DEAR JOAN: I adore my latest puppy, who is 8 months old, but she yaps incessantly.
I’ve had small dogs in the past — Chihuahuas and a min pin — but none of them has had the same sharp bark that I am afraid is driving my neighbors to distraction.
I can’t entertain her all day, even though I am working at home because of COVID. Short of a shock collar, which I joke about but would never use, what can I do to train her out of it?
DEAR D.: A dog or a puppy has many reasons for barking. It could be looking for attention, it might be bored, it could be frightened by something or it could be trying to warn you of a danger. Your job is to figure out why your puppy is barking.
Based on what you’ve said, I think there’s a good chance the puppy is yapping for your attention. She’s already learned that by barking she gets what she wants, even if it’s you telling her to stop, banging your head on the table or looking up “shock collars” on Amazon.
She wants your attention and doesn’t care if it’s positive or negative attention. That’s her goal and you’re giving it to her. I’m not blaming you. It’s hard to disregard an adorable puppy and as the “mom” to a yappy Chihuahua, I know all that barking can get on your nerves. To stop it, however, you’re going to have to ignore it.
Anytime the little darling is barking for attention, just continue what you’re doing. Don’t say a word or look in her direction. When she stops barking, give it a moment, then reward her with a “good dog.”
It will take time — maybe you should give your neighbors with a note of apology and some earplugs — but eventually she’ll learn that barking for attention isn’t getting her any.
If you think your puppy is barking because she’s bored, then get her some interactive toys so she can amuse herself, and try to schedule in a five-minute break a couple of times during the day to play with her or take a short walk in the neighborhood.
It’s important to stop the behavior while she still is a puppy because yapping puppies grow into yapping dogs.
DEAR JOAN: A few weeks ago I started hearing scampering sounds on my patio at night. It went on for a while and when I went out on the patio, my dog could sense something in the base of our barbecue.
Every time I went near it I could hear some movement. I finally opened the door and was surprised to see a stash of acorns. After a Google search, which indicated that squirrels squirrel acorns, I figured that’s what was nesting in the barbecue.
I worked up the courage to start removing all of the equipment and supplies. Whatever it was had eaten through the extension cord for the rotisserie and a cardboard box. I lifted out the box and was startled when a huge rat jumped out! So much for only squirrels squirreling acorns.
— Wendie Eisen Weisman
DEAR WENDIE: Yes, rats are almost as good at squirreling as squirrels are. To know if you have rat or squirrel troubles without lifting the lid, consider the time. If the scampering is going on at night, it’s a rat. Squirrels punch their squirreling time clocks at dusk to prevent being eaten by nighttime predators.
Morris writes for the San Jose Mercury News. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.