stop a dog barking? The answer is that many small dogs bark because of something called "Small dog syndrome." This is where the small dog gets an inflated view of their importance within the hierarchy of the family. This most commonly happens when an owner doesn't realize that small dogs need training and boundaries in exactly the same way as a big dog. While establishing ground rules won't, in itself, stop a small dog barking, it does get the dog listening to you instead of doing his own thing, which is important when training him not to bark.
Step
2
Beef up basic obedience training
Start restoring harmony and reversing "small dog syndrome" with some basic obedience training. Using reward-based methods teach the dog 'sit', 'stay', 'down', and recall. Practice for 5 - 10 minutes twice a day. This gets the dog listening to you and knowing that you expect him to obey. This sets a pattern of learning which is going to be immensely helpful when teaching the 'quiet' command.
Step
3
Learn to earn
Start setting boundaries by teaching the dog he doesn't get anything for free and has to work to get rewards. This means simple changes such as giving the 'sit' command ahead of his meal, and not putting the food bowl down until he is sitting.
Step
4
Create house rules and stick to them
Hold a family conference and agree on where the dog is and isn't allowed. For example, is he allowed to sit on the furniture and can he go on the beds? Make sure everyone sticks by the same rules (no exceptions) so the dog gets a consistent message.
Step
5
Avoid picking the small dog up
A dog that is in a physically high location feels superior to a dog in a lower position. Unfortunately, small dogs often get picked up, especially at times when they could be a nuisance such as when visitors call. This gives the dog an elevated sense of his own importance, which can lead to barking to get people to go away. Try to resist the temptation to pick up a small dog in order to control him, and instead, use obedience training to get his co-operation.
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The Teach 'Quiet' Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
Achieve what would seem a miracle, by using the 'quiet' command to interrupt a barking dog and have him fall silent. The idea involves teaching the dog 'bark', giving him a treat, and while he is silent as he eats the treat, hold his nose and say "quiet" then give another treat You are teaching him the absence of barking is silence, and not making a noise is rewarding.
Step
2
Have the dog bark
Mad! Get a small dog to bark?! But there is method in the madness because when he's barking you teach him 'bark'. Try standing close to a door and knocking on it behind your back. When the dog starts barking, say "bark", then give him a treat.
Step
3
Reward 'bark'
Practice getting the dog to bark and rewarding him. When you've repeated this enough times, the dog will start to anticipate what's expected and start to offer a woof on cue, without you making a knocking sound. When this happens, give him lots of praise.
Step
4
Now for some 'quiet'
While the dog is eating his 'bark' reward, he can't bark. While he's silent, gently hold his mouth shut and say "quiet". Immediately reward him with another treat.
Step
5
Alternate 'bark' and 'quiet'
Keep practicing. The dog will start to offer you behaviors on cue. Once you are confident the dog is getting the hang of things, have him bark and issue the 'quiet' command mid-bark. Congratulations! Your dog now is silent on command
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The What NOT to Do Method

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Don't think a small dog doesn't need training
A big reason that little dogs get out of hand, especially when it comes to barking, is that they are a law unto themselves. The mistaken belief that a small dog doesn't need the same commitment to training as a large dog is a big mistake to make.
Step
2
Don't reassure a fearful small dog
Some small dogs bark at visitors because the dog is fearful of strangers. When you see your dog trembling and shaking, it's natural to want to pet and reassure him. However, this is rewarding his fear. Rather than making the dog feel better, it teaches him there really is something to be worried about and so is likely to make the behavior worse.
Step
3
Don't shout at the dog to stop barking
Don't shout, because it will make the barking worse. The dog may think you are doing your own version of barking and become encouraged to bark more. If necessary, say "Thank you, Tiny, I have this." Acknowledging you've heard him then gives the dog permission to quiet down.
Step
4
Don't give the dog a treat to shut him up
A common mistake is to distract a barking dog by giving him a chew. At least when he's chewing he's not barking, but unfortunately, the price is too high. Now, he thinks barking is a great way to get a treat...so guess what... the problem just got worse.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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