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Maltese Barking Issues


Though the Maltese gets a pretty bad rep for being an excessive barker, in many cases this is no more so than the typical toy sized dog. And in addition, it may be a matter of needing to teach right from wrong. How you react to barking will play a huge role in a Maltese's continuation or ceasing of it. 

Here, we will cover the most common barking issues, including barking at night, and out-of-control barking in which the Maltese is not listening to his owners. 

Commonly Seen Barking Problems

Issues with excessive barking usually include one or more of the following:

Barking at every little thing. It may seem as if your Maltese puppy or dog is disturbed at literally everything. From noises outside, to people walking around the house. Every movement and every noise may appear to be a trigger that sets him off. 

Not able to calm down. Once a Maltese gets going, he may bark continuously. 
Saying 'No' may not work at all, and sometimes if owners raise their voices, the barking only gets louder and more intense. 
Barking at other dogs or people when outside. Walking your Maltese may start to become a stressful event; he may bark at anything and everything that moves. He may also jump up, away, or towards triggers, or otherwise not fall into a heel by your side. 

Barking at night. This is most commonly seen with young pups. The puppy may bark, whine, or cry in the middle of the night or very early in the morning. 

How To Stop a Maltese Puppy From Barking at Night

This can be really tricky and a source of stress for owners of new puppies. 

Human instinct tells you to go to the pup's side, to comfort, calm, and pay attention to him. And it does seem to work. But, it can leave you sleep deprived, irritable, and feeling worried about how it's ever going to stop.

The good news is that nighttime barking can be stopped within just a couple of weeks; and in some cases even less time than that. 

Do note that this takes a bit of work on your side. You will need to set up the right type of area for your Maltese puppy, and have some patience as rules are learned. 
1) Have the right set-up for your Maltese. To begin, you will need to make sure that your Maltese's environment is conducive to the pup feeling secure. It will also need to offer him the tools that he needs to self-soothe and stay independently busy while you are asleep. 

These elements will also help your Maltese if he has separation anxiety issues when home alone. 

Have your Maltese in a canine playpen. When a puppy or dog is within a good sized canine playpen, he is able to feel secure because it offers the feeling of a 'den', which tells a canine that he is safe. It also keeps all of his necessities right within reach, many of which will directly help him in a variety of ways. 

And unlike a crate, it is not so confining that it feels claustrophobic, which can cause both physical and mental stress. 

Within the pen, have a quality canine bed. Puppies get chilled very easily and need to feel safe. Sleeping on the floor or a blanket will not help in those regards. A bolstered canine bed, sized for toy breed dogs is recommended. 

Have at least 2 'stay busy' toys. Ahead we will discuss how to react when your Maltese barks at night; part of this will be to tend to any urgent needs, but then allow him to stay busy on his own. But, you cannot expect a puppy to do this if he does not have the right items for this.

One treat dispensing toy and one interactive toy such as a motion activated toy that speaks will work well. 

Offer a companion toy. Part of why a puppy barks at night is that he wants company. Barking in this sense is natural instinct. Companion toys are designed to mimic living animals to meet this need of wanting company, and are great for both nighttime barking issues and to help with separation anxiety. 
We recommend the Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy. It is a good sized, quality stuffed animal that emits rhythmic heartbeat. It also has an option to send out a comforting warmth. 
Aside from the Smart Pet, our other top picks for setting up a great environment are below. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. On mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4 picks. 
2) Know when to approach and when to ignore. Most owners immediate assume that puppies start yelping at night due to bathroom needs. 

And while this very well may be the case in some instances, it is not so in most cases. 

You may think that your Maltese has proven that his bark meant that he needed to go if you ignored his barking and found a mess the next morning or if you woke up to his barks, took him out, and he did the deed. 

However, most puppies 2, 3, 4 and even 5 months old are not house trained to such an extent that they will wake you up with barking due to needing to urinate or have a bowel movement.
And at the very most, a puppy may go to the bathroom once during the night. Any other barking episodes are not due to this. 

What to do: As you go through this advice, keep in mind that these lessons learned now are the foundation for life-long confidence and self-soothing abilities. 

When followed, a puppy or dog will learn valuable lessons. If you continue to respond to him when he's barking in the middle of the night, this sort of coddling will not benefit the dog in the long run. 

Therefore, the first time that your Maltese barks at night, take him out. Show that this is a very serious time, and not one for playing. Keep lights dim. Do not pat, play with, or speak other than to say 'Good job' for praise if he urinates or eliminates in the designated area. 

When done, return him to his area. 

For all other barking episodes, ignore and do not approach him. These will be times that the pup learns to look to his belongings to stay busy and self-soothe. 

You will find that if he has a 'den' that consists of a bed within a good-sized playpen, a couple of toys that are designed to keep him busy, and a companion toy, that he will learn to turn to those belongings for comfort. 

Within 1 to 2 weeks, he will learn that no matter how much he barks you will not appear. And that his energy is best exerted toward elements that offer what he is looking for. 
Cubbie, photo courtesy of Amy Jo

When a Maltese is Barking Like Crazy in the House

Another common barking issue is when just about everything seems to set off a dog. But, nothing seems to stop him. 

Resolving this is a 2-step process:

1) Reassess that your Maltese's needs are being met before you take steps to halt his barking.

This includes:

Enough exercise. This breed can quickly fill with pent-up energy if he does not have a healthy outlet. So, you will want to be sure to walk him twice per day. And for some Maltese, three times per day will be needed.

You'll want to each session to be a brisk jaunt for a minimum of 20 minutes.
It's not uncommon for bad weather to seem to get in the way. This is a small, single-coated breed, so Maltese do get chilled very easily. You may find that placing a lined vest, warm coat, or other clothing offers your dog enough of a layer that he can feel warm outside in the winter. And be sure to dress warmly yourself. 
Enough mental stimulation. Maltese are active dogs, both physically and mentally. Often, just 'being there' is not enough to keep them feeling satisfied.

There will be walks and grooming sessions; and in addition to this, set aside time each day for one-on-one interaction. This should include lessons to learn commands, games of hide n' seek, fetch, and even puzzle games in which your Maltese is taught to paw levers and nose buttons in order to release a treat.

When a Maltese's day is filled with enough activity, he is much more prone to be able to rest and relax during down times. 
A calm environment. If the household is chaotic, with lots of people, pets bothering each other, blaring TVs, etc. a Maltese may get really riled up and essentially mimic the setting that he is in. 
And even if the house calm every now and then, a dog will not immediately calm down in sync with this. Such a frenzied setting can lead to frantic behavior as the norm.

So, to summarize, training to stop barking should only be implemented once you have reassessed things and are sure that the listed elements are being taken care of. 

2) Use the 'Interrupt and Redirect' method. The idea of this is simple and it works like a charm for many dogs if followed correctly.

You will want to:

1. Interrupt the barking. Typically, shouting 'No!' will not work; most Maltese will assume that you are just joining in on the ruckus.  

You will need a short, abrupt sound that effectively causes your Maltese to take pause. 

For some dogs, a loud clap will work. For others, not so much.
Sadie Grace, photo courtesy of Shayla
If you find that clapping does not work, you may then want to consider a safe behavioral alert device. The type that can work well is a small bottle that with the push of a button will dispense a short hissing noise. 

This particular sort of noise can be very effective in causing dogs (and other animals) to pause their actions; it really gets their attention. A good one to try is The Company of Animals Pet Corrector.
2. Refocus your Maltese. The goal is to immediately offer something so interesting that it redirects your Maltese and keeps his attention. For this, you will want to have special toys tucked away and hidden (so that the novelty remains).

Toys that can get a dog's mind on something else include those that speak to engage him. Examples are the Talking Babble Ball Dog Toy (be sure to choose size 'small') which lets out funny wisecracks and the smaller options of the Multipet Look Who's Talking line of dog toys (those that are 5 or 6 inches) like the amusing Look Who's Talking Plush Chick Toy which is 5 inches. 

Barking at Other Dogs when Outside

This can be a challenging barking problem, since you cannot remove the trigger and seeing as you are out-and-about, you cannot employ the previous type of training. 

However, an approach that works well is to 1) safely (more ahead) keep walking, as if the barking is not occurring and 2) reward when the barking stops. 

1) The way that you can keep walking while keeping your Maltese free from harm, is to have him on leash and harness, and not a collar. 

Unlike a collar that puts all tension and stress on the neck, a harness leaves the neck free; pressure is dispersed along the shoulders, chest, and back.

It's not easy finding a quality harness that fits tiny Maltese; however the Lil Pals Mesh Comfort Adjustable Harness for Puppies and Toy Breeds in size extra-small is for dogs under 5 lbs. and the small fits dogs 5 to 7 lbs., so it's great choice. 

Keeping your Maltese to your left, and with only enough leash that he is by your side (and not ahead of you), continue walking at the normal pace, as if you hear no barking whatsoever.
2) Reward at specific times. Eventually (normally when the other dog is out of sight), your Maltese will calm down. Be ready for this. Have a special treat in your pocket. Slow down (do not stop), give praise and allow him to mouth the treat. 

For every 5 minutes that goes by without barking (even if there are no other dogs in sight), give a treat. 

For this, as with most elements that are meant to teach lessons, have the treat be something that your Maltese does not normally receive for a snack, but finds extra tasty. 
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