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Please help me stop the barking!
February 4, 2012 5:19 PM   Subscribe

It's currently 1am where I am and my neighbour's dog has been howling and barking incessantly for the past 2 hours. It's driving me insane and I'm furious because this behaviour has been going on for two years since I moved in. I've just written a letter to give to my neighbour, but I don't want to make things tense between us. Can I have some opinions?

Ok, so I wrote this very quickly and in a bit of a rage, which is why it may seem a little rambling and incoherent. I'll try to fix it up tomorrow, but for now can anyone take a look and tell me if they foresee any problems?

For background, I've lived in a flat for 2 years now, and I've had to deal with the constant howling/barking of my neighbour's dog for that entire time. My sister lived in this flat for years before me, and she also complained of the noise. The other people in my building have also complained. I spoke to my neighbour and informed him of the problem. I offered to look after his dog for free, and gave him a flyer for a local dog walking business that I run. That was months ago, since then there has been no obvious effort to reduce the dog's barking. He seemed unapologetic when I confronted him. Can anyone tell me if they had similar experience and how they handled it? Am I going about this the right way? I really hate being put in this position, and I don't want things to be awkward between me and my neighbour. Here is the letter (I've removed his name):

Dear Mr ......

You may remember I spoke to you outside your flat some time ago to discuss the constant barking of your dog while you are out during the day. Unfortunately, since that time there has been no reduction in the noise from your flat.

I am concerned that perhaps you do not realise the extent of the problem. During the hours that you are away from your house, your dog is barking and howling for hours on end. This noise travels up the wall joining our buildings, and can be heard very clearly and loudly in my flat. I am writing this at 1am on January 5th and at this exact moment I can hear your dog barking loudly below me, and he has been doing so for a long time. I'm trying to get to sleep and I can't because of the barking and howling of your dog. In the past two weeks alone I have had several visitors to my flat and our conversations and attempts to simply sit and watch television have been continually disrupted by the loud, irritating howling of your dog, which fills my living room. On several occasions I have had relatives staying with me who have had to sleep on the couch in the living room, and they have complained that during the night they struggled to sleep due to the incessant noise. Furthermore, I know that the people who live above and below me have a serious issue with the noise also. Clearly, your dog is very stressed when left alone, and unfortunately it is obvious that he is left alone quite often.

I am sympathetic to the difficulties of owning a dog with abandonment issues, and I do offer a dog walking service in the local area. I gave you a flyer advertising my services, and I also offered to dog sit for you for no charge during the day, simply to give myself some peace, which I think is more than fair. I am still willing to offer these services.

I might suggest keeping your dog contained in another room while you are away in the hopes of stopping his barking from travelling up the wall joining our buildings. There are also devices and training methods designed specifically to combat this issue, and a simple Google search will allow you to research these.


I absolutely don't mean to suggest that you do not take good care of your dog. I see that you walk him every day and he appears healthy and well cared for. But the barking has been a constant problem for the past two years I've lived here. And my sister who lived here before me also had serious issues with it for years before that. The last time I visited home, the first question my sister asked me was "does that dog still bark all the time?". I hope you can understand that after two years I find this level of noise simply unacceptable, and it is unfair for myself and my neighbours to endure it. For that reason, if there is not a reduction in the noise within the next two months, I will be forced to report the barking to the local council, who may decide to serve you with an abatement order. I feel that with the support of the other people in my building, and the fact that I can easily record your dog's barking, I would have no problem providing the council with enough evidence to show the extent of the problem. Naturally, this is not a conclusion either of us would like. The best thing would be to simply find a way to reduce the constant barking. As I said, I provide a local dog sitting service and I am more than happy to look after your dog during the day for free. But I feel that you must also make some effort to address this issue in some way.
posted by Spamfactor to Human Relations (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why don't you just call the police and file a noise complaint?
posted by bq at 5:23 PM on February 4, 2012 [25 favorites]


I think you'd be wasting the sheet of paper the letter gets printed on. You've already complained, other people have complained and nothing is changing.

I am sympathetic to the difficulties of owning a dog with abandonment issues

Yeah, and he knows that your sympathy is what's keeping you from reporting him to the authorities, and you in turn are pissed off because he's abusing your good nature.

Report him to the authorities. The only way this situation changes is if you give the guy no other choice.
posted by jon1270 at 5:28 PM on February 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Call the police. This is what they do.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:28 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't bother with your neighbor: he knows about the dog's barking, he's heard your suggestions and offers, he's heard your complaints and the complaints of other neighbors. He doesn't care. Seriously. Multiple people have brought this to his attention and he does. not. care.

Call the police right now to complain about the noise. Tomorrow, go to your other neighbors and work out a plan. Call or write a letter to the council together, providing all the evidence you have. Do you have a landlord or management company? Call or write a letter to him/them together, invoking the relevant clauses in your leases.

This isn't unfair. This isn't rude. This is what you do when someone has already been warned multiple times that his dog's late-night barking is a problem and he does nothing about it.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:31 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Why don't you just call the police and file a noise complaint?"

I looked into this but I'm living in Scotland, and it seems that here noise complaints are not dealt with by the police, they are dealt with by the local council. Also, I'm really not a confrontational person, and the idea of reporting him to the authorities without prior warning makes me uncomfortable, as I hate the idea of passing him in the street and not knowing how he's going to react.

Also, and I know this sounds stupid, but I really love dogs, and I'm aware that any final actions I take could eventually result in him having to give his dog up. I want to explore every possible avenue before it gets to that. He may be inconsiderate, but I don't have it in me to take away his dog from him
posted by Spamfactor at 5:32 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you don't want tensions to rise, you won't get any results from this guy. Clearly non-tense complaints don't have any effect. I'd also drop all the wordiness and also the self promotion, as it muddies the issue.

If you feel like you have to tell him of your next step, I'd make it as succinct as possible. Something along the lines of, "Other neighbors and I have discussed this issue with you in the past and there appears to be no progress, so I am filing a noise complaint. I hope the council can work with you to resolve this issue. Best of luck."

I nth the suggestion to file a noise complaint, with the follow up of keep on making noise complaints. I'd actually ask the council how many they need at each step in the process to move forward with constructive action. It's usually more than a one-time thing. That should help you feel okay with doing it, though - the council's first step is very unlikely to be taking the dog away. And if they do eventually take it away, presumably that means they think the dog's welfare would be better out of the home.
posted by vegartanipla at 5:37 PM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


He's not just inconsiderate, he's also clearly not taking care of his dog--and hasn't been for over two years. Sure, the dog is happy when he's out for walks, but you're hearing his distress at being locked alone in an apartment night after night. Something is not right. Reporting your neighbor to the proper authorities means giving this dog a chance to be better taken care of.

I understand being nonconfrontational, and hoping that a letter with just the right wording will finally do the trick. It won't.

If you want to be extra-confrontational, go ahead and send a note: threaten to call the authorities if he doesn't make a change, he won't change anything, you'll call the authorities, and he'll know you were the one who did. If, on the other hand, you don't send a note first, he won't have a way to know which of the several neighbors who have complained to/about him in the past actually made the call.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:42 PM on February 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


Since you say you don't want to make things tense, I'd leave out the bit about "abandonment issues". That would rile me up if I thought I was a responsible dog owner. And he probably THINKS he is. Otherwise, I think your letter is fine, and you should keep a copy of it yourself so you can show it to whoever you eventually have to call to get the noise dealt with. Because I think you WILL have to call the council, but I understand why you want to warn him explicitly that this is what you plan to do. In fact, in my jurisdiction you are required to inform noise makers that you plan to call noise control, before you do so.
posted by lollusc at 5:45 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"If you don't want tensions to rise, you won't get any results from this guy. Clearly non-tense complaints don't have any effect. I'd also drop all the wordiness and also the self promotion, as it muddies the issue. "

Yes I realise it really is much too wordy and not forceful or succinct enough. In my defence I'm very tired and wrote it in one short, angry burst. I'm not sure what you mean by "self-promotion" though. Do you mean the stuff about me having a dog walking service? If so then I really didn't mean to use this situation as an advertising opportunity. I've had the service for a while now and simply wanted him to know.

"I understand being nonconfrontational, and hoping that a letter with just the right wording will finally do the trick. It won't. "

Fair enough. I am considering talking to my neighbours and asking if I can write him a note and sign it from all of the affected residents. That way he can't be angry at any one person, and he knows that we will be taking action against him.
posted by Spamfactor at 5:45 PM on February 4, 2012


I don't have it in me to take away his dog from him

If you frame the issue this way, even in your own head, you lose. Making a formal complaint is in no way equivalent to taking someone's dog away. Complaining is simply making it clear that the current situation is unacceptable. He will then undoubtedly have many opportunities to fix the problem before he loses the right to keep the dog. If he lets it go that far, it's HIS choice -- not yours.
posted by jon1270 at 5:45 PM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


That way he can't be angry at any one person

Unless your neighbors are as nonconfrontational as you are, and when he confronts one of them about the letter, that person says, "Oh that? That was Spamfactor's idea... I actually don't think it's that big of a deal, but Spamfactor wanted us all to sign..."
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:52 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I meant the stuff about you having a dog walking service. Clearly if this has been going on for years and there have been multiple complaints from different parties, you aren't being a nuisance to this dude because you want to drum up more clients, but that's how your annoyed dog owner could be viewing it and/or could present this to the council. As in, Spamfactor is making a mountain of a molehill to make money off me. He's riled up all the neighbors and is now blackmailing me into using his services. That sort of thing.

I'm not at all saying that's what you're doing. I'm saying that is how it muddies the issue, which is why after having mentioned it the once already, I'd drop it.
posted by vegartanipla at 5:52 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


That way he can't be angry at any one person

Don't mean to overcontribute here, but this idea is just wrong. He can be mad at whoever he wants. He can even pick somebody at random. He can make a guess about who's leading the charge against him, or he can pick someone who seems weak and unassertive (hmm, who might that end up being?) that he can bully.

You may be really, really uncomfortable with confrontation and assertiveness, but that doesn't mean that a magical neighborly peaceful solution exists. Discomfort is the price of the fix.
posted by jon1270 at 5:53 PM on February 4, 2012


"Making a formal complaint is in no way equivalent to taking someone's dog away."

That's completely sensible and the right attitude. I guess I just can't help but get a little stuck in this mindset that if I take action, it could eventually lead to unpleasant consequences, even if they're not really my fault.

But yeah, the obvious consensus here is to report him and let him deal with the consequences. I'll figure out a way to give him some form of written warning in the hopes it will scare him into doing something. But in the likely event that doesn't work, I'll contact the authorities and let the responsibility rest with my neighbour.
posted by Spamfactor at 5:54 PM on February 4, 2012


I don't have it in me to take away his dog from him

Look at it this way instead, then: making a complaint might actually lead to having the dog end up rehomed in a place where it is happy and loved instead of neglected and angrily barky.
posted by elizardbits at 5:56 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Where in Scotland are you? I know Glasgow and Edinburgh, at least, have Noise Control services (24-hour phone line in Glasgow, not sure about Edinburgh) that can give you detailed advice about how best to deal with this and how/whether to take legal action.

I sympathise with your frustration, because I've dealt with noisy neighbours in the past and it is absolutely maddening. But... I wouldn't bother with that letter, in your place. You've already spoken to the man, others have spoken to him, he knows his dog is barking and disturbing people, he just doesn't care. And sadly, you can't reason people into giving a damn.

Speak to the noise control people, explain that you don't want them to go straight round telling him you're the one who phoned them, he's disturbing, and see what they say. They have dealt with this before.

(Also: earplugs. I know they're uncomfortable & you shouldn't have to, but they have seriously saved my sanity in non-soundproofed flats.)
posted by Catseye at 5:57 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


"he can pick someone who seems weak and unassertive (hmm, who might that end up being?)"

haha I see what you're trying to say. I may be uncomfortable with confrontation, but I am male, I go to the gym, and I'm about 30 years his junior. If he decides he can bully me, I can handle it if necessary. Some of my neighbours are quite elderly and female though, so I take the point.


"Where in Scotland are you? I know Glasgow and Edinburgh, at least, have Noise Control services (24-hour phone line in Glasgow, not sure about Edinburgh) that can give you detailed advice about how best to deal with this and how/whether to take legal action."

I'm in Glasgow, and do you mean this service? I only just found that, and will definitely keep a note of their number.
posted by Spamfactor at 6:04 PM on February 4, 2012


Yep, that looks like the one; more info here.
posted by Catseye at 6:10 PM on February 4, 2012


You need to edit the crap out of this. Trim it way down and drop all the stuff about offering to watch the dog for free or offering dog walking services from your business. Actually, I would also drop the abandonment issues and dog being well cared for stuff. Just:
As I and others have previously advised you on multiple occasions, your dog barks constantly and loudly while you are out during the day (and currently at 1:00 a.m.). The noise is intolerable. Some of the sound issues may be exacerbated by the dog's location near a shared wall.

If you do not take immediate steps to abate this issue, I will be forced to take further action, including making a complaint to the local council. Please let me know if I can assist you in brainstorming ideas of how to solve the noise problem.
Then, give him a month (or two if you like). If he doesn't take steps and at least mitigate the problem, report it.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:32 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


You already talked to him. The next step is to involve the authorities, whether that's the cops or the council or whomever. You say this happens at night -- is he leaving the dog there alone at night? If so, that's unconscionable. If not, then he knows the dog does that and has actively decided that he does not give a single fuck.

If he doesn't like getting reported, then perhaps it will motivate him to deal with the problem. If it makes him mad and he throws a brick through your window or whatever, that is not because you're the asshole.
posted by Etrigan at 7:32 PM on February 4, 2012


Looking at it from the dog's point of view, I would also report it. You don't need to wait 2 more months. It sounds like that is one unhappy dog. 2 years of howling and barking sounds like 2 years of suffering for the poor dog. He might be better off in a different home, trained out of his abandonment issues, or getting extra attention from you or another dog walker. (also, if he gets rid of the dog, you can probably track the dog at the pound and help rehome him, so you don't have to feel as guilty.)
posted by Vaike at 7:44 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't read any of the other answers, but for what it is worth, I think your letter is very clear and fair.
posted by DeltaForce at 8:28 PM on February 4, 2012


Why are you making a note of the number for the future? Call it now! Its 1am and the dog is barking.

I agree that you should not write the letter, because then you are setting yourself up as the target if the guy decides to get shirty with someone. Also, mentioning your dogwalking services is definitely a bad idea, for the reason vegartanipla mentions.

Finally, instead of thinking that reporting him will get his dog taken away from him, I think its much more likely that reporting him will end in him moving away with his dog.
posted by Joh at 9:31 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


To edit the letter appropriately, first lead with the last paragraph, as it is kind and says it all! Just add a few sentences to make it coherent and take out the self-promotion, like this:

"Dear Who's It,

You may remember I spoke to you outside your flat some time ago to discuss the constant barking of your dog while you are out during the day. Unfortunately, since that time there has been no reduction in the noise from your flat.

I absolutely don't mean to suggest that you do not take good care of your dog. I see that you walk him every day and he appears healthy and well cared for. But the barking has been a constant problem for the past two years I've lived here. And my sister who lived here before me also had serious issues with it for years before that. I hope you can understand that after two years I find this level of noise simply unacceptable, and it is unfair for myself and my neighbours to endure it. For that reason, if there is not a reduction in the noise within the next two months, I will be forced to report the barking to the local council, who may decide to serve you with an abatement order. I feel that with the support of the other people in my building, and the fact that I can easily record your dog's barking, I would have no problem providing the council with enough evidence to show the extent of the problem. Naturally, this is not a conclusion either of us would like. The best thing would be to simply find a way to reduce the constant barking.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Sincerely,

Spamfactor"


This is more than polite. Keep any mention of your profession absolutely mum from here on out. It makes you look like you have an axe to grind, when really, it's about the noise.

Good luck!
posted by jbenben at 11:39 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nthing get the stuff about you being a professional dog walker out of the letter. He knows this already. If you do give him the letter, its main purpose will be to show the council or noise control people that you've tried to deal with this on your own and failed. So use the letter to document the problem, but the stuff about your services is just confusing and to an outsider could look suspiciously like you're trying to drum up business.
posted by hazyjane at 12:46 AM on February 5, 2012


Sorry, this isn't an answer to your actual question, but (if you're still thinking of giving him the letter more or less as written) -

I am writing this at 1am on January 5th

- it's February, and you don't want to make it look as if you've been sitting on the letter for a month.

(No snark intended. I recognise the tone of polite but exhausted desperation in your letter from my own days of living with noisy neighbours; I wish you the best of luck getting the situation resolved.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:52 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


A friend had a good result from getting an RSPCA inspector to talk to the owner - they will only do this if you think the dog is being ill-treated though, and you say in your letter that he seems healthy. Link. I realise it's the SSPCA in Scotland, but couldn't find a similar section on their site.

Another friend is working with the council Noise people about another barking dog - fairly slow process involving documenting all the noise.

Agree with others that the letter is too long - someone who is likely to feel defensive about the issue already won't read it in a useful way.
posted by paduasoy at 2:46 AM on February 5, 2012


It sounds like the needs (or whims) of one person and one dog are taking priority over the quality of life of several people. Why?
posted by germdisco at 3:03 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


When we got our dog Apple and found out she was barking for hours on end- we did every single thing we could to stop it. And we sent a box of candy to the neighbor who let us know what was happening. With a combination of training, medication and time- the problem is solved.

That poor dog isn't barking to hear itself bark. Imagine screaming for hours on end- how uncomfortable that must be. He's a dick, don't waste your time trying to talk him into caring about your quality of life- he doesn't even give a hoot about his dog's quality of life.

Call and complain till your face is blue. Maybe the threat of getting his dog removed will force him to address how miserable he is making his dog.
posted by Blisterlips at 5:25 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your letter is too long, your neighbor will not bother to read the whole thing. Also, when it is ignored and you have to call the noise people anyway, it will be more obvious it was you.

If you are not intimidated by the person, I would speak to them one more time, wait a week then call. Otherwise just call right away.

Even if the dog is removed, it doesn't sound like it could be with a LESS caring or responsible owner!

To reiterate, the letter at most should be a note, 5 lines or less.
posted by bquarters at 5:43 AM on February 5, 2012


Is there an animal cruelty organization in the area? Prefereably one with some level of actual enforcement authority? A dog left to bark and howl for hours is definitely not an animal being treated humanely.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:02 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


This website looks a little crazy to me, but it does have a bunch of suggestions that have not been mentioned so far, such as using a remote device bark killing device.

There's really very little you can do. Don't threaten him, though, that will just make things worse. You are much more likely to get results if you shame him in a nice way. Also, if he won't buy one, give him a bark collar as a gift or something.

http://barkingdogs.net/yourneighborsdog.shtml
posted by xammerboy at 7:04 PM on February 5, 2012


I absolutely don't mean to suggest that you do not take good care of your dog.

Don't tell him you think he's taking good care of his dog! That's about as counter-productive as you can be in this situation - making him feel good about his pet care. Just stick to the facts:

1. Your dog barks incessantly.
2. It is barking incessantly now at 1am.
3. You have been told about this before.
4. If the barking does not stop within a week, you leave me no choice but to contact the local council to ask for help fixing this unacceptable situation.

The end.
posted by mediareport at 11:02 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


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