How to help neighbour with barking dog?
November 9, 2009 9:06 AM   Subscribe

New neighbour, new dog. Dog was home alone today(indoors), barking and howling, for the first time. Doesn't bother me one bit but I caught another neighbour outside, on the phone to the RSPCA (which seems an insane overreaction), to report this situation. What to do? How to help both neighbours and the dog be happy?

Some background:

I live in the UK, own my house and have been there a few months. I'm getting my own dog very soon, you may find a question from me some months ago on that whole process.

My house and 3 others all join up back to back in a big block. New neighbour with dog is beside mine so we share a common wall. Neighbour with complaint is behind neighbour with dog and so shares a common wall with them. I just share a corner with complaint neighbour.

The new neighbour is renting and has permission for pets. She has a 2 year old male lab. They've been there just 3 days, no noise or barking till today, dog wasn't left alone till today.

Now there's plenty of advice around for stopping barking but I'm going to give benefit of the doubt for now and assume doggy needs time to adjust to the new place and will improve. But if a neighbour is calling the RSPCA after just 3 hrs, then suddenly I am quite concerned.

I like this new neighbour. I like her dog. I've already offered to walk and dogsit whenever I can. I want to help. But more than that, I want to foster a mutually beneficial relationship. I get my own dog next month. How wonderful to have a dog owner right next door, so we can help each other out! But, being a renter, just moved in, and already with phonecalls to the RSPCA, I can't help but think her position is suddenly very precarious.

I dont want to see her go, I see a very fruitful future together. But more than that, this could affect me in more direct ways. I get my dog next month. I don't intend to have a dog home alone, howling and barking all day, but what if I'm next on the RSPCA hit list? I'd love to try and fix this and reach an understanding first.

So, what to do? I'm going to give her the heads-up on the situation at least, and impress upon her that I'm home nearly every single lunchtime and I'm more than happy to check in on the guy, maybe even give him a walk. I'll suggest she makes nice with the neighbour if she can. I'll suggest she investigates methods to reduce separation anxiety if this continues beyond the settling in period from moving house. I want to help as much as I can.

Should I call the RSPCA and put my side? Should lady with dog? Should I chat to neighbour who complained? What to say? Assure her I'll be doing a lot to help reduce the noise problem? What do MeFites suggest?
posted by Elfasi to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This doesn't strike me as a problem you have with the new dog owner, but as a problem you have with the high strung neighbor who's calling the RSPCA.

That's the one I'd try to get to know a little better. Put a human face on the dog owner and you'll both make it easier for this neighbor to be understanding and, when he or she does get irked, he or she will feel more able to bring his or her issues to you. Which sounds annoying, I'll grant you, but less so than having the authorities dropped on you without warning.

But yes, strength in numbers. So get the new neighbor's back so she'll have yours when needed.
posted by Naberius at 9:12 AM on November 9, 2009

Several years ago, I had a dog who suffered from separation anxiety and barked and wailed like he was being tortured if left alone. Someone called the ASPCA on me (this is the US). The woman may not know her dog has separation anxiety--after all, she's gone when it would happen (and if it's just howling, rather than destructive, there may be no visible signs).

In any event, just tell the woman about her dog and offer any help you feel is appropriate. The woman should talk to the caller, not you. The rest is just overthinking.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:15 AM on November 9, 2009

I'd be open to the idea that there might be something that the reporting neighbor sees that you don't; I had a neighbor who was regularly physically abusing his puppy on the front porch during the day, but because the other neighbors were all students who slept during the day, no one else seemed to notice.

If the RSPCA is anything like the ASPCA, a call isn't the end of the world; they might send someone to look into the dog's condition, but it doesn't mean that your new neighbor will be kicked out.

And I'm definitely not usually the type to say "mind your own business" in neighbor threads, but you sound bizarrely overly invested in this new neighbor and her dog. I mean, fruitful future together?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:32 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would definitely wait until this situation is resolved before you bring another dog into the mix. One dog is loud, but two dogs barking at each other will sound exponentially louder to a neighbor who is already annoyed.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:19 AM on November 9, 2009

I don't know much about the RSPCA, and what reasons someone may call them. But if they are called because of disruptive behavior by a dog, I do have sympathy for the neighbor who called on the barky dog. However, the polite thing to do if the neighbor with the dog has only been in the neighborhood for 3 days, is suck it up for a day, and see if they can find common ground with the new neighbor, because perhaps the neighbor doesn't even know that his dog is disruptive to people around him.

That said, I work from home, and unfortunately, in a tight neighborhood where houses are very close together, with no yard. Several of these neighbors have dogs. That bark and howl all day long when left home alone. Or, in the case of another dog, jumps and barks violently at the little fence put up in what is supposed to be a small driveway every time someone or something goes by. While that's great that the noise/behavior doesn't bother you one bit, many people find such loud, repetitive, constant noise extremely grating.

The dog is an animal that deserves to be respected, but not at the pain and inconvenience to neighbors - everyone has a right to peace in their own home. I don't broadcast nails on a chalkboard to my neighbors, or bang on pots and pans outside, or play music with the bass turned up all the way all day long. You can't expect the people around you to take exception to dogs. It's not the dog's fault it barks, and it doesn't know how disruptive it is to others. And while I'm sad that he/she may have separation anxiety, that's not really the neighbor's concern.

It's the owner's responsibility to make sure they can provide for their dog, assist to its needs, and deal with its problems so long as the dog affects other people and their quality of life. I think the neighbor could have handled it better, and spoken to the new-neighbor-with-dog personally before calling an organization to investigate, but I think when you get/bring a dog to a neighborhood where living quarters are in close proximity, the owner has a responsibility to think about how those actions affect the quality of life of one's neighbors. If I were you, I might have a word with the new neighbor about how you guys can work together to make it a hospitable environment for all - to alleviate the dog's anxiety, or work on its barking issues. Perhaps give a bit more thought to your future dog and how to incorporate it peacefully into the neighborhood - read up on types of dogs and barking tendencies, training, etc. Of course not all dogs are extremely barky, but I think the responsibility always rests with the owner to be proactive about it.
posted by raztaj at 10:24 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't have an answer for your complaining neighbor, but wanted to share a story with my neighbor's dog.

I have a great neighbor, but he is away a lot, and we live in a neighborhood of endless barking dogs, dogs on the street, backyard lockouts, etc., so I have always had to listen to a lot of barking. When my neighbor got his new puppy, I started from day one to tell her not to bark. I would reward her on occasion, and, now, when she starts on a manic barking spree, I just lean out the window and tell her to be quiet, and she is.

It is not your responsibility, of course, but it might be nice and helpful, both for your new neighbor, and the new dog who might be suffering from separation anxiety.

It would also help your complaining neighbor to calm down, and hopefully be less upset when you get your dog, as she will know you are trying to help.
posted by Vaike at 10:54 AM on November 9, 2009

My wife called the RSPCA once because the neighbour's dog was making noise the whole day and she was worried that it might be being neglected. They told her that so long as the dog's basic needs are being met, whining about being left alone all day would not be sufficient cause for them to take action. So I doubt anything is going to happen as the result of this phone call.
posted by tomcooke at 11:40 AM on November 9, 2009

I have no experience with the RSPCA, but I suspect the ASPCA operates similarly. I have a neighbor who, when we moved in, made a handful of wildly over-reactive claims to both the police and the ASPCA about my dogs and other things. They came, saw that the dogs were plainly not being mistreated, gave me the pamphlet they were required to, and left. You've seen who is calling, and I knew who it was because I have only two houses close to me, and one is inhabited by a death metal band that I'm on good terms with.

This is probably a somewhat different situation, because my neighbor didn't care about the dogs so much as exerting control over her new neighbors (being a bitch) while being as passive-aggressive as possible. So, all I did was talk to her genially, saying "someone" kept making unnecessary calls to various authorities, and that I was giving all the neighbors my number in case there were any problems. She refused to take me number and hasn't been a problem since. Your neighbor doesn't seem malicious, but they're definitely avoiding confrontation since they didn't talk to anyone at all before calling. Talking to them (the dog owner talking to them I mean) and explaining things calmly will satisfy and/or cow them into dropping it.
posted by cmoj at 12:03 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

To PhoBWanKenobi, I accept your point, but consider:
-They were moving into the house Friday and Saturday
-Sunday everyone was out, the dog wasn't left around, he was being cared for elsewhere
-Monday, we have at best, 3 hours of some barking and howling.

I don't see how the complaining neighbour has anything reasonable to go on, as yet, it just seems a massive overreaction. Anyway I just hope the authorities take a rather more calm view, but I'd like to do everything I can to make the problem go away.

If I seem bizarrely over-invested in this new neighbour, then it's perhaps because I've been working towards getting my own dog for 5 years. I changed my job, I changed my home, I bought a house, so it could happen. I always thought I'd be going it alone with no help, so for someone to just randomly move in who could (maybe) be a massive help to me in the future, has made me pretty pleased. I do also see them as kind of a test case for myself; there's a good chance here to avoid trouble purely aimed at me, in the future. Call it enlightened self-interest.
posted by Elfasi at 12:10 PM on November 9, 2009

I always thought I'd be going it alone with no help, so for someone to just randomly move in who could (maybe) be a massive help to me in the future, has made me pretty pleased.

Respectfully suggest that you have no idea what this new neighbor's pet care attitudes are yet--how will you know if they're on the same page as you at all in regards to care? It sounds like you're jumping the gun, for a dog you don't even yet have. I say this as a pet owner, who has neighbors who are fellow pet owners; I can tell you with pretty fair conviction that viewing your fellow pet-owning neighbors as free pet help is, at least, highly unusual, if not downright weird.

If you must get involved, and again, it's probably not necessary, just talk to the other neighbor and ask what the problem is, and listen respectfully. It might be something as simple as that they work nights and can't have a dog barking next door all day while they're trying to sleep--which is reasonable, mind you, and something that the dog's owner should find a way to accommodate, but you're not going to do anything but stir up bad blood in the neighborhood (when, again, this doesn't impact you or effect you directly) if you approach them defensively.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:31 PM on November 9, 2009

PhoBWanKenobi - Okay, perhaps I should have chosen my words more carefully. I do not view my fellow pet-owning neighbours as free pet help. I view them as potential pet help I never thought was ever going to happen (I've never lived near any dog owners ever), and I hope to curry favour by being helpful to them first. Even if I get nothing in return, that's fine, I like being helpful (especially in helping animal welfare). I do not expect free anything.

And yes, it's perfectly reasonable for a night worker to be pretty irate at a dog barking in the day, but honestly, with 3 hours evidence to go on, ever, that's just too soon to be kicking up a fuss (in my opinion). I don't intend to approach any neighbour defensively, nor stir up bad blood, I want to be as helpful as I can, and fix this, and leave everyone happy. Just trying to come up with the best way to go about it, and hopefully nip an early problem in the bud (because it really is very very early a problem).
posted by Elfasi at 1:11 PM on November 9, 2009

Elfasi, it just really strikes me that this isn't your situation to fix. The best thing that could happen is that the new neighbor goes and talks to the older tenant to find out what the problem is (again, without being demanding or defensive) and then works to correct the situation. While the likelihood of the situation escalating is probably small, in the unlikely event that it does, it seems to me like it's a bad idea to get involved directly when you're not even an involved party. After all, the most you could do in this situation is check in on the dog, but that's up to the owner to decide, and you already have plans to offer that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2009

3 hours of any obnoxious noise is plenty to go on if you're at home trying to work, or if you have a baby, or if you're sick, or if you simply like to have some peace and quiet in your own home. I agree they should have talked to the owners first but sometimes when you're being driven out of your mind you leap ahead to the next step.

If you want to be helpful, mention only that their dog was barking incessantly while they were gone and that they'll want to do something about it before one of the neighbors gets irate and that you know that the RSPCA has been called on animals in the past (white lie). Don't mention the other neighbor or the phone call and don't turn it into us versus them.

I'm with the other posters in thinking you're over-invested in this situation. That the new neighbors have a dog has nothing to do with you, or with you getting a dog in a month, since presumably you will have researched and found a dog that's close-quarters compatible.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:06 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

If one of my neighbours dogs started barking for three hours on end one day I'd be concerned and do something about it. That's never happened before and is a big change, and surely it's better to do something when you're concerned rather than sit back and assume everything is OK? Your neighbours just moved in but maybe the people down the back don't know that? Not everyone keeps track of such things in their neighbourhood (I don't). Personally I'd be worried that the dog had hurt itself, I don't know why dogs bark like that.

Right now this isn't your problem. No one complained to you or about you and you have no complaints yourself. You're letting your future dog cloud things and make you feel involved but you're not, and the neighbours have every right to not involve a third party if they don't want to. You should probably tell the next door people what happened so they can deal with it but your judgements and opinions aren't relevant, don't cross the line into gossip.

The best thing to do is make friends with both sets of neighbours. Then you'll know what's going on with the people down the back (although if they have problems with the people next door you're not the one they should be talking to about that). And you can get to know the next door people so they can decide for themselves how much they want you involved with their dog. You want to be part of their lives, which is fine and nice and reasonable, so focus on doing that organically rather than trying to push into this one situation which doesn't involve you.

As an aside my friendly neighbours have repeatdely offered to feed my cats when I go away and stuff. I appreciate the offers but actually I don't want my neighbours in my house and I do want someone qualified to look after my pets (one of them is old), so I have a cat minder that I pay. It's great that you want to help your neighbours with their dog and walk it and stuff, but it's up to them to decide what they're comfortable with.
posted by shelleycat at 2:08 PM on November 9, 2009

shelleycat: "As an aside my friendly neighbours have repeatdely offered to feed my cats when I go away and stuff. I appreciate the offers but actually I don't want my neighbours in my house and I do want someone qualified to look after my pets (one of them is old), so I have a cat minder that I pay. It's great that you want to help your neighbours with their dog and walk it and stuff, but it's up to them to decide what they're comfortable with."

Yes, you can't always trust your neighbors. I looked after my neighbor's pets for years when they were on vacation, but the one time we asked them to watch our dog, we came home (thank goodness we were only gone on a day trip) and she hadn't been outside or fed. I was furious.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2009

Elfasi, I've got to second PhoBWan here. You really do sound way too invested in the situation. They've only been there three days, you've already volunteered to walk the dog and dogsit, want to check in on the dog at lunch time, and now want to get involved in this barking dispute based on 3 hours of barking and an observed phonecall to the RSPCA.

I realize that you mean well and are enthusiastic about dogs and about getting your own, but I can imagine if I were your new neighbor, especially if I was a single woman, I might be put-off or even creeped out by your seeming over-interest in my dog and the situation. Certainly if new neighbor asks you about complaining neighbor you can fill her in on what you've observed. But beyond that, it's simply not your situation to fix and does not require your involvement.

If you and new neighbor are going to become best dog buds it will happen organically with time.
posted by 6550 at 2:21 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

To clarify, if I had young healthy pets and I'd known my neighbours for a decent length of time then I would let them feed them (and have in previous houses), but with an older cat with potential health problems it's too complicated.

But the point is that different people have different levels of comfort with this, so don't be pushy about helping out if the offer isn't taken up immediately. Elfasi you've already offered to walk and dogsit, no need to harp on about this. Let the neighbours get to know you for a while before offering again because right now you're effectively a stranger to them, let them decide their own level of comfort with their pet.
posted by shelleycat at 2:22 PM on November 9, 2009

I really appreciate the advice so far, and I absolutely hear what a lot of you are saying. I'm as guilty as the people I'm talking about, for jumping on this situation and massively over-thinking things after just a day or two of any sort of contact at all. I'll put it down to too many years working towards building a dog owning situation for myself, and projecting onto this neighbour I feel is suddenly under threat.

Let me be clear: This is all over-thinking, and just thinking, right now. All I've done is pop round when they moved in, introduced myself, offered help with the dog if they needed it. That's it, I wasn't pushy and I'm aware of risking coming across as weird/creepy by doing anything more (for the record I'm gay).

I'm going to try my hardest to step back from this, try to offer advice and caution, try to smooth over the cracks if I can. I still maintain while this isn't my problem now, it could easily become so in the future, with my own pet. I shall watch and wait and be there if called on. Thanks everyone.
posted by Elfasi at 2:49 PM on November 9, 2009

Just a final followup. The neighbour with the dog was fine, my fears were unfounded. The dog still makes some noise in the day, but not always, and much quieter. In short, I left them all to their own devices, didn't get involved and it all worked out satisfactorily. Complaining neighbour has been skulking around but doesn't seem to be actively causing any more trouble. I now have a dog also, he's good as gold and quiet all day, and all is good. My neighbour's got my back and I've got hers.
posted by Elfasi at 4:09 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Where can I go stargazing in the Boston area?   |   Alternative to tomato for vegetarian stew base. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.