How much howling is too much?
October 31, 2011 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Our dog howls in sadness when we leave(about 8am), for no more than two minutes. Then she sleeps for the rest of the day. Our neighbors, who sleep until 1pm, want silence. Are we being unreasonable in considering their request unreasonable?

We have a dog, a two-year-old bearded collie mix, Donut. We live on the top floor of a dog-friendly, two-unit apartment building. We also have jobs. I currently work three days a week (home all day the other two days) and my wife works full time. I have only had my job for a month or so at this point. We moved into the place in August.

Our downstairs neighbors (who are generally nice folks) work second shift and sleep until around 1 pm. They have now left us two notes saying the Donut howls constantly and wakes them up. After the first (about a month ago) we set up a webcam (iCam) and watched her. It turned out that she would work on her food ball or whatever puzzle toy she was given, finish it, howl for 10 seconds to two minutes (between 8 and 9 am), and then sleep for the rest of the day. After two weeks of watching some of the most boring footage ever, we stopped setting up the camera, and decided this level of noise-making shouldn't really be an issue.

We take the dog and either run her at the dog park or take her for a run (40 min to an hour) each morning. She gets a puzzle toy (food ball, Kong, Bobs-a-lot) when we leave. A dog walker takes her for another 30 min walk in the early afternoon, and gives her another puzzle toy. I'm home all day on Tuesday and Thursday, and she gets a very long run those days.

The thing that bothers us is that they say that she howls 3-4 days a week, which we know is untrue, since she never howls when we are home, and she never has been home alone for 4 days in a week. And they say she howls for hours, when we have video evidence that the scale of howling is seconds to minutes. Also, isn't it unreasonable to require quiet until 1 pm?

What should we say to them?
posted by rockindata to Pets & Animals (66 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Buy them a white noise machine.
posted by Mittenz at 6:00 PM on October 31, 2011

Also, isn't it unreasonable to require quiet until 1 pm?

Maybe. But it's not unreasonable to want not to be awakened by a howling dog at 8 a.m.
posted by grouse at 6:00 PM on October 31, 2011 [61 favorites]

"Hi, well, we were really concerned that Donut might be making that much noise, so we set up a web cam and filmed her for two weeks. Looks like it's just a few minutes, and then she's off to sleep. You're welcome to come watch the dog videos, they're kinda boring. Maybe you were hearing somebody else's dog?"
posted by canine epigram at 6:00 PM on October 31, 2011 [26 favorites]

It's not unreasonable to require quiet until 1:00 p.m. if you're working second shift. They probably aren't expecting dead silence, anyway; a yowling dog in the same building is going to be pretty loud. How would you feel if this were happening in your neighbor's apartment at 3:00 a.m.?

I don't know how to make a dog be quiet, but if I were your neighbors I would also be annoyed with this situation.
posted by something something at 6:01 PM on October 31, 2011 [35 favorites]

I missed the second-shift bit. So you'd also want to follow-up with:

"I know that even a few minutes must be hella annoying when you're trying to sleep, but we're working on training her out of it."

And then talk to a trainer and get working on it with some positive reinforcement.
posted by canine epigram at 6:03 PM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

I have a neighbour with a dog who barks intermittently every day, all day. It's not constant, but it is extremely irritating.

I think it's rude for you to expect you neighbours to put up with your noise. Maybe you'd understand better if they came home late from work and cranked up the AC/DC good and loud for "two minutes." After a couple of weeks, you'd be good and pissed.
posted by klanawa at 6:03 PM on October 31, 2011 [48 favorites]

If I were your neighbors, I would also be upset. It may be possible that, in the past, she has howled for hours. I would let your neighbors know that you are aware that your dog howls intermittently, that it has disturbed them in the past, and that you are currently working with a trainer to help your pup stop. Then follow through and repeat the above ad nauseaum if prompted.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:08 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

While I can appreciate the frustration some may feel, I think the issue is how much intervention is appropriate? It sounds like you have gone above and beyond to quiet your dog - puzzle toys, morning exercise, dog walker, etc. What more can you do, save locking your dog up in some sort of sound-proofed box?

You have done the right thing by trying to assess the situation, found they are somewhat exaggerating the severity, and decided perhaps they are being unreasonable about the level of silence they can expect in a dog-friendly apartment building.

Perhaps canine epigram has the right idea by talking with your neighbors, explaining the situation, and the things you already do. Ask if they have any suggestions. I'm willing to bet they don't.
posted by gagoumot at 6:11 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

My last roommate's dog was usually totally quiet all day. If you set up a webcam on her for any random two weeks, you'd probably assume that she's totally quiet all the time. But every once in a while, maybe a few days every other month, she would howl and howl and howl like was trapped at the bottom of a well or something. And not shut up no matter how much you tried to soothe her. And she'd do it for hours.

So don't rule out the possibility that there have been times when Donut has howled all morning. And once you've heard a dog howl like crazy one or two times (especially if it wakes you up), every extra bark or yip sets you on edge. (You never know when it's going to start up again!)

I don't know how you should fix it, but I do think you should try not to go into it thinking that your neighbors are completely unreasonable (or making things up).
posted by phunniemee at 6:14 PM on October 31, 2011 [19 favorites]

You could try an ultrasonic barking deterrent. I've seen some that even have timers so you can set it to only be "listening" to your dog, for instance, from 8AM to 9AM (when she might be most likely to howl).
posted by erstwhile at 6:27 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

8 am - 8 pm are not hours that someone can expect quiet so yes it is unreasonable for them to expect quiet. It sucks for people who work second shift and are trying to get some sleep but that's not your concern.

Keep the webcam though so that if they end up complaining to management you've got a record of the noise your dog was making.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:29 PM on October 31, 2011 [15 favorites]

It can be very hard to get enough quality sleep when you do shift work. Two minutes or even thirty seconds of dog howling in the middle of your sleep time can completely ruin your sleep for that day. Repeat this daily and you are making life impossible for these people.

Think of it this way: what if you got woken up by two minutes of sirens every two hours all night long. You wouldn't be able to function during the day. You'd be exhausted. Getting woken up just once during your down time when you're on shift work can be the equivalent of that.

It's great you love your dog, but your neighbors don't love your dog. They love having jobs and being able to sleep when they are not at their jobs. They are not being unreasonable. You need to try to understand how difficult you are making things for them.
posted by alms at 6:29 PM on October 31, 2011 [16 favorites]

I'm in two minds about this. I tend to be really noise sensitive when I sleep (though I keep regular hours) and my partner has worked nights off and on throughout our relationship, so I'm sensitive to the needs of people who don't keep regular hours, and my gut response is to be sympathetic to your neighbors.

That said: I honestly don't know how reasonable it is to expect that one's neighbors can control for all noise on behalf of someone's sleep needs during regular daytime hours. If you ran a business from home during regular hours, would you be required not to meet with your clients (for example) if the noise of people going up and down the stairs bothered them?
posted by scody at 6:42 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Is it unreasonable of your neighbors to want to be able to enjoy sleeping in their apartment, whenever they want? No. Nor is it unreasonable for you to feel that in a dog-friendly environment, there be some understanding that you can't control what your dog does 24/7.

Entirely possible they are exaggerating, or that the dog was making more noise prior to your monitoring, or that what they consider to be excessive or prolonged noise doesn't meet your standards for such. None of that really matters, though. In the interest of keeping the "peace," as it were, I'd show your neighbors the video and mention all of the things that you are doing to try to keep your dog occupied during the day. Do you have carpeting or rugs in your unit? Something that would buffer noise to the floor below might also help.

And this is kind of a side question, but did you ever answer or respond to their notes?
posted by sm1tten at 6:44 PM on October 31, 2011

I think you should try to address the problem as a courtesy to them, but I don't think their expectations are particularly reasonable. In apartment situations there is naturally and unavoidably going to be sound coming from the other units. The fact that it is a dog, or a piano, or kids' noises, is really immaterial ... It's the price of living in an apartment and they should choose detached housing if they are so sensitive to noise.
posted by jayder at 6:47 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Are there any other neighbors that are home during the day when you both are gone that can confirm or deny Donut's howling? That's where I'd start.

That said, they live in a communal *dog-friendly* place. There have been scores of AskMe's about people that live in shared wall spaces that have neighbors with newborns/toddlers that get met with responses of people tripping over themselves to say that it's part of living in society.

We take the dog and either run her at the dog park or take her for a run (40 min to an hour) each morning. She gets a puzzle toy (food ball, Kong, Bobs-a-lot) when we leave. A dog walker takes her for another 30 min walk in the early afternoon, and gives her another puzzle toy. I'm home all day on Tuesday and Thursday, and she gets a very long run those days.

You all are doing way, way more than most people would to take care of Donut (my dad has a Neardie too, I know how they can be). Maybe it's callous of me, but unless other neighbors can corroborate the howling, I wouldn't sweat it all that much.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:48 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's possible that the howling is extremely intermittent, but if you really have two weeks of tape showing a total of half an hour of howling, that seems reasonable. Unfortunate for your neighbor, but reasonable. Apartment living is especially difficult because the soundproofing that would only cost a few thousand dollars just isn't done.

Some noises really are not avoidable. Loud recorded music is entirely avoidable. Loud piano playing, if you are someone who plays the piano, is entirely unavoidable. The dog seems to be mostly unavoidable to me, though I second the suggestion of the anti-bark device. They seem to work pretty well even on dogs who bark continuously throughout the day, and so perhaps could solve this problem entirely.
posted by wnissen at 6:56 PM on October 31, 2011

Good grief. I've never complained when my neighbor wakes me up mid-morning with two minutes of revving up his deafeningly loud motorcycle. When I lived in an apartment I used to hear the baby in back of us screaming its head off at all hours of the day and night and never complained about that. Babies cry, dogs howl. I can imagine that shift work must make sleep difficult, but you can't expect the whole neighborhood to be silent to accommodate your work schedule.
posted by HotToddy at 6:56 PM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

Heh, this thread is going to be (and so far has been) split into two camps:

The camp of people that have done shift work.

The camp of people that have not.

Also keep in mind that if you're doing shift work, you're probably not making whole tons of money - apartment rent is generally cheaper than having a mortgage, as well as not requiring a stellar credit rating. Moving is also expensive and crap and not fun and there's no guarantee, really, that where you move to won't have noise as well.

I guess what I'd say is that asking about reasonableness isn't really the right question. You're not being unreasonable, but then neither are they. I think that it would serve everyone well if you went downstairs with some cookies and sat down with the neighbours and talked about it, starting with "I'm sorry our dog has been waking you up, that must be pretty awful. Here's what we do with her right now and why it's been difficult for us to keep it from happening - we have to get to work too, of course."

I think that it would be very nice of you to try to figure out some way to train her to not howl. I also think that, in the meantime, they'll have to understand that there's no instant fix for this sort of thing.
posted by kavasa at 6:56 PM on October 31, 2011 [13 favorites]

Does your lease say anything about noise? The last three leases I've signed all refer to designated "quiet hours," where one is not expected to make noise that will disturb one's neighbors. Currently, mine goes from about 10am until about 8am. If your lease has specific hours listed, that will definitely alter the meaning of "reasonable" in this context.
posted by meese at 6:58 PM on October 31, 2011

There is a poodle next door that howls all the time.
There's nothing more annoying than an annoying sound that you can't control.
They wrote you a note. They deserve a response.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:59 PM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

The duration of the howling really isn't the issue. It's enough to wake them up, and that's what matters.

If your neighbors' dog woke you up every single morning, wouldn't you be furious?
posted by venividivici at 7:00 PM on October 31, 2011

I was a shift worker for 6the years and would never imagine complaining about noise during daytime hours. Especially while living in an apartment! What do they do about the lawn mowers, motorcycles, kids playing, babies crying at night or day, Ice Cream trucks, construction, etc. ?

geez. Maybe if the dog wad barking CONSTANTLY, I might say something.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:05 PM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

Something I've noticed in dog-related tensions - the non-dog party is seeking something that is in some way reasonable. The dog party considers that because their dog is being fairly well behaved for a dog, the request is unreasonable.

The dog party views the problem from the perspective that the dog is a given in the situation, and the important thing is that they're doing fairly well at managing the issue, and people should be understanding because it's a dog, and not a bad one, and obviously an element of [whatever] just comes with the territory with dogs. But that's not how society works. The harsh reality is that urban dogs are unnecessary and only get to be in the equation if they can successfully coexist and/or people will tolerate them.

So I caution against dismissing concerns as unreasonable simply because they involve behaviours that are difficult for you to change and keep a dog. The size of your task (if you choose to have a dog) does not really correlate to the reasonableness of a complaint.
I've seen loving dog owners get hit hard from not grasping that distinction.

But in this case, it seems to me you both have a point - the dog is disruptive, but apparently not as disruptive as the neighbours think.

I suggest talking to them, face to face, friendly, as a gauge of whether this is toxic enough that dealing directly is a bad idea, or whether you can work with these people. It's also harder to hate on people that are nice.

You invested in a surveillance system so you could figure out what's going on - that shows you took their concern seriously, and are putting time and money and effort into addressing it. That alone might buy you their sympathy or tolerance. Letting them know that the problem is now brief may also help, or they might know something you don't (perhaps the dog does make sound for hours, but only a very short bark once or twice an hour - the sort of thing that would be hard to spot on surveillance, yet could keep someone from good sleep).
posted by -harlequin- at 7:11 PM on October 31, 2011 [13 favorites]

Depending on your locale, the city/town may have an ordinance stating when a dog's noise will be a "nuisance." In NYC for example: Animal noise that is unreasonable and plainly audible from within nearby residential property may call for enforcement action if the noise occurs:
1. After 7:00 a.m. and before 10:00 p.m. for a continuous period of 10 minutes or more
2. After 10:00 p.m. and before 7:00 a.m. for a continuous period of five minutes or more
via here.

When living in a pet friendly building, one must expect that, at times, a dog will bark/whine/howl. If in fact your dog is doing this for hours on end, then that is a problem. If it's for a few minutes, then it's reasonable. It's unfortunate that they work nights, but due to social norms/ normal waking hours, the burden of dealing with daytime noise (within reason) should fall to them. They can get earplugs, ask the landlord to install soundproofing, etc. But, as long as your dog is not barking for an extended period of time (the meaning of "extended" varying by your town), you are not in the wrong.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:14 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you do shift work and your apartment building is not sound-proofed in a way that is conducive to your sleep schedule, then you ultimately need to move to a residence where you have more control and sound-security. This includes not moving into a dog-friendly building.

And yes to everyone who pointed out the dog could be yowling on days he's not been recorded, and the neighbors deserve a polite response, and it seems the OP is doing heaps more than most would in their shoes...

At some point, if the OP follows through and yet the neighbors continue to feel disturbed, then a dog-friendly building is wrong for the neighbors and they should move.

OP - please don't ever suggest that they move! That would be mountains of FAIL. But just know they have choices, and one of theirs was to live in a dog friendly building.
posted by jbenben at 7:18 PM on October 31, 2011

You SHOULD talk to them, since it's possible that they are hearing another dog. I spent several weeks being really irritated that my downstairs neighbor's dog was barking CONSTANTLY (in part, honestly, because this dog once lunged at me quite violently and the neighbors were...overly relaxed about it, shall we say? She also basically tries to throw herself through their plate glass window to get at me whenever I walk outside, so I kind of am not a fan of that particular animal) and then it turned out to be this insane yappy dog in the next building over, which I only realized when I heard said yapping and the neighbors were gone for the week. So talking about it might help at least clear up neighbor-to--neighbor animosity. Especially since then they'll know that you HEARD them. Sometimes people just want to know that their complaints have registered. So go in there and be congenial.

Otherwise, it truly sounds like you're doing the best you can.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:26 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you talk to them and mention the surveillance video:

Do say this:
We set up a camera to try to figure out why our dog was unhappy and how we could make it happier and quieter when we're not home.
Don't say this:
We set up a camera to see whether you were lying about how much the dog was barking and it looks like you were, so there's really no problem with the dog, right?
posted by alms at 7:35 PM on October 31, 2011 [15 favorites]

That your question is "How much howling is too much?" rather then "How can I prevent my dog from howling when I leave the house?" seems a little unneighborly to my ears.

If my dog made enough noise to upset my neighbors, then I'd see what options I have to prevent my dog from getting so "Argh, my pack is leaving me, my world is ending" each time I left the house. If the problem is as small as you are describing, it would seem that training/prevention is the easiest, nicest option, plus your dog would be happier too. Win, win.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:40 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by bolognius maximus at 7:40 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sucks that their sleep is being disturbed but they are working non-standard hours  and it is not reasonable for them to request that other people should change their own activities to meet their needs.  Your dog is howling, the guy downstairs is doing laundry, the baby upstairs is crying and the woman one over is elderly and can barely hear her tv.  This is what you deal with when you live near other humans.  If that is not sufficient for them they should live somewhere where everyone else works the same hours as them.
posted by crankylex at 7:47 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you ran a business from home during regular hours, would you be required not to meet with your clients (for example) if the noise of people going up and down the stairs bothered them?

Not to derail too much, but actually yes, odd as it may seem - (at least in Multnomah County, OR where I looked into this) if you want to get a business license for a home-based business where clients come to visit you at your apartment, you have to file papers with the city showing that your landlord and neighbors are totally fine with it and it represents no imposition on the community's patience or its parking resources. When I checked with my landlord, that literally meant making sure my neighbors were alright with a lot of traffic on the stairs.

As an apartment-dweller with a neighbor who has a large, loud dog in their apartment, I would be impressed with your webcam investigation and definitely more likely to be sympathetic to your minor training issues - just show a good-faith effort at correcting the problem with a little additional training, and they ought to be satisfied. Ultimately, though, you need to make sure management agrees with you on what is a reasonable amount of howling - they're the ones that could make your life miserable if they start getting too many complaints.
posted by dialetheia at 7:53 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't think that your neighbors are being unreasonable at all. 8 am is often considered quiet time in noise ordinances. Sure, your neighbors can't control every single sound inside and outside the building nor should they expect that they can (and that's not the issue at hand, anyway). It's that they are repeatedly being disturbed on a daily(ish) basis and that probably impacts other aspects of their life negatively. The duration of the barking isn't the issue. Have you ever gotten a phone call that wakes you up too early and you can't get back to sleep? How'd you like to get that phone call every single day?

I'm sure your dog is a nice dog. This doesn't mean that you're a bad dog owner or that your dog is bad. But, look, isn't this the sort of situation where one could at least talk to a dog trainer? Or, I'm sure there are even books and websites that address this sort of issue that maybe you can look at on your own. At least attempting to rectify the situation would be the better first step than informing your neighbor that you have webcam footage that makes you think their complaints are unreasonable. I agree that the dog's howling is the issue, NOT your neighbor's complaints about the howling. I bet that, in most cases where noise or other disturbances exist, there's a whole bunch of people who suffer in silence (in other words, other people are effected negatively but don't speak up). Training might not be effective, but at least giving it a try would be the most considerate thing you can do for any of your neighbors.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:30 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes, you're being unreasonable. Your apartment complex is dog friendly, not bark friendly. The duration of the barking is irreverent; it's a nuisance because it wakes them up, not necessarily because it keeps them up. Courteous apartment living is all about accommodating your neighbors. Work and sleep take place at all hours of the day in our modern society, and they deserve sleep no less than you do. Sure, the law is on your side, but etiquette is not. A nuisance is a nuisance is a nuisance.

A good gentleperson has four options:
1) Get an anti-barking device
2) Train your dog
3) Sell your dog
4) Move

BTW, I just took my neighbor to Barking Dog Court and won. They were ordered to pay a $250 fine. Beware that, at least in the state of California, the bar for evidence is low (hearsay from third parties is permissible) in said court; and sworn testimony is usually the only kind anyone offers. Video and audio recordings are stronger but less common. Without them, a cogent argument with statutory emphasis will usually win the day. It would be a good idea to keep your videos that show that your dog is not in violation of any such statutes.
posted by troll at 8:30 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone, for your input. We just want to respond to a few things:

-We did talk to them in person after the first letter they left. We expressed remorse, told them we'd do our best to address it, and they should give us whatever specific information they could about when they heard howling.

- We fully intend to respond (politely, constructively, respectfully) to this letter too. We are switching back and forth between writing and editing the letter and this response, actually. We definitely don't intend to accuse them of lying or tell them to move.

-Our lease has no stipulations about noise. Madison's municipal code (Section 24.04) has nothing specific about amount of time or time of day like that of New York.

-Static Vagabond, we originally approached the problem in the way you're describing. A dog that "howls continuously whenever you leave the house" (their words) is deeply unhappy and we have a responsibility to fix that. A dog that howls for 60 seconds, then goes back to happily napping and playing with her Kong for the next 8 hours doesn't seem like that big of a problem to me, from the perspective of the dog's psychological health. That said, zero-howling would be best, so if you know a good positive-reinforcement method for training away something that happens for 2 minutes a day while we're not there, we'd love to hear it!

-I appreciate all the people who've pointed out how disruptive even a little noise can be to one's sleep. We've dealt with loud neighbors in the past, too (4 AM drunken screaming, anyone?) and as frustrating as it is, we've generally approached it as crankylex, jayder, hot toddy, and others mention here. Part of living next to people is living with their noise and other quirks, and accepting that we don't all sleep at the same time or eat the same things or have the same bad habits. We grumble to each other and move on with our lives, just as we grumble to each other about all the cigarette smoke these same neighbors inadvertently blow into our apartment. I personally think that if I needed to sleep until 1 pm every day and also needed to share walls with other humans, I'd invest in some earplugs, but its good to hear a range of opinions on this.
posted by rockindata at 8:31 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wait, I'm not sure if two-unit means you only have one neighbor. Still, (hypothetically) if you were to move to another dog-friendly location, your dog would still have the barking habit.. so you would just be transferring that habit. And, you'd have different neighbors yet the same problem, right? That's why you want to deal with the core issue (Donut's barking) rather than building up a case against your neighbor's complaint.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:35 PM on October 31, 2011

You're making life really miserable for your neighbors. Allowing your dog to regularly interrupt their sleep - not their daytime naps, but the sleep they need to get in order to be able to work their shitty shift job - is awful. It's more than a "quirk."
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:37 PM on October 31, 2011 [7 favorites]

I often sleep til late in the afternoon. I am often annoyed by noises my neighbors make. And while I wish everyone would adhere to my "non-standard" schedule, they don't. I know it would be unreasonable of me to ask for behavioral changes during the normal, standardly acceptable "noise between these hours" is okay time.

So, if I were your neighbors, I would be annoyed. But I wouldn't have said anything. 2 minutes is super short and they can fall back asleep.

You have video proof that they are exaggerating, and if it comes to blows, you have proof and they don't so you should be okay.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:52 PM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm in the camp that your neighbors need to get over it and buy some earplugs. You've monitored your dog and I think you should keep doing that for a while just to make certain the dog isn't barking more than you think. You're also working to solve the problem as best you can. You're not being a dick about it. Living in an apartment means putting up with a certain amount of unpleasantness from others. It's not your fault they work second shift and, really, is there ever a convenient time for a dog to howl? You're only not at home three days per week and your dog doesn't howl incessantly. Give them a bottle of wine, some earplugs and say you're working on the problem but on occasion Donut is going to bark, sorry in advance for the inconvenience.
posted by shoesietart at 8:52 PM on October 31, 2011

I've done shift work.

When I lived in an apartment.

With "loud" neighbors who made their noise during normal-waking hours.

It was really annoying -- but I got over it because living in an apartment means people make noise during normal-people hours. Your neighbors should get over it, too, because living in an apartment means dealing with noise, especially during normal waking hours.

That's not to say they can't be annoyed, but I don't think you're under any obligation to do anything about it. (Of course, getting your dog to zero howling should be the goal, but neighbors in an apartment cannot expect perfect silence at all times)
posted by toomuchpete at 10:06 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

maybe make a recording of the 2 minutes of howling and set it as an alarm to go off every morning at 3am for a week while you're deciding how much weight to give the complaint.
posted by nadawi at 11:48 PM on October 31, 2011 [18 favorites]

Perhaps canine epigram has the right idea by talking with your neighbors, explaining the situation, and the things you already do. Ask if they have any suggestions. I'm willing to bet they don't.

Not their responsibility to come up with solutions or suggestions to OP's dog howling.
posted by arnicae at 12:48 AM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Obviously you're free to ignore it or say "sucks to be you, suck it up like some people do" or whatever, but their request is totally reasonable. Like nadawi suggested, try playing that recording at true-to-life volume at 3 am three random-seeming nights a week. And as far as that "they knew what they were getting into" argument goes, I'm skeptical of the idea that management went out of its way to impress upon a couple of non-dog-owners that they were moving into a dog-friendly building, and that oh that might mean bereft howling three times a week (three times a week is "three or four times a week"!).

So if you haven't even tried the methods suggested above, yeah, seems reasonable for them to just keep getting madder. Maybe if you try and nothing works you could get them some nice earplugs or something. Although who knows, maybe they have to be able to wake up if the phone rings or something? Maybe they're afraid they'll miss the alarm? I don't know. But howling in the next unit isn't really like traffic noise. There's an argument to be made that keeping a less-than-sedate dog in an apartment building at all is as irresponsible as keeping, say, a rooster. Obviously a dog is more fun and interesting for you. But to your neighbors it's pretty much the same thing, except they're probably under the impression that digs can be trained out of it, and you're just not doing it.
posted by Adventurer at 1:19 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dogs are highly social creatures and it is not unreasonable to expect that a dog would express some distress at being locked alone in an empty apartment for several hours. "Happily napping" may be a bit of anthropomorphism or wishful thinking on your part.
You can't blame your dog for howling and your neighbors are quite justified in being upset by the noise. You sound like otherwise responsible dog owners but the onus is on you to be fair to both your dog and your neighbors.
Perhaps people who live in apartments and who must spend significant amounts of time away are not best suited to having dogs, no matter how nice it is to come home to a cute and fluffy pet.
posted by islander at 1:19 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is it possible to get a family member, friend, or pet sitter to sit with your dog for a few hours or play with it for a while after you leave? I was a dog sitter who did the work for next to nothing! Maybe from 8AM - 10AM?
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:46 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you've only had your job for a month, wouldn't it be reasonable to suspect that maybe the initial howling really did go on for hours? And since they still want you to do something, and because you don't seem to have taken their complaints about hours of howling seriously (I mean, they don't know you even did the surveillance, right? Have you told them that "3-4 days a week" is inaccurate because it's only 3?), I can see how they wouldn't add, "but now the dog only howls for a minute or two." Because that's still too much if it's the middle of the night for you. Especially if, say, one or more of you has trouble sleeping during the day. And they have no way of knowing that the upstairs dog they can't see and have no control over won't go back to howling more often. It's only been a few weeks.
posted by Adventurer at 3:03 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fair warning: your neighbors might not kindly accept ear plugs as a gift or solution. It's sort of like saying "Hey, I know you're upset about me taking shortcuts through the planter and tracking mud into the communal hallway all the time, but I have a solution. What? No, I have to take those shortcuts--the sidewalk is too inconvenient. Look, I bought you an expensive doormat; it will clean the secondary mud from your feet if your just expend a little time and effort every time you come home. Problem solved!"

The party responsible for the problem is responsible for the solution. In other words, the onus is on you for whatever noise emanates from your apartment, not on them for whatever noise penetrates theirs.
posted by troll at 3:08 AM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

At various times I've owned dogs, lived in apartments, and worked second or third shift.

I think this hinges on whether your understanding of the amount of howling and /or barking is true. If your neighbors are right and the noise is ever frequent or goes on for long periods of time, then you need to improve the dog's behavior somehow. If the dog is only noisy for a few minutes once in a long while then your neighbor still has a legitimate problem but it's not YOUR problem. Saying that your dog can never, ever bark or howl is tantamount to saying that you can't have a dog, which is not the arrangement described in your lease and for which you are paying.
posted by jon1270 at 4:19 AM on November 1, 2011

Initially, I thought that you should really find a way to take care of the problem of your dog howling. Two minutes is actually a fairly long time in terms of loud noise waking people up. And then I remembered that every time I move I have to adjust to the sounds of the garbage truck - in Philly it was around 4-5am, and here around 7am. That's also a very loud noise that lasts for 2-5 minutes. And pretty much anyone who lives in a city setting gets used to it.

Of course the difference is that your dog isn't necessary to sanitation or the neighbors.

The other thing to note is that sometimes the people complaining about noise are just crazy. I had a neighbor who complained to me regularly and I tried to do what I could to decrease the noise and then I went away for Thanksgiving and she complained to another neighbor that I'd been making noise all that weekend. That is when I stopped paying attention. There has to be a balance between being a good neighbor and dealing with people who are exaggerating, outright lying or just crazy.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:23 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Um, maybe your dog is only being super good NOW. When my neighbors first moved in downstairs, their dog would howl and bark a ridiculous amount. It was enough to make me want to scream and I get a good amount of sleep and am home working during the day. The dog is much calmer now, but I still remember just how awful it was to deal with the dog's initial adjustment. You filmed the dog awhile after you moved in--our 'trouble dog' ceased the freakish amount of barking after about a month, too.

I don't think that it's reasonable to expect no dog noise in a dog apartment, but I think you need to acknowledge that the issues that your neighbors are describing may have happened. You also can train your dog to stop barking when you leave, and maybe you should tell your neighbors that you're looking into classes. We want all of our dogs to be very good doggie citizens!
posted by 200burritos at 6:24 AM on November 1, 2011

You're making life really miserable for your neighbors. Allowing your dog to regularly interrupt their sleep - not their daytime naps, but the sleep they need to get in order to be able to work their shitty shift job - is awful. It's more than a "quirk."

Agreed. Having your sleep regularly interrupted makes you mean and crazy and desperate. You do not want to someone in that state as your enemy. It is in your best interest to work with them on fixing this issue.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:50 AM on November 1, 2011

I find it a bit strange that so many people believe so strongly that the neighbor's sleep is the OP's problem and I wonder if the tone would change if it were a baby crying or a really loud shower instead of a dog howling.

It is the neighbor's responsibility to get the amount of sleep they need. If it's too noisy for them to do that during the hours they want to do it, there are lots of solutions including, but not limited too, sleep aids and ear plugs.

A minute or two of noise is hardly an unreasonable amount during the day.
posted by toomuchpete at 7:05 AM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

The question wasn't whether the neighbors have a right to perfect silence until 1:00 PM. The question was whether the neighbors were being unreasonable to ask the OPs to keep their dog quiet.

The neighbors are perfectly within their rights to ask for quiet so they can sleep after they finish their shift work. They aren't being unreasonable. At the same time, the OPs would be perfectly within their rights to say politely that they'll do their best but it may not be possible.

The question wasn't about the outcome, it was about whether one side or the other was being unreasonable. It sounds like they're both reasonable and neighborly. Let's hope it stays that way.
posted by alms at 7:15 AM on November 1, 2011

I am on board with everyone else saying if I worked late shifts and was trying to sleep even 2 minutes of intermittent howling would annoy me. Have you thought about a citronella collar? I am not a fan of the electric shock collars as I hate the idea of pain when training a dog but all the citronella ones do is puff some oil dogs really don't like the smell off in front of their faces if they make a noise. It worked very well on my very yappy terrier dog and now he's as good as gold when left alone.

They do need to be fitted properly to work properly a collie mix would be smart enough that they would learn within a few days I bet not to howl when the collar was on and then everyone is happy. If nothing else it would give you something definite to say you were trying to your very patient neighbors instead of just general "training". You could take the collar off when you were home, and once the dog is used to it just putting the collar on pretty much signals the dog that now is quiet time
posted by wwax at 8:53 AM on November 1, 2011

Your neighbors are not being unreasonable. Rather, you are being unreasonable in expecting them to tolerate your dog's noise. They have a right to be left alone in their personal space, and noise is an invasion of that space. Sometimes it's unavoidable, but in this case, you're the problem, not the solution. You should deal with the problem and not try to shift the burden to your neighbors.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 9:01 AM on November 1, 2011

I'm totally sleep-deprived as I write this, but because of my own baby, not a neighbor's dog. I have a lot of sympathy for folks who have their sleep interrupted for causes outside their control. I have the house behind us under construction, and pounding and sawing and shouting all day long, so the whole "sleep when the baby sleeps" thing is kind of right out the window. I get how precious sleep is, and how cranky not getting enough of it makes me people.


8am is generally considered to be an OK time for making noise. The OP is trying to address the problem. I don't really get the "your are making life miserable for your neighbors" thing- it's unintentional and inadvertent on his part- it's not like he's demolishing his bathroom or something.

As a peace offering, would it be possible to either hire someone to come hang out with your dog on the days your are gone or take Donut to a doggy day care a few days a week, just for a week or two or three, so that your neighbors get a break while you are working on it? I know those solutions cost money, but if you could give them two or three weeks of no howling, that might go a long way towards maintaining a neighborly relationship while you work on the dog training.

At this point I would suggest talking to a trainer. Citronella collars did not work on my dog- he quickly figured out that one prolonged burst of barking would use up the entire cartridge, and then he'd be able to bark the rest of the day free of consequences. The ultrasonic bark suppressor also didn't work, btw. I was unwilling to escalate to a shock collar, so I can't speak to that. Generally the thing that works best with dogs is to replace the undesired behavior with one that is incompatible with whatever you want them not to do. A puzzle toy is a good start, a trainer might have more ideas.

If this started when you started your new job, it's possible that the first week Donut howled a lot, but as she becomes accustomed to your absence it will be easier to train her out of it.
posted by ambrosia at 10:50 AM on November 1, 2011

As a shift worker, I'm afraid I sympathise with them.

Look at it this way. 8:00 AM, for them is a bit like 2:00 AM, for you, assuming you get up at around 7:00 AM.

How would you feel about being woken by a howling dog, every day, at 2:00 AM, when you have work in the morning?
posted by Decani at 12:22 PM on November 1, 2011

8am is generally considered to be an OK time for making noise.

It's technically (according to most leases/city ordinances) an okay time for stuff like hanging up pictures and vacuuming, because those are occasional activities (I personally think those should take place closer to mid-day). It's still not OK to have a loud noise every day even if it's only for a few minutes.

My husband's alarm clock goes off way earlier than when I need to get up, and it's often hard for me to sleep even though I know it's coming. If I never knew when I might be woken up or not, I think it would slowly drive me insane. The anticipation of being woken up again is very, very stressful.

We've dealt with loud neighbors in the past, too (4 AM drunken screaming, anyone?)

And you'd be well within your rights to call the cops on them because that's NOT okay. Your neighbors do not have that option (well, at least the cops would be less likely to respond). Presumably the drunken screaming was mostly on the weekends, too, and not a daily occurrence (although it is Madison...).
posted by desjardins at 12:48 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

The former-shift-worker position seems untenable to me. If everything were to revolve around the possibility of disturbing day-sleepers, people would have to be quiet as a churchmouse 24/7. It is the shift-worker's responsibility to secure appropriate housing for their sleep schedule.
posted by jayder at 1:30 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I don't think that is fair. I'd be deeply annoyed at a dog howling every day whether I was sleeping or not. A dog howling for a couple minutes every day is not an appropriate situation for an apartment. The sleeping thing is, in my opinion, a red herring. The behavior is in itself problematic.
posted by Justinian at 5:18 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with Justinian. Howling, specifically, is an extremely piercing noise and two minutes is a long time for sustained noise. Howling every other day doesn't mean your dog sometimes makes noise, it means your dog has a habit of making noise, and that would be a problem for me.
posted by anaelith at 7:58 PM on November 1, 2011

I don't understand why it's not a reasonable solution for them to purchase some earplugs.

It's like complaining that the sun comes up in the morning and wakes them up, but they refuse to buy shades for their windows or a sleep mask.

I work 3rd shift. I sleep during the day. I live in the city. Sirens happen. Lawnmowers happen. Garbage collection happens. Dogs happen. I have earplugs. I sleep well. I don't write letters to the mayor asking him to keep things down so I can sleep.

People talk about dog training like it will magically make the dog stop barking in a matter of days or weeks. I think they get that impression from watching dog training shows on tv and think that it's real or that they didn't actually spend weeks / months of training in between shoots.. and sometimes you can train all you want and a dog just isn't going to respond.

Moving into a "dog friendly" apartment means you're going to have to put up with some dog noise. If they don't like getting woke up by dog noises, they should get some earplugs or move somewhere that doesn't allow dogs.
posted by j03 at 12:30 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is your dog consistently howling upon finishing the puzzle? What is this about, I wonder - sad that the puzzle's over? What happens if you don't give her a morning puzzle? Maybe she'll just sleep?
posted by springbound at 7:34 AM on November 2, 2011

What? No. That's unreasonable. If there were landscaping crews working outside in the morning, would the neighbors ask them to come back later? Garbage pickup trucks? Etc ad nauseum? 8am is a reasonably late time of morning to not worry about tiptoeing around sleeping people. I understand that they work second shift and that is unfortunate for them, but the rest of the world can't put their sound waves on hold for that.

Dog-howling-all-day issues are something entirely different. But a few minutes at 8am is as much as you can ask for from a dog. :) You should really slam your door on the way out on top of it. (NO, no, you shouldn't. That was a joke.)

P.S. Donut is adorable!
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:37 PM on November 2, 2011

(I hate it when people post edits to their comments 2 seconds after posting their comments, BUT ... as you'll figure out by reading my entire comment, by "That's unreasonable" I meant THEY'RE being unreasonable. Not you. Thanks.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:38 PM on November 2, 2011

But a few minutes at 8am is as much as you can ask for from a dog. :)

No it isn't. A well trained dog will not howl for several minutes in the morning every day.
posted by Justinian at 2:42 PM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

« Older Good political debate podcasts?   |   Help me certify a copy of my Brit passport in LA! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.