Why Do Small Dogs Bark So Much?

excessive dog barking
excessive dog barking

Are you the owner of a small dog who barks at your front window every day when someone walks past? Victor, my poodle cross, can drive us crazy with his excessive barking every time he sees something move outside This inspired me to research the question: “why do small dogs bark so much?”

It was interesting to find out that small dogs excessively bark for the following reasons: genetics, high energy levels, boredom, protective instincts, and barking for attention. Reasons that involve the owner are inadequate training and the owner’s behavior. For older dogs, health reasons and pain can contribute to excessive barking.

If you want to stop your dog from barking in this way then it is important to understand why they do it in order to train them properly. You can also help by making sure they get enough exercise so their energy levels don’t get too high which will make them more likely to bark excessively.

This article has some great tips about how you can stop your dog from barking excessively if this is something that concerns you!

In this article, you will learn: 

  • 9 reasons why small dogs bark more than big dogs
  • about small dog syndrome
  • 5 small dog breeds that bark the most
  • tips to reduce excessive barking

9 Reasons Why Small Dogs Bark So Much

Small dogs have a lot to say, and they definitely don’t hold back.

Here are some of the reasons why small dogs bark so much. 

1. Genetics

The main reason why small dogs can be so yappy is that we made them that way. Centuries of selective breeding transformed non-barking wolves into extremely vocal dogs, all for our benefit.  

Specifically, people often bred small dogs to chase prey out of their dens and use their imposing barks to do so. 

2. High Energy Levels

One of the qualities that emerged in small dogs due to selective breeding is high energy levels. Small dogs, such as Chihuahuas and Beagles, are way more energetic than their larger counterparts. 

Many small dogs were once mighty game hunters and sporting companions. 

The high energy levels are ingrained into their genetics, and things can get chaotic if they spend the whole day battling these instincts.

3. Protective Instincts

In addition to sporting, small canines were historically used as watchdogs owing to their protective instincts.

Partly due to their small size and partly due to their love for their family, small dogs will always be on high alert, and the smallest things will set off their alarms, leading to territorial barking. 

4. Boredom 

All dogs have a high sense of purpose— to do what they were bred to do. For small dogs, it’s things like chasing small animals and protecting their family. 

While most pet dogs can adapt and become active participants of the household, small dogs are too often left to their own devices. 

Many small dog owners don’t realize that their dogs, small as they may be, need adequate mental stimulation. If they’re bored, they will inevitably channel through more disruptive outlets: barking. 

5. Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is when your dog becomes extremely emotional when you leave the house for long periods. It can even happen when leave them alone in the car, or even just go to another room where they can’t see you. 

Thinking that you’re lost to them forever, your dog will become over-emotional. At the same time, they might also urinate, defecate, pace, howl, chew, dig, or even try to escape. 

Interestingly enough, a recent study showed that separation anxiety is more so a symptom of underlying frustrations and behavioral issues.  However, just because your dog may have separation anxiety doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve failed as a dog parent. 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals expresses that separation anxiety in dogs most commonly occurs after a big change. Changes in their home environment such as moving to a new house or a family member leaving for months can confuse and agitate your canine companion.

6. Barking For Attention

Small dogs can be notoriously spoiled, pampered, and infantilized because of their size. 

As such, you can expect at least one outburst a day with compulsive barking and snarling. 

7. Inadequate Training

Once again, people mistakenly believe that small dogs are low-maintenance. 

Moreover, small-sized dogs seem less threatening than their larger counterparts. Even if they exhibit aggressive or unwanted behavior, it’s usually brushed off as “cute” or “funny.” 

But keep in mind that all dogs need proper obedience training and socialization just like large dogs. Since many small dog owners skip this important developmental step, small dogs bark whenever and as much as they want. 

8. Owner’s Own Behavior

Much like children, your dog can sense your emotional state, read your facial expressions, and understand your tone. 

And, just like children, you can bet that your dog will copy you. 

If your small dog senses that you are anxious, stressed, upset, or angry, they will reflect that behavior through things like excessive barking and destructive behavior. 

9. Health Problems

Certain health problems, specifically those related to aging, can cause excessive barking in small dogs. 

For example, deafness, vision impairments, and body aches will cause your dog to bark more out of discomfort and pain. 

Moreover, aging dogs are also prone to canine cognitive dysfunction, which is like Alzheimer’s for dogs. They become disoriented and might start barking excessively without even realizing it. 

Why Do Small Dogs Bark More Than Big Dogs?

A 2008 study that surveyed 30 dog breeds confirmed that strong dogs are more disposed to excessive barking and overall aggression. 

While each individual case is different, there is one overarching cause behind their nuisance barking: small dogs are generally more anxious and nervous than big dogs. 

Animal behavior expert and dog trainer Cesar Milan expresses that small dogs bark so much because they are closer to the ground. As such, they can sense vibrations of things long before anyone can actually see them and will react out of fear by barking or snarling. 

Another reason has more to do with nurture instead of nature. Small dogs often get a pass for a lot of undesired behavior as owners don’t deem it as important as that in big dogs. 

This gives rise to the “small dog syndrome” phenomenon. 

What Is Small Dog Syndrome?

Small dog syndrome is just a more decorated way of saying that small dogs are generally misbehaving, mischievous, aggressive, and downright mean. 

And it’s all because of their size. 

However, small dogs aren’t malicious or evil. While you might think that your pooch is being extra testy, it’s probably because they are constantly on edge— they’re not purposely trying to get on your nerves. 

Keep in mind that your tiny four-legged friend has to find its way in a big world. Everything and everyone, including other animals and even inanimate objects, seems menacing to small dogs. 

Consequently, small dog syndrome can manifest in a number of ways: 

  • Refusing to follow basic commands
  • Aggression and nipping/biting
  • Jumping on people
  • Excessive and unwanted barking and whining, especially when they want attention.
  • Growling at other pets and strangers

What Little Dog Breed Barks The Most?

The five most vocal small dog breeds are: 

  1. Fox Terriers
  2. Chihuahuas
  3. Beagles
  4. Corgis
  5. Jack Russel Terriers

Wire Fox Terriers

Wire Fox Terriers are popular show dog breeds today. But did you know that they were originally bred for hunting and sporting? 

You can imagine, then, that these dogs can get bored easily. So they find other ways to release all that pent-up energy: through unwanted barking. 


Chihuahuas are a very popular dog breed, infamous for their snappy personalities.  

But Chihuahuas aren’t just mean by nature. Instead, the reason these small dogs bark so much is that they are always excited and looking for something to do. 

In fact, their energy levels are so high sometimes that they start shaking uncontrollably. 


There’s nothing cuter than watching a beagle puppy muster its first “awoos.” But be warned: these cute howls and yelps will quickly turn into excessive barking and will continue into their adulthood. 

This is because Beagles are a hunting breed that instinctively bark when they detect prey or other threats. To them, anything that is small and moves counts as prey, and it is your responsibility to teach them otherwise. 


Corgis are one of the most popular dog breeds for their cute aesthetics and fluffy bottoms. 

However, they were originally bred for herding cattle. So, unwanted barking is part of the package. 

Moreover, Corgis actually harbor very strong protective instincts and will bark at anything they deem a threat. 

Jack Russel Terriers

Jacks Russel Terriers are deceptively cute. Hidden behind their small size and friendly faces is a strong instinct to protect their pack from perceived threats. 

As such, these excellent watchdogs will bark whenever they see someone breaching their territory, be it your neighbors or a squirrel in your garden. 

How Do You Stop Uncontrollable Barking?

If your small dog has burst into a fit of compulsive barking, here are some things you can try to stop them: 

Stay calm, even if you are tempted to respond to your barking dog in kind. Dogs don’t understand why you are screaming, and it will only add to their excitement if you start “barking” with them, too. 

Try positive reinforcement by rewarding them the moment they stop barking. Wait for the moment they stop barking, even if it’s for a few seconds, and give them a treat. 

Shock collars will momentarily distract the dog from barking through a low-level shock. Over time, your dog will stop barking just to avoid the discomfort. However, this kind of negative reinforcement is less effective and way crueler because your dog is modifying its behavior out of fear alone.  

Visit a veterinarian to see if there is something causing your dog pain or discomfort. 

As a last resort, you can always pick up your dog and remove them from the situation. This change in environment will distract them as well as possibly lessen the stimulus and triggers that are causing them to bark, such as guests or passing cars. 

How To Prevent Excessive Barking Starting?

Prevention is always better than cure. When it comes to small dogs, you need to take some steps to ensure that they don’t develop a barking problem later on: 

Obedience training from a young age so that these pack animals can learn their place in the pack hierarchy. 

Exercise them until exhaustion. Even small dogs require plenty of exercise to cater to their sporting, hunting, or herding instincts. 

Socialize them from a young age and constantly introduce them to new things. This will help your dog realize that not everything is a threat. Additionally, it will also keep them mentally stimulated. 

Spend more time with them, so they don’t feel neglected and ignored