Constant barking can drive you up the wall. Whether you're trying to get a restful night's sleep or work in the garden, a distressed dog who is freaking out is definitely not going to add to your Zen. It's also pretty terrible for the dog! If this sounds like something that's happening in your 'hood, it's time to take action. As a canine behaviorist for 10+ years, barking is one of the most common problems I have come across.
Steps to Follow
No matter how wild it's making you, I'd suggest handling this one carefully. Pounding on the door and yelling at your neighbor is probably not the best way to resolve it. You don't want your neighbor in defense mode. Being gentle and thoughtful in your approach may take a bit more time and patience, but you'll thank yourself later if you do.
1. Talk to Your Neighbors
The key to any resolution is communication. Talk to your neighbor straight away if their dog is barking a lot. Have a friendly chat, or write an amiable note, so they don't feel the immediate need to get upset. They might not even be aware that their pup is causing a commotion. Approach them calmly, explain the situation, and see if the two of you can come up with some solutions. It’s all about building bridges, not fences, around your neighborhood.
Bringing a peace offering like a dog toy and an apple pie can go a long way.
2. Keep a Written Record
Often, a first approach will resolve the issue, but if it doesn't keeping a record of when your neighbor's dog barks excessively can be helpful for several reasons. First, it allows you to understand the dog better. If you know when the dog is barking, you may find the trigger. By keeping a record, you can also show your neighbor what's going on to help you look for a pattern. They know their dog the best, so they may see something you don't.
This doesn't need to be fancy — a composition notebook to document works just fine.
3. Take Videos and Recordings
Not only should you keep a written record, but recordings and videos can be good, too. After all, your written record is basically just your word against theirs if this escalates. You want to have solid proof of what you're experiencing to show authorities should you need to.
4. Find the Reason
Work with your neighbor to find the reason for the excessive barking. With both of you working on the situation, you should be able to find out what's causing the issue. Is the dog bored, anxious, or spotting squirrels? Different tactics are important, depending on the reason for the barking.
Anxious dogs can be noisy dogs and it's a harder issue to solve at times. If you think it might be anxiety, check out our Separation Anxiety tips. If their dog is anxious, talk to your neighbor about pet sitting services. Pet sitters can help reduce their dog's anxiety by providing them with love and comfort.
Territorial dogs usually bark because they don't want other animals or people in their space. Dogs often show this through growling, chasing, barking, lunging or freezing, or even snapping. In my experience, adding a barrier to block these views can help calm them. Consider helping your neighbor set up barriers like fencing, window shades/curtains, or confining their dog to a different room so their dog doesn't feel the need to protect their territory.
Prey Driven Barking
If your neighbor's dog is a breed originally intended for hunting or racing, there's a good possibility it's prey-driven barking. Other dogs who just like to chase small animals may also be prey-driven. Signs include sniffing, chasing animals or vehicles (once found), and digging. Usually it doesn't include chasing people except with small children. If the dog has a high prey drive, you can suggest a training class or other enrichment for their home that can help their dog express this need in other (less noisy) ways.
Bored dogs can be quite destructive — and let's just say it — obnoxious. Simply put, if a dog's brain isn't getting the challenge it needs, they're going to be naughty! As a canine behaviorist, I have found the easiest way to prevent boredom is simple exercise. Suggest your neighbor go for an extra walk in the morning before they leave for work or find other ways to keep their dog's brain active and entertained throughout the day.
5. Research Who Can Help
If your neighbor just absolutely refuses to work with you, and nothing you're doing is helping the situation, it may be time to get some extra help. At the last house I owned, I didn't even realize we had a committee for our tiny neighborhood that helped handle these sorts of things! I found out because another neighbor had recommended it — it's definitely worth asking.
Does Your Homeowner's Association (HOA) Have Pet By-Laws or Policies?
If you have an HOA, they often implement and enforce community rules or by-laws related to noise disturbances. Find out what those policies are and track whether the neighbor's noisy dog is violating any of the HOA policies. After you let them know what's happening, the HOA can send a formal letter to the dog owner, notifying them of your complaint and the potential violation. If the problem continues following the warning, they may impose fines or other penalties based on their governing documents.
Does Your Landlord Have Pet or Noise Policies?
If you share a landlord, they can take several steps to address the issue. Before taking any official action, the landlord can talk it over with the dog owner. They may or may not include you in the conversation, depending on how they think the conversation would go. If it's likely to get heated, they probably won't go that route. If the problem continues after they talk to your neighbor, they can charge a fine or file for eviction if the situation is severe enough to be causing a neighborhood disturbance. This may require them, and possibly you, discussing the options with an attorney or your local animal control officer.
Your lease agreement probably has clauses related to noise disturbances or keeping of animals. If the barking is a violation, the landlord can issue a formal notice to the tenant referencing the specific clause in the lease.
Does Your Neighborhood Association Have Dog Rules?
If you live somewhere with a neighborhood association, they might be able to apply some pressure as well. While neighborhood associations are voluntary and can not levy fines, they might help you connect with other residents who are also concerned about the issue, and build a larger case for the authorities.
Can You Make an Animal Control or Noise Complaint?
Give your local animal control officer a call, or ask your local police station about town noise ordinances. They can help you determine if the dog's barking is violating any town laws and if the dog shows signs of distress or neglect. They can also provide the dog owner with resources they need to help their dog reduce their barking habit. In severe cases where there's evidence of maltreatment, or if the owner refuses to cooperate, animal control can issue formal warnings or citations, or even file to take the dog from your neighbor's home.
Dog owners that weren't cooperative in the beginning may be more cooperative once animal control gets involved, but it may sour your neighborly relationship.
6. Share the Deets
Once you know your rights, consider discussing them with your neighbor gently and respectfully. The goal is resolution, not confrontation. This is part of being a friendly neighbor and helping those in your community. Legal steps are always the last resort.
This is when you should pull out your notebook where you have been documenting the extent of excessive barking.
7. Make the Complaint
If all else fails, and your neighbor isn't willing to cooperate with you, it's probably time to file that noise complaint. It's not particularly pleasant or something we really want to do, but sometimes there's no other choice if we want the barking to stop. Give the police a call and show them your documentation — written records, videos, and recordings. Then, ask them what the next step is. Different jurisdictions could take different actions.
What Not to Do
We have addressed what you should do, but there are also things you shouldn't do. Knowing what not to do is equally important because it could make the situation so much worse than it has to be. Remember, peace is the goal.
- Don't yell: Scolding the dog by yelling or screaming over the fence can make the problem worse by making the dog more anxious or agitated. Positive reinforcement is the best way to go about this.
- Don't approach aggressively: Approach your neighbor in a calm, friendly manner. An aggressive confrontation can cause more problems and make resolving the issue more difficult.
- Don't jump to legalities: Most of the time, neighbor's barking dogs can be resolved with a simple conversation. Try to resolve the matter amicably with your neighbor first before escalating it to legal or authoritative levels.
- Don't accuse: Understand that the dog owner might be unaware of the problem, especially if the barking occurs when they are not at home.
Taking Care of the Problem
Your neighbor may or may not help you in resolving the issue, but you don't know until you try. The best-case scenario involves communicating effectively with your neighbor and putting your heads together to solve the problem. Think about the situation as if it were the other way around. If your dog was the problem, you would want to be treated with kindness and figure out what's wrong with your pooch. Even though you're frustrated, keep this in your mind as you're working through the steps.