Can changing your ID tag help reduce chihuahua barking?

Having an ID tag on your chihuahua is essential and a legal requirement. The most obvious reason so that if your pup gets lost you can be contacted quickly. But can the type of tag reduce chihuahua barking?

It’s so ingrained in us that I’ve never given it a second thought. Each one of my dogs has a small tag with my surname and contact phone number and it’s attached to their collar or harness. When they walk it makes a noise and again, I’ve never given it much thought. Until now!

Barking on walks

Chihuahua like to bark at other dogs, it’s one of the main reasons people contact me. (They want coaching to help reduce chihuahua barking and being aggressive towards other dogs). Owners don’t understand that if your chihuahua barks and lunges at other dogs on a walk they are overwhelmed and stressed. Your chi is not doing it because of ‘small dog syndrome’ or because he thinks he’s a rottweiler. It’s not good for them or you.

So what’s the ID tag got to do with it?

A dog’s hearing is very sensitive they can hear four times further away than we can and at a much higher frequency. Think how quickly they arrive when you open the fridge door!

Which means they can hear the tinkle of another dog’s collar long before it comes into view. Then the dog appears, and a pairing of the collar sound and an approaching dog is rehearsed over and over on every walk. Now the sound of the tinkle is a trigger for a full-on chihuahua tizz.

My dog doesn’t bark at other dogs

Even if your dog is more chilled and doesn’t react to other dogs you may still need to give it some thought because the issue works both ways.

You may meet another dog’s that is dog-dog reactive. Hopefully they are on a lead, but they will also be sensitive to the sound of the tinkle of a dog collar and have rehearsed the pairing in the same way. So, it will be a trigger for them as well.

This mean that when your chihuahua potters into view the other dog would be hyper aware of it and ready to react by barking and lunging towards your chihuahua. The worst may be just barking, but if the dog is off lead he may lunge. Your chi is likely to run which may prompt a chase situation.

I have spoken to more than one owner whose dog has been attacked and tossed ‘out of the blue’ by a larger dog. But the chances are the attacking dog is reactive and hypervigilant and trying to deal with its own full emotional bucket.   This will be a frightening enough for both you and your chihuahua and could have long term behavior consequences.

1 negative interaction outweighs 100 positive ones.

Dr. Tom Mitchell, Behavavet

What to do about it.

  • Change your ID tag to a silent one that is either made of silicone or that threads through the collar or harness. Don’t put your dog’s name on it in case of theft. Put your surname.
  • If your chihuahua is reactive to other dogs, then desensitize him to the sound of a tinkling collar will help.

How to make a start

When your chihuahua is in a calm frame of mind have a harness near him. Make a tiny movement so it makes a sound when your chi looks at it reward him. Do this a few times. Don’t be stingy with the food. (That’s why we use his dinner rather than extra treats)

Do this calmly, you are not wanting to pair the sound with a different excitement. Build this up over time until your chi seems more relaxed about the sound. Try it with different sounds including bells. For some reason people put bells on their dogs, I can’t imagine how stressful this must be for it, filling up their ‘emotional bucket’ before they even get out the door!

It’s difficult to quantify the result of this training in a blog post, but you know your chihuahua so you will be able to gauge your dog’s reaction.  But you are a step closer to helping your chihuahua bark less at other dogs out on a walk.

Try this as well

If you take your chihuahua out regularly for walks and he barks at other dogs, then this becomes a deeply rehearsed behavior. Dogs will do what they have always done. It can take 72 hours for a dog to calm down after an ‘incident’ so if he goes out every day, he is going to still be psyched up from yesterday’s interaction, this is called trigger stacking. Try giving your dog a few days rest and just play with them in the garden.