Surely a paintball gun is not the answer
May 13, 2012 5:53 AM   Subscribe

Barky dogs next door keeping me up at night: is there anything I can do?

We live in a very quiet suburban neighborhood. All is peaceful until anywhere between 10:30 and midnight, when the next-door neighbors let their two barky dogs out. One is a smaller, yappy dog, and the other is a larger, more athletic-type dog with a ragged, piercing bark. The dogs bark intermittently for the next 15-45 minutes. Sometimes it's continuous, sometimes just a bark-bark here and a bark-bark there. Either way, it's just long enough to yank me out of sleep, fully wake me up and put me in a general state of wanting to take a crowbar to their windshield in retaliation. Then they let the dogs in for the night.

The yard of the barky dogs borders the side of our apartment the bedroom is in. I would love to be able to move the bedroom away from the barky side of the house, but that would mean moving it to the kitchen. I've got a white noise machine and earplugs. I've tried experimenting with going to bed earlier versus later, but the problem is equally annoying whether I've just fallen asleep or am about to fall asleep, and there's no predicting when the dogs will bark. This past winter, I wrote them a polite, anonymous letter explaining that the barking was keeping me up, and they actually did seem to get better about it for awhile, letting the dogs in right after the barking started rather than letting it drag on. But now it seems things are backsliding.

Are there any next steps I can take? If not, any mantras of peace and calm I can recite to myself as I am jolted out of a pleasant state of having just fallen asleep and put into barely coherent rage? I thought about buying two anti-bark muzzles and leaving them on the front porch as a big passive-aggressive gift. I could talk to them in person but would rather not because I'm timid, frankly. I guess if that's the best solution I could bottle up some of my rage and use that as courage.

(And yes, I realize that things could be much worse and they could leave their dogs out aaaaaaalllll night, so this seems like small potatoes in the grand scheme of things...small potatoes that are making me so very tired the next day.)
posted by indognito to Human Relations (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your quiet suburban neighbourhood almost certainly has noise by-laws, and ignored barking dogs get, in my experience, fairly swift responses from the people who enforce the noise by-laws. Google something along the lines of 'noise by-law yourtown,' find out who to call, call. People who've already received and mostly ignored a polite letter shouldn't be surprised at all to find things escalated. You will almost certainly remain anonymous, and the by-law folk will escalate the issue if it needs to be escalated, not you; all you do is report. (Assuming same-y jurisdiction)
posted by kmennie at 6:02 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can get ultra sonic bark deterers that you can hang up in your yard to stop neighbours dogs barking. I have never used one so can't say how well they work, and it has mixed reviews, but maybe you could hang one outside your window or on a window ledge. If you have a window over looking their yard a supersoaker might give you some piece of mind, or at least help you vent frustrations.
posted by wwax at 6:19 AM on May 13, 2012

If they responded well to you anonymous letter they will maybe respond even better to you walking over there, introducing yourself and having a chat with them. Honestly I think 10:30 is a little early to be complaining about noise, but maybe a first option that's quite easy for everyone is them agreeing to have the dogs back inside by 10:30 or something like that. No need to get passive-aggressive. And if they don't respond to that, then look in to the noise codes and move on from there.
posted by JPD at 6:20 AM on May 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Try one more note that says something like, "I go to bed at 10. Your dogs wake me up. Per local ordinance [insert specific citation], this is a noise nuisance [or whatever it's called]. I will call the [appropriate authorities] the next time your dogs violate the ordinance."

This lets them know A) a distinct way to avoid the authorities' involvement, B) you're not negotiating, and C) you're right.
posted by Etrigan at 6:21 AM on May 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am sad to say that the ultrasonic anti-bark gadgets did not work on my neighbors dogs. Are you putting the white noise machine between your ears and the dogs/window?
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:23 AM on May 13, 2012

I think 10:30 is a little early to be complaining about noise

Pffft. 10:30 p.m. is LATE, and was late even when I lived in New York City. In our house, we try to keep the noise down from 9 p.m to 9 a.m. to take into account babies, second- and third-shifters, and just trying to be nice to people who want to drink coffee and read the news in peace.

Complain any time you like about noise, whether it's daylight, midnight, or not night. Your complaint will have more strength the later it is, but really, you have the right to speak up and see if your neighbors can do something else than what they're doing.

Are you using the in-ear foam earplugs? Do try those if you haven't already. They work very well for me.

If you're truly desperate, try just blocking that window with a full bookshelf. Move it right over, load it up with as many books as it will hold, and see if that will block the noise. It's worked for me in the past.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:38 AM on May 13, 2012

Thanks all for your answers so far. I hadn't looked into noise ordinances as I assumed this was too minor to qualify--but I am looking into it now. Dear god, how I wish those anti-barking devices would work! That would be perfect.

And thanks for agreeing with me, Mo Nickels, that 10:30 is late--I generally wake up at 6-7, so yeah, it's late for me. Life would be so much easier if I were a heavy sleeper, but alas.

I'd also love any advice on how to defuse my anger after being woken up, because anger+sleep=not compatible. This is assuming the problem doesn't go away any time soon.
posted by indognito at 6:54 AM on May 13, 2012

Call your local Humane Society and ask about the dog noise ordinances in your area. In Tucson, Az a dog owner is responsible for any noise an animal makes that goes beyond their property line. It doesn't matter if you are the only person that the noise is bothering as you have more rights than the dog does. I had a neighbor who worked nights and left their dogs out in the yard all night long and they would start barking as soon as the neighbor went to work. I talked to the neighbor and he said that there was nothing that he could do as the dogs couldn't be left in the house while he was gone. I called the local Humane Society and they explained the noise ordinances to me and sent a notice to my neighbor detailing his responsibilities for taking care of his animals. That worked for me. The local noise ordinances in Tucson includes escalating fines, and the removal of nuisance animals if an owner is unwilling or unable to care for their animals. I would first try talking to your neighbor. If that does not work, check the noise ordinances in your area.
posted by calumet43 at 6:55 AM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

In civil, respectful communities, people have the right to enjoy their property without interference from neighbors' noise at any and all times of the day. Not just late at night. That's what the county ordinance says where I live, and in my opinion, it should say that where everyone else lives too.

posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:22 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

My suggestion would be to figure out what the noise ordinances are, and once you are 100% sure that you are in the right about this, have a conversation in person. I'd start by saying that you live nearby and that the dogs wake you up at night, and ask if the person has considered using bark control collars. If he agrees to it, agree to follow up in a week, and if he says no, explain that the current state of affairs "isn't working for me" and that you've already been in touch with the police, who have told you they will issue noise citations if the problem continues.

"I would really, really like for that NOT to happen, which is why I came over here in person. I hope you can think of something, because I will press the issue through official channels if this happens again."

That's the basic approach I took with my new upstairs neighbors who had a raging move in party into the wee hours one night. I think it sets a better tone to be like, "Yup, it's me who's doing the complaining, but I figured it would be neighborly to give you a chance to fix this on your own" and to calmly state what the correct information is and what the next steps are if you get resistance.
posted by alphanerd at 7:30 AM on May 13, 2012

assumed this was too minor to qualify

You'll probably find it's a really common issue and there're city employees more than familiar with talking to people in your shoes, and they are not on the side of the negligent dog owners. "if this is only bothering you, then you're shit out of luck" is unlikely to be true unless you are in a strangely zoned area, but a normal suburb is unlikely to be zoned for noise.

Really, very common, and you don't need to be apologetic about being disturbed by it. Ottawa has a little page on it -- In accordance with the City's Animal Care and Control By-law, pet owners must prevent their pet from constant barking or other noise that disturbs the peace. Such noise may also signal behavioural problems that the pet owner should address... Register your concerns about barking dogs to the Client Service Centre at 3-1-1. Noise by-law fines here "range from $305 to $5,000."

10:30 is not a reasonable time of day for wake-people-up noise in a residential area.

One thing that worked to soothe my fuss over being up in the night when I didn't want to be up was to accept that I was up and not able to alter that, and I could either spend that time feeling bad or I could get a little glass of liqueur and a big blanket and a look at the moon (though this might be "sit in the comfy chair in the quietest part of the house" as going outdoors would expose you to louder barking). Put yourself to bed earlier if you can so you've got a good shot at getting as many hours' sleep as you need at night.
posted by kmennie at 7:38 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why are all of you assuming the neighbor is acting in bad faith? Talk to people. Most non-pyschopaths will respond to a friendly conversation. Only if they fail to respond do you get the authorities involved. There is already evidence that they want to be good neighbors.
posted by JPD at 7:42 AM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just call the police. In the end, that's the only recourse you have. If the owners were reasonable people with any consideration for others they would already have taken care of this.

Call the police each and every time the dogs are barking at night, and, yes, 10:30 pm is too late.
posted by HuronBob at 8:08 AM on May 13, 2012

Please don't call the police or other authority without first addressing the issue again with your neighbor. You said you wrote a note before and things got better for a while, right? Seems to me that the dog owners are reasonable people. Maybe leave another note (if you really feel uncomfortable about talking to them in person) -- and tell them that the situation improved after you left your prior note, thank them for that, ask them to start doing again whatever it is they did to solve the problem before. "You catch more bees with honey" and all that, and everyone gets to be a good neighbor. Good luck.
posted by Boogiechild at 8:38 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You said you wrote a note before and things got better for a while, right? Seems to me that the dog owners are reasonable people.

I myself am a dog owner, and I would be horrified to learn that my dog had ever disturbed my neighbors, and one note would be enough to ensure that it would never, ever, ever happen again. It really should not be on OP to be gently reminding the neighbors every few months. I think one more written request is generous, and then escalate to filing a complaint, because this is something that you really should not have to ask more than once.

My mom is going through a similar issue with her neighbors, who have unfortunately been assholes when she approached them to talk about it. I did some online research, and for example in Denver you can make a complaint by calling 311. Now Denver is a bit notorious for its (arguably wrongheaded) pit bull ban, but it has a barking dog ordinance [.pdf] that seems pretty bog standard, including specifying 10:30 pm to 7:30 am as hours when dog barking is taken more seriously. Your town probably has something similar.

Have you talked to any of your other neighbors about it? You may not be the only person disturbed by it, and hearing from more than one household may have more impact.

If you aren't ready to escalate to involving the authorities, I'd send them a letter. Since you've already asked once, consider sending this letter certified mail, so that they have to sign for it and you have proof they actually got it. It lays some groundwork for showing they have notice, and it signals to them you aren't kidding around.
posted by ambrosia at 9:02 AM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't have much to say that you haven't heard. But the ultra sonic deterrents tend to work briefly at first but soon the dogs get used to them and the lose their effectiveness.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:17 AM on May 13, 2012

If you end up going with calling the authorities, they might not be too concerned about it. Here's some info about the animal noise criteria in my town. It takes 3 separate calls from different residences before the city will do anything about it.
posted by LionIndex at 10:09 AM on May 13, 2012

I have nothing to add other than a healthy dose of commiseration. Our neighborhood has, what I believe, to be a glut of inconsiderate dog owners who will quite literally let their dogs bark outside for hours and hours in the middle of the night.

I have yet to find a way to make peace with barking dogs. The only thing that makes it bearable is having white noise in the house (fans, sound machine...) and sometimes wax earplugs. Oh yeah, and the occasional explosion of explicatives that does nothing to solve the problem but makes me feel slightly less crazy with frustration.
posted by teamnap at 10:16 AM on May 13, 2012

Because they don't let the dogs bark for a long period of time (10+ minutes at a time), they probably aren't breaking any city ordinance. I had the same problem with my neighbors a while back, and really all I could do was get used to it, which eventually I did learn to sleep through it.
posted by Circumstands at 11:11 AM on May 13, 2012

I think you have a good attitude about it but I want to say as a dog owner I totally agree with the don't call authorities or use rage and/or passive aggressive techniques. I let my dog out at exactly that time since he needs to use the restroom before I go to bed (which is usually around 11p). That said, my dog has barked outside on occasion and I attempt to stop that behavior as soon as I hear it. The problem is that as a dog owner I don't always register when it is happening right away and I can't control it to a degree. So, I would say talk to your neighbor and work with them in trying to come up with a solution.

Ultimately, intermittent dog barking is going to happen. BUT, he can work with the dogs and train them not to bark. My dog for example will do one or two barks and then look at me (I assume to make sure I am still standing firm on my no barking rule)... since I've trained him that barking is only to be used in emergencies. We live in a big city meaning that we have lots of neighbors who live on top of and under us. I hope this helps diffuse some of the anger by hearing from someone who could or maybe even has been on the other side. I've only had 1 complaint about my dog barking and I actually think it was the other neighbors dog because I heard it too when my dog was sleeping right in front of me. Although I can't convince someone who had their mind set that my dog was the barking bandit.
posted by MyMind at 11:37 AM on May 13, 2012

If negotiations fail, ear plugs are the answer. The Ear Plug Superstore has an inexpensive selection of high-attenuation plugs. If you still hear the dogs, a white noise generator may help.
posted by KRS at 12:40 PM on May 13, 2012

I was able to resolve a similar issue by contacting my city's animal control department (they handle barking complaints). They left a notice on the dog owner's door, explaining the owner's responsibilities, and penalties for not not meeting those responsibilities.

This was after leaving polite notes failed to do the trick. I had no hesitation in allowing a third party to handle it; if my neighbor wasn't willing to do their part to be a good neighbor, then unleash the hounds (of law).

Good luck.
posted by quivering_fantods at 1:21 PM on May 13, 2012

Unless you don't have to work for a living, 10:30 is way to much. Sometimes even a couple barks is enough to ruin a good night's sleep. Ten to one, they're just shoving the dogs outside and ignoring the barking. Write a second note, anon, and ask them to train the dogs with anti-bark collars and/or go outside with them to prevent them from barking. Don't threaten, just see if they follow through.

When they don't, call the police or animal control. Explain that they don't bark for hours, but that they bark long enough each night to wake you up. Continue to make yourself a PITA until the authorities convince your neighbors they're assholes.

Otherwise, get yourself a loud recording of a dog barking, and put it out your window at five am for three minutes.

It's just a couple barks, you know.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:02 PM on May 13, 2012

I'd start with one more note, asking them to please have the dogs back inside by [time you go to bed] because you are losing sleep and just can't afford to allow this to continue. Assuming they are already home (as opposed to arriving home at the later hour) I don't see why it would be a big deal for them to push up their schedule a little bit so that it's not an issue by the time you are trying to get to sleep. The dogs can wee a little earlier, and you can get your rest.

If this doesn't work, or works for a while and then they slip back into old practices, I'd start calling any/all appropriate authorities, as often as needed.
posted by taz at 2:05 AM on May 14, 2012

Just popping back in to say that I followed PorcineWithMe's advice and last night put the white noise machine mere inches from my head, then cranked it up to high. It was a bit like sleeping in a hotel room with a noisy AC unit, but it seemed to do the trick. If I should ever get too thoroughly sick of drowning my own bedroom with noise at night, though, I will certainly follow the advice to write one more note to the owners and/or contact the anti-barky authorities.
Thanks again, everyone.
posted by indognito at 6:20 AM on May 14, 2012

My downstairs neighbor adopted a puppy a few months ago and unfortunately, that puppy is in the barky-teenager-stage of dog training.

I use earplugs at night just to fall asleep and usually end up getting out of bed at least once during the night to use the bathroom, so I just take them out then (because it's the middle of the night and the barky dog is asleep). Then I'm fine. If the barky dog wakes me up and I get all pissed off, the best way to calm the eff down again that I've found is to get up and either have a half a glass of skim milk or a cup of chamomile tea. Usually just blowing on the tea to cool it down enough to sip is enough to calm me down. Sometimes it takes a little more conscious self-reminding than other times, but it usually does the trick.

What KILLS me is when I work from home on occasion. My neighbor is obviously at work and the barky dog gets all barky when her dog walker shows up and after the dog walker drops the barky dog back at home once walked. I found just having the window open and some calming music helps drown out the barking. But that's in the middle of the day and I can't do much else.

In your situation, I wouldn't recommend calling the police - it seems a little extreme and in a suburban neighborhood, could create drama and no one wants bad blood with their neighbors. I'd try the earplugs first and if it still isn't working, maybe stop by and just talk to them. People are oftentimes far more reasonable and understanding about these things than we give them credit for. Good luck!
posted by floweredfish at 7:25 AM on May 14, 2012

I dunno. 10-15 minutes of baking between 10:30 and midnight is really pushing the "quiet neighborhood" bylaws. They are animal noises, and they are not - by your own admission - going on for hours. Keep in mind the neighbor has limited control over them - it's not the adult neighbor making these noises. It's almost as if these were little children. You can tell a child to stop screaming, it doesn't mean it will listen.

Also, 10:30 is early to make a fuss about noises. Is it "late" for early birds? Sure, and I understand why you'd be annoyed....but a fuss? With cops? Eeeeh....

I would say if you really want to stop the barking (buying muzzles is just...weird) try to figure out what the dogs are barking at. Dogs don't bark for fun. Is there a jogger that comes buy at 11pm ish? Are there raccoons going through the trash? It could be to your actual advantage to figure out what these dogs are barking at.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:43 PM on June 12, 2012

« Older Which Android phone do I want?   |   Some GarageBand for iPad Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.