Little dogs have big personalities. They can be cute and cuddly and somewhat ferocious practically at the same time! If your dog has that Jekyll and Hyde quality, don't despair. With understanding and training, you can curb your dog's tendencies to yap and growl before those behaviors escalate to biting.
Identifying a Problem
Your cute little dog may be the center of your world and the best friend you've ever had, but all dogs must learn good manners. Yappy little dogs can be victims of their own cuteness; some owners see them as toys and accessories instead of dogs in need of training. But little dogs need discipline, including the understanding that a command to quiet means no more barking. Would you let your Doberman yap at the door? Heavens, no. So picture your Yorkie in an 80-pound package and insist he obey your commands. Although barking and growling are natural behaviors, it's not natural for dogs to go crazy when visitors come to your home or when the postman rings.
Dogs bark for many reasons, so in order to stop unwanted barking you must determine why the dog has become a problem barker. Dogs respond to stimulation that can be in or outside of your home. Obviously, knocking and doorbells are strong cues. You may notice that your dog has carried the response to similar sounds, like pots banging in the kitchen or bells ringing on TV. Other cues are not so obvious, like the sound of familiar cars coming down the street, other dogs walking past your house or cats dancing on your fence.
Teaching Dogs to "Quiet"
When dogs bark inappropriately, most owners try to quiet them, with reassuring coos and stroking. This only reinforces the barking, and makes the dog more likely to bark again. How do you stop the yapping? Teach your dog to quiet. When the dog barks, tell him or her to quiet and if the barking continues, respond with a correction. You must be firm, and the correction must be something the dog does not like. Consider a sharp command, paired with another loud noise, such as that of keys dropping, a rattle can or whistle sound to stop the barking.
Most yapping is the result of habits, and can be corrected easily. However; barking, growling and even biting can relate to underlying behavior problems. Dogs (especially little dogs) can be aggressive or fearful, and their reaction to the environment can be displayed in various behavior problems. Behavior therapy may be in order, and you should consult with a qualified animal behaviorist or highly skilled dog trainer for advice. Your veterinarian or local animal shelter may be able to refer you to someone skilled in solving behavior problems. Don't delay; happiness is right around the corner!
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