Sticky dog barking wicket
August 19, 2009 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Sticky dog barking situation. The house next door to ours is a rental duplex, both units of which were recently rented to people whose dogs bark and/or howl unrelentingly all day long. I work from home and am losing my mind. Complication: I also have a very barky dog whose barkiness was able to be controlled until these other dogs moved in. Now he, too, is a problem, and I feel that I am in no position to complain about others' dogs. And yet, something must be done.

We live in a charming historic neighborhood in university town, which means that the houses are right on top of one another and crappy tenements are interspersed with owner-occupied homes. Our house and the rental are literally 12 feet away from each other. The rental is managed by a management company, if that matters. Pets are allowed in the house, but for 18 years hardly anyone ever had them, and life was grand.

A month ago the downstairs unit was rented to people with a Beagle who has begun spending half his day howling pitifully inside the house and the other half trotting quietly along our fenceline, inciting my little Sheltie to hysterical barking. My dog is definitely the problem in the fence situation, their dog is definitely the problem in the howling situation. I really don't see how I can complain about the howling when there is so much barking from my dog every time theirs sets foot outside. (I'm always with my dog, either inside or outside the house, so I'm able to shush him or bring him inside, but I can't stop the initial eruption of alarm barking.)

Then last week the upstairs was rented to people who promptly erected a very fancy cedar fence enclosure on the other side of the house, which I knew meant they were planning to leave their dog outside all day. And sure enough, it's a big, incredibly LOUD dog who is out there barking and howling incessantly all day long. It is driving me out of my mind. I spend all day trying to keep my dog calm and quiet and if you've ever met a certain kind of Sheltie, you know what I'm facing. He's nowhere near the nuisance that this big dog is--mostly he erupts in alarm barking and then quiets down when shushed. But this happens a lot ever since these other dogs arrived, so I feel that any complaints from me will be met with "You've got a lot of gall to complain about our noisy dog," etc.

Nevertheless, the situation is untenable. Our poor dogless neighbors must be at wit's end. What can I possibly do?
posted by HotToddy to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about saying, "Hi, I work from home, and our dogs seem to be setting each other off. I'm worried that we're going to be facing an angry mob from our neighbors if this continues. Maybe we can find a way of making sure they're both quiet?"
posted by xingcat at 10:05 AM on August 19, 2009

xingcat--yeah, but like what?
posted by HotToddy at 10:06 AM on August 19, 2009

Have the dogs been introduced? Would they get along together? Maybe as the stay at home neighbor, you could do a bit of dog-sitting? They're only barking because they're separated in their own little yards - they'd be a lot quieter if they were together.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:09 AM on August 19, 2009

Just talking to the neighbors about the problem, and approaching it as a mutual problem ("All our dogs are barking constantly" instead of "Your dog is a problem") may help the situation. If you're the only one home during the day, you're the only one who's hearing this, and the neighbors may not think it's a big deal unless someone tells them.
posted by xingcat at 10:18 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with The Light Fantastic. Offer to walk your neighbour's dogs during the day. That way you'll reduce the bordom and territorial induced barking and also make you a nice guy in the neighbours' eyes in case you need to complain later.
posted by timeistight at 10:20 AM on August 19, 2009

TLF--My dog is mostly inside the house with me, and only out in the yard when I'm out there, too. I have invited the Beagle over to play in the hope that familiarity would breed silence. They got along fine and in fact were bored with one another (all the Beagle wanted to do was follow its nose, not play), but that hasn't stopped my dog getting hysterical whenever he hears the Beagle's tags jangling outside. Anyway it's just not feasible for me to dog-sit two other dogs all day. I would never dream of adopting two more dogs, and that's essentially what that would be.
posted by HotToddy at 10:27 AM on August 19, 2009

When you have a dog issue the number one question is "do they get enough exercise?" Wearing dogs out is the best solution to any problem. I think all three dogs sound like they would be a perfect match to walk together, probably twice a day. Could you hire a kid and if the other owners can't chip in can you pay the bill yourself and just consider a cost of having the privilege of working at home and not having to commute? Plus then I think the 3 dog owners should have a monthly barbeque where they discuss the dog issues. You could provide the food as an icebreaker.
posted by cda at 10:39 AM on August 19, 2009

You wouldn't happen to be that woman who talked to me the other day? You were going to leave a note on their front door?
posted by Groovytimes at 10:45 AM on August 19, 2009

I have a barky dog too - I can sympathize.

What about installing one (or more) of these gadgets in the back yard? There are tons of different brands out there that make different claims, but it may be worth it to look into it and give it a try...
posted by ollyoop at 11:09 AM on August 19, 2009

This is not going to be a popular answer.

I live in a peaceful, middle class, suburban neighborhood with several dogs on my block. The degree to which neighbors handle their dogs barking varies greatly.

I have a sheltie mix who is also set off by other neighborhood dogs who go nuts over every siren, bird, car door, squirrel and blowing wind, while he is otherwise a very quiet dog.

If an outside dog is not being controlled for barking issues, you might need to put your dog in boarding or doggie day care and make a noise complaint on the outside dog. This will allow the appropriate authorities to detail the cause of the problem while keeping your residence out of the fray.

Rinse and repeat as needed until everyone starts handling their dogs better and respecting the neighborhood.

Obviously, talking to the neighbors sounds like a wonderful, proactive solution...until you end up dealing with a rental neighbor from hell. Been there, done that, had my house broken into, ransacked, defaced and burglarized on the day that rental neighbor conveniently moved out and skipped town.

I will no longer put myself, my home and my pets in danger in order to try to be civil or handle "neighborly" matters on my own.
posted by prettymightyflighty at 11:12 AM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you want to start with the "moral high ground" (vis a vis your neighbors; not necessarily vis a vis your dog) you might want to consider debarking it before making a noise complaint or talking to your neighbors in person.
posted by The Confessor at 11:22 AM on August 19, 2009

If you want to start with the "moral high ground" (vis a vis your neighbors; not necessarily vis a vis your dog) you might want to consider debarking it before making a noise complaint or talking to your neighbors in person.

Please, not this. Not even stepping into the HUUUUUGE controversy surrounding it, it's a ridiculous start to the solution. Do you really want to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars having your dog's vocal cords permanently altered, just because your neighbors can't keep their dogs under control?

I'm going to side with prettymightyflighty here. Put your dog up somewhere for a few days, and make official complaints about the noise from the other dogs.
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ok. I don't know where you are located but I have had to go through this recently (except that I am dogless).

In my location noise violation includes only "continuous barking for more than ten minutes" or "sporadic barking of more than 30 minutes". Check out your own local ordinances, laws, what have you; your dog's intermittent replies might not even be a violation.

So once that is settled, call up animal control or the police (whoever handles these things in your area) and make a complaint. I wouldn't pretend like you don't have a dog, but a general rule of thumb is that if you can hear the neighbors dog barking while you make the call and your dog is being quiet, you're probably fine.

Finally, ask to remain anonymous.

Good luck and I hope your dog isn't also being a technical nuiscance, or else you might have to find a friend to babysit for a few days.
posted by shownomercy at 11:48 AM on August 19, 2009

Here's an electronic device that emits an unpleasant sound (to a dog) when it detects barking, thereby encouraging the dog not to bark. (I have no experience with it and I don't sell it; it was just the first result in a search.)
posted by davcoo at 12:36 PM on August 19, 2009

Please do NOT surgically alter your dog to solve this problem.

The first step is to talk to the a bbq, invite them over, buy the beer and problem solve, you won't know the appropriate next step until you do this...

let us know how it turns out...
posted by HuronBob at 1:06 PM on August 19, 2009

I don't have a solution to your problem, but I wanted to chime in with a little beagle info. My in-laws have a beagle who has an entire forest to run in and people to entertain her all day, and her howling is uncontrollable. So, it probably doesn't help that the dog is alone all day, but beagles howl.
posted by defreckled at 1:40 PM on August 19, 2009

Keeping dogs well-exercised is a solution to a lot of problems, including barking. I was able to partially ameliorate my dog's barking by playing the radio. It reduced his ability to hear every minor noise and overreact. The vet also put him on a low dose of amitryptilline(sp?) which calmed him a bit, and helped with other medical problems. Drugs are a nicer option that surgery, which I don't recommend.

The 1st thing is to make sure your neighbors are aware of the problem. People don't fix problems they aren't aware of.
posted by theora55 at 1:54 PM on August 19, 2009

Thanks for all the suggestions. (And no worries, I have no intention of debarking my dog! What???) I can't really mark a best answer but I really appreciate all the advice.
posted by HotToddy at 4:07 PM on August 19, 2009

Listen to prettymightyflighty and please, think twice before you consider talking to these people on your own. I'm a bit surprised that this seems to be the default answer. Clearly starting World War III over this problem is not ideal, but to go up to complete strangers and start making complaints that they will almost certainly take personally is simply not safe.
posted by hiteleven at 7:39 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Our bark-addicted dog was helped for months by a collar that would spray citronella whenever she barked. Later, she realized she could bark and run at the same time, sending the citronella into her wake til the thing was empty. Clever dog. But worth a shot?
posted by houseofdanie at 11:27 AM on August 21, 2009

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