Barking

Making noise is your little dog's favorite way of making himself heard. Because it usually gets a response, this behavior works. He barks when someone is at the door, and you come running. He barks again, and you whisk him outside for a potty call. If he barks when he's hungry, dinner is served. Some dogs feel it is their duty to alert you when the mailman comes or the landscapers start working. Some simply want your attention, asking you to drop those household chores and play with them. Dogs usually reserve a distinctive voice for telling their owners they want to come inside or warning of a perceived threat.

Are little dogs naturally inclined to be yippy?

While it is true that some breeds are more inclined to bark — terriers like the wire fox, miniature schnauzer, or West Highland white (all Type A personalities), or little busybodies like the papillon — but it's usually for a reason. Small dogs are individuals, just like the people who own them.

It's absolutely true that the high-pitched bark of a bichon or a Yorkie can be even more annoying than the deep-voiced baying of a big dog. But no matter what its size, a dog's excessive barking can usually be eliminated through training and by modifying its environment. If your dog barks when you're not home, leave the radio or television on for background noise and slip out of its sight without fanfare, not making a big production of saying good-bye. Teach your dog the “Quiet” command, and reward good behavior with treats and praise. For the pesky attention-seeker, spend more time in vigorous play, then put the little loudmouth in its crate for a restful time-out.

Remember that barking is one of the dog's most effective forms of communication. Once you figure out why your dog is so vocal, you'll be on the right track for dealing with the problem.

The best way to get a handle on this behavior is to teach your dog to bark on command. Make him speak to get a treat. After a few barks, tell him “Enough!” and give him the biscuit. Tell him “Good dog!” and go on your merry way. Now you are harnessing the little yapper's behavior so you can stand to live with him. When the doorbell rings, praise his barking, then tell him “Enough!” and hand over that cookie. You are teaching him to bark when he is supposed to and to stop on command. Once he has mastered this command, you need to correct him when he ignores it (and he probably will). If he doesn't cease and desist, give him a sharp tug on his collar and a “No!” With patience and persistence, it will eventually sink in.

If all else fails, get an anti-bark collar. They come in two types: electronic, which delivers a mild shock when the dog barks, or the herbal spray type, which uses a spurt of citronella to startle the dog with its pungent aroma. Although the so-called shock collars have proven effective in correcting this problem, the herbal collars are more advisable for use on a small dog.

A noisy little dog can also cause friction with your neighbors. For your dog's safety and to keep peace in the neighborhood, your dog should not be allowed outside unsupervised in the first place. Inside the house, in addition to the “Enough” command, you need to consider when and why the dog barks. Is it looking for attention? Are you making it a part of all aspects of your family life? Sometimes dogs bark because they have nothing better to do. They need plenty of companionship and the more you take them out with you, the happier they will be. If the dog barks in the car, keep it crated and take along a squirt bottle filled with water to give it a zap and a “No!” when it starts up.

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