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How to Keep Your Small Dog From Barking Too Much

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Learn how to teach your dog not to bark.

Learn how to teach your dog not to bark.

Why Do Small Dogs Bark So Much?

If you have been around a lot of dogs, you may notice that dogs of all sizes bark, but some dogs are more vocal than others. A German shepherd or Rottweiler may bark a lot, but not nearly as often as some of the Chihuahuas or Yorkshire Terriers I have seen over the years. Part of the problem with small breeds is their easily detectable high pitch. Pitch, however, isn't everything.

Let's explore why small dogs bark more frequently than others and discuss some effective methods to keep it to a minimum.

Five Ways Stop a Small Dog From Acting Up

  1. Ignore barking for attention. Do not allow your dog to bark at you to get attention (i.e., when he/she wants up on the bed or couch).
  2. Discourage growling when it leads to barking. Never allow your dog to growl and start barking without telling him/her “no." If they growl at another dog, a visitor, or a child, give them a “time out."
  3. No lap time without being invited up. Do not allow your dog to jump up on your lap without being called.
  4. Establish your territory. If you want to let your dog sleep in your bed, have him/her do so at your feet. He/she does not need a pillow.
  5. Feed your dog strategically. Feed your dog in his/her own bowl after the family has finished their meal. You can change this rule later if you want, but remind your dog that you are in charge.
Small dogs kept in groups tend to bark a lot.

Small dogs kept in groups tend to bark a lot.

How to Train Your Small Dog to Bark Less

Are some dog breeds more likely to vocalize than others? Sure, and if you choose a Maltese, a miniature schnauzer, or a terrier breed, you need to start training your puppy early. Even though you can train your dog to vocalize less, some breeds are more likely to use a bark every time they feel the need.

Not all small dogs need to bark more than big dogs though. Dog owners will try anything, like shock collars or citronella spray/standard bark collars, but some of them are cruel, and most of the time, these collars do not work. Some dogs modify the pitch of their barks so that the bark collars no longer work, and others will just wait until the collar is off and then start vocalizing as much as before.

Prevent Your Dog From Becoming an Excessive Barker

If you are the owner of a solitary French bulldog or one of the other small, quieter dog breeds, here are a few simple methods to keep him/her from becoming an excessive barker.

  • Never ignore an alert bark. Pay attention when he/she is alerting you. If they go to the door to bark at a stranger, praise them with “good dog." Tell them to lie down in their bed while you deal with the distraction. (Barking once to alert you is fine. Vocalizing excessively is not.)
  • Always ignore unnecessary barking. Ignore your dog when they start barking for no reason or if they are being bossy. If your dog keeps at it even when you ignore them, do not yell or give any form of attention.
  • Never reward attention-seeking barking. If your little dog comes up to you and barks to get up on your lap, tell them “no." Once the barking stops, allow them up after a five-minute break. If you want to let your small dog sleep in your bed, tell them when they are allowed up, not vice versa.
  • Exercise excess energy away. Although your dog is small, he/she still needs daily exercise. Take him/her for long walks, and allow some of those outings to be “smell fests” where they have a chance to sniff markings on fire hydrants and other objects. If your dog is tired and content from walking, he/she is going to be less likely to establish dominance by barking excessively.
  • Confine them from the pack. If you have more than one dog, confine them as soon as they start barking. He/she will learn that barking excessively leads to isolation from the pack.

Reasons Small Dogs Bark More

Lack of Training

Little dogs vocalize excessively and get away without training or other corrective measures.

Ignored Behavior

If you are a little dog, your barks are more likely to be ignored. Small dogs have to vocalize more to be noticed.

Inappropriate Rewarding

Small dogs are often rewarded for their barking (by being fed, brought inside the house, put up on a lap, couch, or bed, etc.).

Breed Temperament

Some small dogs are bred to be barkers. (Shelties, some terriers, and schnauzers are a few examples.)

Pack Mentality

Owners tend to have many small dogs because they are easier to keep in numbers. When one barks, they all feel the need to join in.

“Small dog syndrome” is a condition that develops only in little dogs that are treated differently around the house.

“Small dog syndrome” is a condition that develops only in little dogs that are treated differently around the house.

What Is Small Dog Syndrome?

Many dog experts refer to “small dog syndrome.” This is a condition that develops only in little dogs that are treated differently around the house. They are allowed to bark when they want attention, they are allowed to growl without being reprimanded, and they are allowed to jump up on their owner's lap whenever they please. These dogs are often allowed to sleep at the head of the bed, rest on the couch when the family is in the living room, and are fed special meals with the family.

Small dog syndrome develops in little dogs who feel a need to express their dominance among their human family. Dogs that behave in this way are allowed to bark excessively. Would a Rottweiler or a Doberman be allowed to bark at visitors or other dogs on the street?

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Read More From Pethelpful

Small dog syndrome is a common excuse for a barking little dog and is one of the hardest behaviors to remove because owners are often reluctant to treat them differently. Small dogs that are allowed to behave this way are also the easiest to train out of this bad habit.

When big dogs bark, they are usually stopped right away.

When big dogs bark, they are usually stopped right away.

Prevent Barking Habits Early

Genetics has a lot to do with it, and if you have a breed that barks a lot, there is more work involved. No one wants a dog that vocalizes too much, no matter the size. Neighbors that have to live next to a vocal dog are more likely to become “anti-dog.”

If you have a dog that is barking excessively, try to do something about it. Although you will have better luck training a puppy not to bark, even older dogs can be trained to bark less if worked with. You should start as soon as possible for the best result.

My maltese, Cafe Noir.

My maltese, Cafe Noir.

Not all small dogs need to bark more. This little Maltese was taught that excessive vocalization was not allowed in his household and never developed the symptoms of "small dog syndrome."

More on Barking

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2014 Dr Mark


MarieLB from YAMBA NSW on January 28, 2015:

I've had to Vote NO re giving in to my dog. I'm often told I am cruel, because I do insist that she does as she is told, but by gosh, she is worth all of the 24kgs weight in gold to me!! Thanks for that article. Great read!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on December 29, 2014:

Interesting, but there is little or nothing we can do about the annoying barking that comes from across the street. My husband and I both like dogs, but in our current physical conditions, dogs are too high-maintenance for us, so we have cats (indoor-only) instead.

The people across the street, however, have 5 miniature poodles or cock-a-poos, or some such fuzzy breed; they are all under a foot tall, and they are let out into the front yard and ignored, left to bark at any and all passers-by, human or animal, from the time the people get home from work until dark, and all day on the weekends. I swear, those dogs bark if a flea walks down the street!

The people themselves seem to be in the back of their house, and do not hear what is going on. We are on at least civil terms with them, and have politely mentioned the problem a few times. It helps--for about a week, then things are back to the all-day barkfest.

We need a way to teach these dogs to stop barking, from 25 feet away across the street! Unfortunately, the 'sonic' devices I've researched are outside our budget.

The way our house is laid out, there is no 'back of the house' escape; we are subject to this no matter where in the house we are, and the dogs often awaken us earlier than we want to get up on the weekends.

They do not have secure fencing in their backyard; that is why the dogs are let out in the front yard only. It is so frustrating, but I don't want to end up involving animal control or the cops, and make a bad-neighbor vibe. We do still have to live here.

VJG from Texas on December 25, 2014:

I lived upstairs of a duplex. The lady downstairs had a hyper chow - constantly barking and nipping. We shared a backyard - which held the detached garage - and it was extremely dangerous getting to my car. The woman moved out and a family with two year old triplets moved in. Those triplet boys were quieter than the one chow!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on December 25, 2014:

I had seen these little dogs really barks loud and noisy

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 08, 2014:

Hi Bob, nice to "see" you. Over 100,000 for a ladybug! There are a lot of people that have been on here longer and have never reached that for one hub. Congrats.

I finally had one go "viral" on FB and was shared, reshared, etc so I had some great numbers last month.

No, it wasn't on winter moths either!! I don't think that sounds nearly as interesting as a ladybug.

Bob Bamberg on December 08, 2014:

Interesting hub, Doc, I especially like the remedies. Voted up, interesting and useful.

BTW, I was paid on Nov. 28 just like you said. That one hub (ladybug swarming) has generated over 100,000 views! Updated one on the annual winter moth invasion which is occurring in my neck of the woods as we speak, but it hasn't generated much interest.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 07, 2014:

She sounds great, Will. Some little dogs make great watchdogs, too, and she sounds like one of them.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on December 07, 2014:

Our Chihuahua Lily must be an exception. She does all of that, but doesn't bark much, and is not aggressive at all. In fact, she loves everyone.

She barks at our cats when they fight, and barks as part of a game where I pretend I don't see her. The only other time she barks is when someone unknown is outside our front door, like a salesman. I have no idea how she knows the difference. She is a good watchdog.

Barbara Fitzgerald from Georgia on December 07, 2014:

I have to admit that one of my lines is full of Barkaholics. They are control freaks and bark at anything out of order. A beetle crawling on the deck or car parked in front of our yard, and of course they set everyone else off. Ignoring them just lets them go on longer - lol.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 07, 2014:

Good point, as excessive barking is very dangerous for the small dog. Many of the people I meet on the beach pick up their barking MinPins and Yorkies, and the dogs seem justified in their barking.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on December 07, 2014:

Informative hub! A negative impact of small dogs barking is when they do it at a large sized dogs. Then the bigger dogs don't take the nonsense and get aggressive in return and then that's a vicious cycle.

With my kuvasz, I am very careful with small dogs. There are some in the neighbourhood whom my dog doesn't like at all, because they bark at him. With others, he is very friendly, because those dogs don't bark at all.

MarloByDesign from United States on December 07, 2014:

Very information Hub...and I agree that we should not let our small dogs bark incessantly. I only disagree with "Do not allow your dog to jump up on your lap without being called." because I love when my 4 lb Chihuahua jumps on my lap to cuddle with makes me feel so good inside.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 07, 2014:

Hi Solaras, thanks for leaving the comment. I never managed to keep my tiny dog from jumping up on the back of the sofa (I guess he wanted to survey his realm each evening after we came home from work) but the other suggestions work, if you keep at them. They may not be as intelligent as a Border Collie, but definitely are intelligent enough to handle us humans!

Barbara Fitzgerald from Georgia on December 07, 2014:

Great article - I never fully understood what the small dog syndrome was. Good advice on keeping the little ones from asserting their will on their masters! Voted up and useful.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 07, 2014:

I smiled picturing your dog putting her paws up for added attention! My Schnauzer knows that she is not allowed to bark at me, but when walk-time rolls around she does put her paw up on me just like you described. It is impossible to ignore!

I didn't realize it had been so long since you went through the KCS and secondary blindness. A lot of dogs in her position do gain weight, but it sounds like you have things under good control. Keep taking good care of her.

Thanks for the share.

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on December 07, 2014:

Since my sort-of-small (20 pounds) miniature schnauzer went blind two years ago, she's gotten very bossy. Although I've found toys for blind dogs and spend time playing with her or giving her a massage, she naps too much during the day and would eat constantly when awake if I let her. (She's been tested for Cushing's, but the tests were negative.) I think she may be substituting food for other activities that she no longer does since she lost her sight--sort of the way humans do as they age and can't do all the things they did when young. (I'm not letting myself off the hook here!)

At first I felt sorry for her and gave her treats when she came up to me and either barked or 'grumbled' (a low throaty mumble she uses to get my attention). Her third ploy (if the first two don't work) is to put her paws on my arm while continuing to grumble or bark. I don't want her to gain weight, so I knew it was necessary to stop giving into her demands.

I've found that ignoring her usually works and she walks away and either lies down on her dog bed or finds a toy she enjoys. She doesn't give up easily, though. Sometimes she will settle down for a few minutes, but then go through her 'bossy' behaviors several more times. I realize that if I give in to her demands, I'm actually rewarding her for bad behavior. Though it might be easier in the short term to pop a treat into her mouth and make her happy so she'll let me keep working at the computer without all the noise, it's not good for her (or for me) in the long term.

It takes fortitude and consistency when interacting with a dog determined to get her way or drive you bonkers trying! I just keep telling myself that I'm taking good care of her when I tell her no or ignore her...and stick to it. By making her wait for food until her regular mealtime, I'm reinforcing good behavior and keeping her healthier.

Fortunately, she doesn't bark excessively or even as much as she did when sighted (other than when the mail carrier walks onto the porch). The 'record' you cited of a small dog barking 900 times is mind-blowing!

Voted Up++ and shared


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