The most common complaint about dogs is the noise they make. The good news for neighbors is that usually problems can be resolved without resorting to legal means. How? Through informal negotiation or mediation. This web page offers you ways to resolve your neighborhood dog disputes by staying on relatively good terms with your neighbors.
Barking is natural, normal dog behavior. Dogs bark to communicate as well as to release pent-up energy. From the dog's point of view: "I find myself barking for a number of reasons, perhaps you can help me find a way to stop!
- I am bored.
- I have separation anxiety.
- I am stressed.
- I am panicked.
- I bark at things I cannot see.
- I am barking because I can’t get to what I can see.
- And, sometimes I bark because of all of these reasons.
My owner probably doesn’t know that I am barking and disturbing our neighbors. Some of the things that my owner could do for me include:
- Increase my aerobic activity, it helps me to burn excess energy (speed walking and “fetch” are my favorites).
- Provide me with more and different types of toys to keep me occupied while I am alone.
- Enroll me in an obedience class.
- Leave me a radio or TV on to keep me company.
- Hire someone to walk and socialize with me."
Things that you can do as an owner of a barking dog
If a complaint has been aimed at you about your dog’s behavior, you should at least be willing to talk about the problem, even if you think your neighbor is being completely unreasonable. It is in your interest to solve the problem quickly, before it escalates.
If you have received a complaint about your barking dog, open the lines of communications with your neighbors. If you received an anonymous complaint, visit your neighbors and let them know that you received a complaint about your dog’s barking. Explain that you want to work on stopping the barking but until the other day you weren’t even aware that the problem existed. Ask your neighbors if they have heard the dog barking, and if so: 1) When did it start? 2) How long did it last? 3) Was there an apparent stimulus for the barking, such as nearby construction, deliveries or something else?
If you are away from home regularly and your dog is barking, ask if your neighbors can assist with trying to change your dog’s behavior. When the dog barks, ask the neighbors to say the dog’s name and “Quiet!” or “No bark!” This might at least interrupt the barking. When your dog stops barking he should receive verbal praise, petting or a special treat that he gets only when he stops barking.
If the neighbors are not an option for help, you will need to set up a situation that allows you to catch your dog in the act. Do your workday morning schedule on a weekend day. Leave the house and then come back to see if you catch your dog barking. If you have a two-person household, one person could leave and the other could stay behind to observe the dog’s behavior. Use the negative and positive reinforcements described above to correct and reward your dog.
The Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA offer private, one-on-one behavior consultation. Their experts can help you with housetraining, separation anxiety, shyness, fear, new dog/puppy problems, obedience, dog reactivity, and enjoy better relationship with your dog. Give them a call at 650) 340-7022, ext. 667. They also offer a Behavior Helpline. A trained staff member will return your call within 48 hours (Monday through Friday) to offer free advice related to domestic animal behavior. They can help with barking and chewing problems, separation anxiety, and housetraining. You can reach the Behavior Helpline at (650) 340-7022, ext. 783.
You can also check out local dog training classes, there is training available in Ladera. Check out local bulletin boards at Robert’s and Konditorei.
Things you can do as the neighbor of a barking dog
When an annoyance occurs, there are several reasons for not losing your temper. Acting in anger, whether it’s racing over in your bathrobe and slippers, screaming through the telephone, or bringing in the police, reveals your own lack of control and generally guarantees disastrous resentment. But even more important, you need to know just how serious the problem is – whether it will be ongoing or a single or occasional disturbance. You need more facts and therefore more time.
We recommend a rule of wait-and-see. There may be a reason for the barking dog. Perhaps the neighbor is dog-sitting for one night, or trying a new dog outside, and will learn without your help that keeping the dog outside isn’t working.
Keeping a log
The most effective way to remain in control when faced with a neighbor problem is to sit down and describe on paper what is happening. This simple act will distance you from your anger and help you manage the situation. Writing down your concerns will tell you how serious the problem is and how often you are being disturbed. List what has happened and when. This record will help later when approaching your neighbor. Even if it means putting up with the problem for a time while you accomplish this, you will have exhibited your own tolerance and discipline and be in a better position to take action. (View sample log)
Know who is responsible for the disturbance
When the peace of the neighborhood is suddenly shattered and you don’t know your neighbors, the easiest reaction can be to simply call the police to investigate the disturbance. This approach has several disadvantages. An anonymous phone call or report to the authorities can make the situation worse. The neighbor at fault won’t know who the accuser is and so can’t explain or even apologize. The neighbor will feel defensive, isolated, and suspicious of everybody – a bad neighbor. You may succeed in stopping a problem for the time being, but the same problem or others will almost certainly surface again. Try to find out who the offending neighbor is and deal directly with the person responsible. The long-term results will be more desirable.
Find out if anyone else is affected
If you are being seriously disturbed by a neighbor, chances are you are not alone. A noise problem, for example, likely affects several neighbors. You may find that other concerns also bother more than one neighbor. Contacting others who are adversely affected and having them join you in your efforts can be very wise. It strengthens your position and also dilutes the possibility of hostility or retaliation.
How do you approach your neighbor?
Complaining to a neighbor is never easy. Ask yourself how you would like to be approached if you were responsible for a problem. You can write a friendly note or call to arrange a convenient time to talk.
If you decide to call, be sure to show your own consideration by calling at a convenient time when your neighbor is apt to be more responsive and less defensive. If you choose to go over to your neighbor’s house, again choose a reasonable time. If you have found other neighbors are also affected by the problem, go together to approach the neighbor. As suggested earlier, it is so much easier to be on pre-existing friendly terms. By being prepared and using common sense, you can make the task less unpleasant and much more productive. Offer positive suggestions. Once you have established some rapport, you may want to suggest, tactfully, that the owner get help with the dog. Try to agree on specific actions to alleviate the problem. After you agree on specific actions, set a time to talk again in a couple of weeks. If your next meeting is already arranged, it will be easier for you to talk about this matter again. It won’t look like you are badgering your neighbor, but will show that you are serious about getting the problem solved.
Always assume your neighbor doesn’t know there is a problem
Most neighbors do not intentionally set out to create problems. The very last person to know that someone is disturbed is usually the one causing the disturbance. Even if you are almost positive that the neighbor knows and doesn’t care about an annoyance, when you approach that neighbor, assume he or she wants and needs to be told. It can’t hurt and may help.
How do you pose the complaint?
You may be forced to just come out and tell the neighbor that a problem exists and it needs correcting. Still, some approaches work better than others. Try, “I’m sure you would want to know that your dog's barking is disturbing me.” Explain why you are disturbed, for example that you couldn’t sleep Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights (remember your log). Don’t be afraid to say you are sorry, that you hate to complain. Most people really are sorry to have to complain and if you say it, then it’s easier for the neighbor to also say it. Have a solution to the problem already in your mind and offer it.
If you need to make contact in writing
Sometimes it is necessary to complain in writing to someone as a first step. If you don’t want to face the neighbor directly or you don’t know them well enough, you can state your complaint effectively in writing. When you have already spoken to the neighbor without success, you’ll want to complain in writing as a next step. A diplomatic approach is still the best choice. We have provided some very basic Sample Letters that you can amend to meet the circumstances of your situation.