help us quiet barky mcbarkypants
March 17, 2012 11:44 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way for us to endear ourselves to the barking terror next door so that we don't have to listen to his aggressiveness every time we open the door out back?

We share a fence with the other side of our duplex. They've got a small dog who barks aggressively every time we open our back door--which is a lot, because we have two dogs of our own and, well, they gotta go.

Our dogs, by the way, couldn't care less about Barky. But when they go out back, or mr. aria or I go out for a smoke, Barky barks pretty constantly, growling in between. Through knotholes in the fence I've seen himget all foamy around the mouth with rage. It's not happy "hi!" barks, it definitely seems aggressive.

(as a side note, before we knew what he looked like we actually found him wandering around out front, having escaped through their fence door, and he warmed up to us enough to get a leash on him, figure out he was our neighbor, and return him home--he was standoffish but not aggressive toward us then)

We've tried saying basically saying hi, since we know his name. Talking calmly to him. We've tried a firm "no." We've tried ignoring him. We've tried, with the neighbor's permission, to give him treats to help him get used to us. We've lived here for almost a year and thus far nothing has worked.

His owners don't really take much interest in him. He spends most of his time outside, and sometimes their kids come out to play with him, but all other interactions consist of them shouting from inside for him to shut up, opening the door and telling him to shut up, and ignoring the barking.

Any ideas? Thanks!
posted by adrianna aria to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Would his owners let you walk him? It might endear you to him more.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 11:56 PM on March 17, 2012

Poor thing. Years ago, my boyfriend had the same problem with his neighbor's largely neglected dog, too; he wound up taking care of her when the neighbor went out of town for a week, and he discovered that all she wanted was attention, at which point her barking decreased by about 95%. Eventually he adopted her (the neighbor was only too happy to be rid of the responsibility), and she's been an easygoing dog ever since.

I'm not actually suggesting you offer to adopt Barky, but what if you offer to take the dog for a walk or to the dog park now and then, or to come over for a play date with your dogs (assuming they can all be introduced in a neutral space)? It might burn off some of the energy/desperation Barky seems to be displaying, plus would socialize him to you guys a little more.
posted by scody at 12:01 AM on March 18, 2012

I wondered if I wrote this question in my sleep. I have a dog next door who drives us nuts (although she's a Kelpie - a working dog who should not be shut up in a suburban backyard all day every day - and not only is she never walked but her owners never interact with her at all). I work from home, and get to listen to this dog bark pretty much constantly from about 6am until about 10pm. All day, every day.

I've tried everything you have tried. I've offered to walk her, but her owners insist that 'she's there to guard the house against intruders and brown snakes' so refuse to let me take her out, even briefly.

She is obviously bored to tears. She barks when her owners leave and come home, she barks when cars drive past, she barks when people walk past, she barks when I hang the washing out, she barks when birds fly overhead, she barks when their bloody cleaner is in their house.

Honestly, the only thing that gives me respite from the constant barking is a whistle. I bought a dog-training whistle on ebay for about $8, and when I blow it for a few seconds, she shuts up for a few minutes.

I could make a report to the local ranger but a) her owner works for the council (which employs the ranger) and b) if she was removed, she'd be taken to the RSPCA and probably put down in a week, which she doesn't deserve. (She just needs a goddamned responsible owner with a huge property and perhaps some sheep she could round up for fun.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:20 AM on March 18, 2012

My first thought upon reading this is that you offer to cut a small door into the fence, between your yard and theirs. That dog is lonely, and heartbroken. That pooch would be 200 times happier, unless of course it turns out that it really is an aggressive psycho-dog, in which case board the fence back up, and call whoever it is that needs to be called to resolve this situation; it's bullshit that these people are not taking care of their responsibility. If they're so heartless as to do this to that animal, it'd be best that animal not be with them.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:36 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Get the dog taken away to the RSPCA, then adopt it.
posted by rhizome at 1:34 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had this and it drove me nuts. My next door neighbor never let the dog out. I called animal welfare officers and the problem went away. I presume the dog was removed. It should have been removed. It was having a crappy life.

As others have summised, this dog is bored stiff. Dogs are social creatures and the barking is a reaction to that. Either the owners deal with that problem or you should have a go at engineering a situation where the dog gets new owners.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:59 AM on March 18, 2012

Sad question. We have a similar situation with a neighbor dog confined to a balcony all alone day and night, with rare exceptions for weather. (Never seen his owners take him for a walk ever. Never even seen the owners ever. Never seen the dog when he wasn't completely alone – and I see him every day, sometimes multiple times a day. It's terrible.) He's big and scary, and I honestly have no idea if this dog were to ever actually get access to my dog (or me, or anyone) whether he would tear the subject limb from limb, or be overjoyed to finally have any kind of creature contact.

From a humane point of view, it would be great if barky could come over and play with your dogs occasionally, if all parties, canine and human, are willing, but that would need to be approached with care, since he may have become aggressive as a result of frustration – or your dogs may not be hep on the idea. But even if it worked out well, I don't think that would solve the problem, because he would probably still be barking for attention in hopes of coming over.

The problem is called "barrier frustration" or "fence aggression" or "fence fighting," and there's probably nothing you can do on your side to resolve that. It would take training, commitment, care, and time from the owners, who seem distinctly uninterested in investing in any of that. Sometimes the dogs exhibiting this behavior are perfectly fine if they are able to interact normally, but sometimes the frustration makes them dangerous.

I'll make one suggestion in a weak attempt to answer the question of what you can do, though I feel like it probably has little chance of success. When you go outside and he starts barking, try to be close enough that the moment he stops barking you can throw him an irresistible treat. He only gets Irresistible Treat when he's not barking. Keep it up over time. You should also include soothing, encouraging "goooooood boy!" etc. banter. Only when he's not barking. If he's barking, he doesn't get Irresistible Treat, or any communication or interaction. Never ever. This is obviously a simple, straightforward positive reinforcement technique, but if his frustration is at OCD level, or his genetic makeup is for guarding behavior, or his adrenaline is up, or he's just not that motivated by food rewards, or it's so intermittent that it doesn't register... it probably won't have that much effect. But I'd certainly give it the old college try. Good luck!
posted by taz at 4:17 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

This sounds awful. Poor dog.

Could you toss him a chewie type of toy?
posted by kinetic at 5:16 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was going to write a long comment about fence aggression, but taz pretty much covered it. Every time you and your dogs retreat into the house, the neighbor's dog is being rewarded for his behavior (he can't recognize that your actions have nothing to do with HIS actions). The classic advice for this is for the dog owners to enlist some friends to come stand by the fence, let the dog tire himself out from barking, and reward the dog when he's quiet. The 'threat' on the other side of the fence only leaves when the dog is calm.

Unfortunately this is going to be difficult for a non-owner to work on.
posted by muddgirl at 8:29 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why do you think he's barking at you and not your dogs? I think he needs some socialization with dogs, but I'd be loathe to try it without the owner's buy-in. The dog needs training to control his aggression. I don't know there's anything you can do without allowing him to be around your dogs, and I strongly don't recommend this without training.
posted by desjardins at 9:20 AM on March 18, 2012

If you gave it treats while it was barking you were reinforcing the barking, and just like muddbirl and taz said if you go inside while it's barking then it's barking has done its job and scared you off.

Find a super treat that it is nuts for, go out in the back yard. If it stops barking even for a second, even if its just to catch it's breath. Say good boy in the super happiest voice you can and try and give it the treat while it's quiet. Keep doing this and once he gets the hang of the idea that quietness gets the treat make him be quieter longer.

This is of course all complicated by the fact there is what sounds like a wooden fence between you guys. Clicker training might be a big help then you can use the clicker to reinforce the correct behaviour instead of the treat and he would be able to hear that through the fence. The idea of clicker training is easy to learn for both dogs and people, it's just getting the timing right to mark the correct behaviour that takes a little practice. There are lots of great videos on Youtube on the subject.

Other options/ideas that others may or may not agree with, I prefer positive rewards instead of consequences in training but these can be effective too. A supersoaker or water pistol and when he runs at the fence barking squirt him through the fence. Ask the neighbours if you can buy an citronella bark collar for him, it will squirt citronella oil in the dogs face when it barks, it doesn't hurt them like a shock collar (which I am vehemently against) but they don't like the smell. Downside these collars can be a bit temperamental and most dogs learn that they can bark when they don't have the collar on.
posted by wwax at 9:54 AM on March 18, 2012

Call animal care and control. That dog (and every dog) deserves a proper home with people who don't neglect him.
posted by trip and a half at 11:57 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

FWIW, in many localities in the US, leaving a dog outside all day is not legally neglect as long as the dog has food, water, and shade. Some localities have animal noise laws, although many of them require much more continuous barking than "I went outside and she started barking."
posted by muddgirl at 12:03 PM on March 18, 2012

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I pretty much figured that there wasn't a whole lot we could do, but I thought maybe there was something outside the box we hadn't figured out yet.

We'll give the Irresistible Treat thing a go; I'm not sure we want to take him for walks with us because I'm not sure how he would interact with our dogs (they're pretty big and tend to think that small animals are for chasing instead of meet and greet).

Thanks for the info about fence aggression, I didn't even know about that.

For those concerned about his welfare, we don't really think he's all that bad off. During the summer when it's really hot he wasn't outside nearly as often, and he doesn't look sick or mangy or anything. I think it's more of a benign neglect than anything else. It used to be the grandmother's dog too so they might have gotten stuck with him and feel like they can't give him up or anything. Who knows.
posted by adrianna aria at 7:14 PM on March 18, 2012

This works with my neighbours' dog, also a kelpie. Get a Super Soaker and keep a bucketful of water out the back. When it barks, say "NO!" firmly and squirt the dog. It will get the message quickly enough.
posted by Wolof at 11:50 PM on March 18, 2012

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