Picture this – you’re out for a nice relaxing walk with your Chihuahua, a stranger comes along and your furbaby goes crazy barking and pulling at the lead. It’s embarrassing and stressful! You aren’t alone – I think as Chihuahua owners many of us have been there.

So, what do you do? In this article, we’ll talk about how to stop a Chihuahua from barking at strangers so you can enjoy your adventures with your pup again!

How to Stop Your Chihuahua From Barking at Strangers

Why is Your Chihuahua Barking at Strangers?

Chihuahuas have a reputation for barking at everything, but that isn’t the case for all Chis! 

Barking is a big part of how dogs communicate their feelings. It’s impossible to stop barking altogether, but excessive barking at strangers usually has a reason behind it and can be addressed.

How to Stop Your Chihuahua From Barking at Strangers

Chihuahuas may be barking at strangers for several reasons including:

  • Fear: If they’ve had a bad experience with people in the past, they may be afraid and bark to tell strangers “stay away”. 
  • Over excitement: Some Chis bark because they’re excited to meet someone new, but of course, this can put people off and isn’t an appropriate response.
  • Territoriality: Chihuahuas are naturally territorial and may bark at strangers who come near or into their homes. They may also bark on walks to try to protect their humans. 
  • Attention: Some Chis bark because they’re bored on their walk, or because they want to get your attention. 

How to Tackle Barking at Strangers

How to Stop Your Chihuahua From Barking at Strangers

You can reduce barking  – it’s all about consistency and patience. When we first rescued my Chihuahua, she barked at everything and everyone because she had a difficult past. Over time, this behavior has reduced hugely. It’s not a quick fix, but it is possible!

Socialization 

The best way to tackle barking is to ensure you socialize your dog well. This means getting them gradually used to other people, animals, and situations they will face regularly.

If you haven’t socialized your dog as a puppy, you can still socialize an older dog. It will just take more time and patience. 

Distraction and Engagement

How to Stop Your Chihuahua From Barking at Strangers

One of the best ways I’ve found to tackle barking at strangers or other triggers is to distract your dog and encourage them to engage with you instead. 

If you’re out on walks, keep your dog on a leash and a harness until you have the barking under control. Choose a quiet route to begin with and you can gradually build up to busier places over the coming weeks and months.

For this to work, you need to be very aware of your surroundings. The goal is to see a stranger coming before your dog does. 

Once you spot a stranger, get your dog’s attention. Ask your dog to sit down and keep their attention with a treat or their favorite toy. Chihuahuas tend to be very food motivated so I find treats work best. I find it easier to stop and do this, but you may be able to keep walking while you do so. 

If your dog continues to focus on you mostly and if they don’t bark, give them their reward and lots of praise. It’s okay if they look around at the trigger without barking and then look back at you – in fact, that’s fantastic! Continue to work on this before you start doing the same in areas where there are more distractions. 

If your dog barks at strangers who come into your home, you can use a similar method. Introduce strangers gradually, only one person at a time to start with. Give your Chi a treat dispenser, chew toy, or long-lasting chew treat to distract them while the stranger is in their home.

I find it really helpful if the dog has a ‘safe space’ – for example, a crate or pen. Don’t allow strangers to enter this space. This reassures your dog and gives them somewhere they can retreat to if they get overwhelmed. 

Over time, you can build up to strangers offering treats and petting your dog but take this very slowly. 

Positive Reinforcement

How to Stop Your Chihuahua From Barking at Strangers

It’s crucial that you reward your Chihuahua when they aren’t barking. Give them plenty of praise and a treat each time. This teaches them that sitting and giving you attention rather than barking is far more fun!

If your Chi does bark even if you’re doing everything right, try not to get flustered (I know that’s easier said than done). If you’re on a walk, stay calm and keep walking until you’re away from the trigger. Then you can try again next time. 

If they’re barking at a stranger in your home, take them into another room until they stop barking. Continue to reward periods of quiet, and don’t give them attention when they’re barking. 

Don’t shout or punish your Chihuahua, as they don’t understand this and might even think you’re just joining in with their barking! Instead, you can say a firm ‘no’ each time if you like, or you can choose to say nothing at all. 

Repetition

How to Stop Your Chihuahua From Barking at Strangers

The key is repetition. Keep following the steps we’ve talked about and gradually build up to more triggers as your Chihuahua progresses.

Ensure everyone in your household or who interacts with your dog is on the same page. With consistency, your Chi will soon get the picture that barking doesn’t get them what they want!

Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Ensure your Chihuahua is getting plenty of exercise, attention, and mental stimulation. When they’re tired and their needs are met, they’re far less likely to act out and are more likely to engage with you calmly. 

Is It Possible to Stop Your Chihuahua Barking at Strangers?

Although your Chihuahua barking at strangers is distressing, with time and patience it’s completely possible to get it under control! If you find you’re struggling, there’s no shame in contacting a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for help.

Remember that dogs naturally bark to communicate, so you can’t stop it completely. But you can teach your Chi when you want them to be quiet so you can have a peaceful, happy life together. 

How to Stop Your Chihuahua From Barking at Strangers

FAQs

Why does my Chihuahua hate strangers?

It’s unlikely that your Chihuahua hates strangers – they may be fearful or have had a bad experience. Or they may think they need to protect you or their home. 

Is it too late to socialize my dog?

No, even older dogs can be socialized although it may take more time and patience. We rescued my Chihuahua when she was around three years old and had to socialize her, and now she’s doing great!