Dear Labby: What to do About Barking Dogs
Dear Labby, We have new neighbors who moved in about 6 weeks ago. They seem like a nice family, but the problem is they have two dogs that bark. A LOT. They are left home alone all day, everyday and spend most of their time in the yard barking. The family also seems to go out several nights a week and the dogs are left home alone to bark some more. I’m losing sleep. What do I do, do I call the police? Do I try and talk to them first? What do I say?
At My Wit’s End
Dear Wit’s End,
This is a very common problem that most people who live in urban or suburban areas encounter frequently. How you handle it can impact your relationship with that neighbor and they may be your neighbor for many years, so diplomacy is key. I realize it’s hard to be diplomatic when you just want the dog to shut up, but you have to try. Your first stop should be with the neighbor. You should always give them the benefit of the doubt, they may not even be aware that their dogs are barking so much and creating such a disturbance or they may not know what to do about it.
Approach them and just state the facts for the most recent occurrences, “Hey Bob, did you know that Buddy & Duke stand out in the corner of the yard and bark most of the day while you are at work?” Their response will indicate whether they are going to be good neighbors or not. If the behavior stops, then you know they took steps to remedy the situation. If not, then you have to escalate your response.
I would suggest a second conversation reiterating the problem, maybe with some specific examples and if you are friendly with this neighbor you might even make some suggestions. “Bob, you know I used to have a problem with Skippy barking all the time too and then I worked with this dog trainer, Jim Dunbar and he really helped us get it under control. The first thing we did was be sure and exercise Skippy each day so he wasn’t so bored. Do you want his number?” I know that’s not subtle, but ignoring your request is unacceptable.
You might try to record the barking and play it back for the owners. If the dogs also bark while the owners are home, you can use that as an opportunity to pay them a visit and discuss how that behavior also occurs when they are not home. You can try and enlist other neighbors as well. That may not work, but sometimes confronted with 3-4 neighbors with the same complaint, it becomes less about you and more about the neighborhood.
If making a polite request (or two, or three) doesn’t yield results, you probably have a dog owner who is in denial or just doesn’t care to keep the peace with their neighbors. Getting them to control their dog can be a challenge and a never ending struggle. Your last resort should be to notify the authorities. Most every community has noise and nuisance ordinances and while it’s not a necessarily a neighborly step, neither is ignoring your complaints or pleas for control.
Here’s an example of the Los Angeles County nuisance ordinance:
It shall be unlawful for any person to permit any dog or dogs under his or her charge, care, custody or control to emit any excessive noise after the Department has issued a written notice advising the owner or custodian of the alleged noise and the procedures as set forth below have been followed. For purposes of this section, the term “excessive noise” shall mean noise which is unreasonably annoying, disturbing, offensive, or which unreasonably interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property of one or more persons occupying property in the community or neighborhood, within reasonable proximity to the property where the dog or dogs are kept. The noise must be continuously audible for ten (10) minutes or intermittently audible for thirty (30) minutes within a three (3) hour period.
If you reach that level of frustration, contact your local authorities and see what the ordinances are in your neighborhood and then gather the appropriate information and documentation you need in order to file a complaint. Don’t think that will immediately solve the problem though – if you’ve gone this long without progress, it may be a long battle. Good Luck!
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