By Terry Jester
At best, annoying, at worst, peace shattering, noisy dogs can lead to frustration, anger, anxiety and sleep deprivation. Problem barking is an issue for the dog’s owners and their neighbors.
Owners of barking dogs often feel powerless to control their pet’s barking. Neighbors just want to have their peace and quiet back.
What can you do?
If you are a neighbor:
The owners of the problem barker need to be informed that their dog is being a nuisance. They may not realize that their dog is barking while they are away. If they do know that he’s barking, but do nothing to stop the behavior, then they may not know that a neighbor is being bothered.
By speaking to the owner, you may solve the problem then and there. If you are not comfortable with that, try putting a polite note, explaining the problem, somewhere where the owners will easily find it.
Give them some time to solve the problem. If, after an adequate amount of time has expired and there is still no improvement, contact Animal Control.
A summons can be issued and the dog’s caretaker must appear in court. If the dog’s caretaker is found guilty of harboring a nuisance dog, a fine will be assigned and the caretaker penalized. Usually, with each subsequent summons, the fine is increased.
You, as the complaining party, will need to appear in court to defend your complaint. Although this process is time-consuming, it does usually solve the problem.
If you are the caretaker:
If you own or care for a nuisance barker, be warned — you are liable for his actions.
First, try and figure out why your dog is barking. Constant barking is not normal behavior. The most common reasons for a dog’s chronic barking are:
We created dogs to be intelligent, active, and dependent on humans. By placing a healthy, well-adjusted dog in confinement with nothing to do and no one to play with, we also create problems.
What you can do:
Give your dog plenty of toys when you are gone. Keep the toys away from him when you are at home so that they become new and exciting each time you leave. Enroll your dog in a day care facility. Once or twice a week he can play and romp, the other days he may be too tired to bark.
Dogs that are frustrated will bark to relieve the tension. Neutering a male dog will help. If your dog is barking at the squirrels and other small animals in his environment, you may need to put him in the house or garage while you are away. Crate training your dog may be the answer if you don’t trust your dog alone in the house.
Anxious dogs are frequently problem barkers. Unfortunately, if you prevent an anxious dog from barking, he may turn to other, equally problematic behaviors. Anxious dogs that are prevented from barking frequently resort to digging, chewing, or self-mutilation. Sometimes anxious dogs need medication along with behavioral modification in order to quell their self-destructive or nuisance behaviors.
Howling and barking are ways for a lonely dog to express his feelings. Consider dog day care, sharing a yard with a neighbor’s lonely dog, or getting a playmate for your dog.
Many breeds of dogs were developed to be protective. If your dog is one those, he may see it as his duty to warn away every stranger, loose dog, teasing cat, wayward squirrel, belligerent butterfly, and dangerous postal carrier he can see, hear, or imagine.
This type of dog will need to be confined inside and off-duty. If this isn’t feasible, consider erecting a pen or kennel where he can stay but not be able to see the real and imagined threats to his home. This should at least reduce his barking.
Although effective in controlling excessive barking, bark collars do not address the real issues behind why the dog is barking.
As stated previously, dogs who bark in order to relieve anxiety, boredom, or fear, are going to resort to another, perhaps equally problematic behavior if prohibited from barking. Instead of simply using a bark collar to fix the problem, try and figure out what is causing the barking and fix that. It will save time, effort, and energy in the long run.
No one wants to be the center of a neighborhood squabble. It can lead to serious issues and hard feelings. By figuring out why a dog is barking, and then taking the appropriate corrective measures to stop the behavior, the owner of a chronic barker will be seen as proactive in their role as caretaker. This will lead to both happier neighbors and most importantly, a happier dog.
Terry Jester is a nationally recognized expert on companion animal behavior. She is regarded by The Humane Society of the United States as being, “Humane and effective in dealing with problem pets and their owners.” Connect with Terry on her website.