DEAR JOAN — I have a 3-year-old apple head Chihuahua who has a bad habit of screaming loudly every time I open the front door, and she sees our next door neighbor.
She gets so excited that she scratches the screen and starts screaming. I've tried squirt bottles, closing the door and keeping the door closed as long as she screams. Nothing seems to work. Have any suggestions?
Eugenia Garcia, Campbell, California
DEAR EUGENIA: Welcome to my world.
My Chihuahua, Bailey, has gotten more vocal as he's gotten older, and he's started what could be considered screaming when we leave our room in the early morning. Apparently, I'm not walking fast enough to the kitchen to feed him, and he needs to encourage me.
It's a startling sound, for sure, and it can be cause for concern in some cases, but for your dog and mine, it's nothing to worry about.
The screaming, or high-pitched barking and howling, can be an indication the dog is in pain, and with Chihuahuas and other small dogs, that pain can be because of neck and spine issues. Dogs in pain need to be seen by a veterinarian.
Because you know what triggers your dog — seeing the neighbor — then it's unlikely the dog is screeching in pain. She is, instead, just really excited, and to stop the screaming, you need to work on calming her down, which is much easier said than done.
Spraying with the water bottle won't do it. She might see it as punishment, but she likely won't understand what it is she's being punished for. She's just showing how much she loves the neighbor or maybe how much she wants to gnaw on his ankles.
Instead of squirting her with water, work on teaching her some commands that you can use to get her attention and reward her for obeying them.
For instance, teach her to sit or to heel. Giving her a command that she will follow will get her attention focused on you and not the neighbor, and should stop the vocalizations and screen-scratching.©#YR@ MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at mercurynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.