I will tell you what to do– be a good neighbor and keep your dog(s) quiet. ~ If you can’t keep them quiet, find a new home for the dog Obviously the dog deserves better!
Last week I presented a few things that you can do if your neighbor’s dog won’t quit barking. Today I turn the tables and present a few things you can do if your neighbor complains that your dog won’t stop barking. Let’s dive right in.
Listen to learn
Often when you hear a complaint about your dog you instantly become defensive. No one likes to hear complaints, but when you are complaining about my dog, well you better darn sure have a valid complaint. Before getting your hackles up take a deep breath and listen thoroughly to the complaint so that you can learn the specifics.
Don’t get defensive, don’t argue, stay calm and listen. You want to know exactly what your dog is doing that has irritated your neighbor to the point that he is willing to confront you and complain. Keep in mind that, depending on your circumstances, it is likely that you will be neighbors with the person complaining for a long time, maybe even a lifetime.
Try to take their point of view and see things from their perspective. Taking the time to hear them out will, alone, go a long way to diffuse the situation. You might kindly ask some sincere questions such as: “When do you notice the barking the most?” or perhaps “Could you tell if there was something that was triggering the barking?” maybe even “Did you notice any other dogs barking?”
The idea behind the questions is twofold: first, you want to illustrate to your neighbor that you are taking his complaint seriously and listening intently; and second, you want to gather as much information about the barking so you are better able to address the problem. Also — now would be a good time to genuinely apologize.
It is probably very uncomfortable for your neighbor to come over and speak with you, and his frustration level has probably skyrocketed. Let him know that you are very sorry that your dog’s barking has been troubling him and reassure him that you will promptly address the issue.
Conduct an investigation
Here’s where your inner Magnum P.I. can be put to good use. Spend some time trying to figure out exactly when your dog is barking, and then why your dog is barking. If you have the resources, you can record your dog throughout the day to discover how frequent the barking is. You may have a different neighbor than the one who complained document when they hear your dog barking.
Better yet, you can stay home without letting your dog know. Pretend you are leaving for work, go through your usual routine, and even go as far as getting in your car and driving off. Park your car a block away and sneak back into your house without alerting your dog; now you can discover firsthand when your dog is barking.
As soon as you notice your dog barking try to see if you can identify the cause or trigger of the barking. Is there another dog walking by or a cat sneaking through the neighborhood? Are there squirrels or birds in the trees? Are other dogs in the neighborhood barking also? Is there another dog barking that your neighbor may have mistaken for your dog? Does nearby passing traffic trigger your dog? Is your dog distressed by other stressors? Does your dog have sufficient shelter? Is your dog wet, muddy, cold? Is your dog hungry? Does he have an ample supply of fresh water?
Don’t rush to judgment, and don’t stop investigating when you identify one likely trigger — there are often more than one. The more thorough you are in your investigation, the more successful you will be in resolving the problem.
Additionally, you may want to query other neighbors to see what they have noticed and discover if your dog’s barking has been annoying them as well. They will appreciate you being pro-active and if your dog has been disturbing them they will welcome your efforts and likely help in any way that they can.
Address the problem
After discussing the issue with your complaining neighbor and other neighbors, and conducting a complete investigation, it is time to take action. You will likely have to make some changes; changes to how you are housing your dog, changes to your daily routine, changes to where your dog spends his nights, changes with regard to what you do with your dog while you are at work, changes to feeding times, etc.
Rather than letting your dog out to do his business, you might try going out with him. When he is finished with his duty, then take him for a short walk. If your dog is barking outside late at night, you might consider making a nice dog shelter in your garage and housing your dog in there overnight. This can also keep your dog out of the weather during extremes.
If your dog is barking consistently as soon as you leave it is likely an issue of separation anxiety — you will have to address that problem if you hope to change your dog’s behavior. One of the best antidotes for barking is exercise. Dogs that are exercised frequently tend to bark less, have less anxiety and less pent up energy that they may let loose in the form of barking. Dogs that suffer from boredom take well to exercise and reduce their barking.
The best approach is to wait until your dog is not barking and then spend time with them. You do not want to reward barking by giving your dog attention every time that he barks – that simply reinforces the barking behavior. Get in the habit of walking your dog a couple of times a day and/or playing fetch or some other active game. The idea is to give them exercise, mental stimulation, and your attention all together a couple of times a day at a minimum. This makes for a happier, healthier, and quieter dog — and a happier, quieter neighbor.
After you have made the changes, addressed the problem, and observed a noticeable change in your dog’s barking behavior it is a good idea to follow up with the neighbor who complained. Try baking a plate of cookies and take it over to him. Inform him of the changes you have made, the things you have done, and the success you have noticed. Finally thank him for bringing the dog barking to your attention. A follow up like this will make a friend out of your neighbor.
Tug Gettling, a BYU graduate, is the Director of North Utah Valley Animal Services, the Training Officer for the Utah Animal Control Officers Association, a Safe Kids Utah County member, and a protective tactics instructor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Martha Retallick If keeping dogs quiet is too hard, then stick to indoor cats. Or just skip the pet thing altogether.
Jennie Karlsen Quote from our neighbor: “I want my dogs to bark at you. I don’t know you, you might be druggies or thieves.” Meanwhile he was friends with another neighbor who ruined his landlord’s house growing pot in the upstairs. Right, worried about druggies. More like worried because we are NOT druggies!!