stop neighbor's barking dog
August 6, 2012 11:23 AM   Subscribe

How can I stop my neighbor's dogs from barking?

So my wife and I recently purchased a home which we really love. For the most part the neighborhood is extremely quiet. Problem is our neighbors have 2 small dogs that are out in their side yard 24 hours a day. As soon as my wife and I go into our backyard they bark and simply do not stop. Sitting in my backyard is no fun because it's just barking all the time. Another problem is the neighbors are fairly "tough" looking dudes who I would almost be scared that if we pissed them off, they could retaliate. Plus they don't speak much English. Any suggestions here? I know I could call the cops but I'm hoping not to have to do that. What about those electronic zapping things you buy to stop dogs barking? Any suggestions here would be great.
posted by ljs30 to Human Relations (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you introduced yourself to the neighbors and dogs? If you befriend the little dogs they might shut the hell up. Niceness goes a long way.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:27 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Step 1 is to make friends with the neighbors around you. This involves chocolate cupcakes. Working on the dog problem is about step 6.
posted by fritley at 11:28 AM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

So, we had a dog-barking problem (it had to be fixed with medicine because she's a rescue etc. etc.) and here's what our neighbors did:
Told the super (who did nothing.)
Told management (who sent us a letter.)
Called the government (who sent us three letters each warning that another letter is coming.)
Anonymously posted a printout of the state laws about dog barking and picture of the
vibrating collar to our door.
Complained to other neighbors.

Here was what our neighbors did not do:
Knock on our door and talk to us about the barking dog. We know they did not do this because the printout appeared on our door while we were home.

Of course, had they talked to us, they would've known the dog was a traumatized rescue, we were working with a behaviorist, and we tried a number of collars (there are sonic ones, spray ones, vibrating ones and, the worst, shock ones) that did little more than spook the dog, and were taking all steps to have this corrected.

Now, I don't know if your neighbors are doing anything about it, but it could be that they don't even know this bugs you. Go talk to them and ask to be introduced to the dogs. Give the dogs hugs and treats (assuming these are just barky dogs and not angry dogs, they might just be barking because NEW PERSON NEW PERSON NEW PERSON) and let them get to know you. It might not work, but it certainly couldn't hurt.
posted by griphus at 11:38 AM on August 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

(NB: We did not use shock collars. Those things are such a last resort that it's hardly ever worth even trying it. Don't even suggest it.)
posted by griphus at 11:39 AM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I recommend the good-cop/bad-cop approach rolled into one person (aka manic-depressive cop).

GOOD COP: Introduce yourself and try to make friends with the dogs. Let them sniff you, talk to them in loving tones, give them doggy snacks.

BAD COP: Buy an ultrasonic noise generator. When the barking gets particularly intense, turn it on for 20 seconds.

Important note: Do NOT leave the ultrasonic noise generator on! This is cruel and may injure the animals. The intent is to train them, not punish them.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:50 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Our side neighbor (responsible dog owner) bought one of these to quiet down the pack of half-dozen dogs our mutual back neighbor (irresponsible dog owner) leaves outside 24/7. It worked.
posted by pantarei70 at 11:52 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I moved into the same situation as yourself about five years ago. The problem in my case was an ill-trained, bored outdoor dog and borderline abusive owners (I witnessed several incidents of this.) Calling the authorities doesn't do much good in this state because people don't think of dogs the same way in this country as they do up north (where I grew up.)

My solution was to make friends with the dog by tossing treats over the fence every time I went outside. He's smart, so it didn't take long for him to stop barking at me and just stand by the fence waiting to be fed whenever he heard my door open. My neighbors didn't appreciate it, but they never told me to stop, and they neglect the poor animal, so they don't get a vote.

My one caveat is that I was dealing with an Australian Cattle Dog who was acting out because he's a working breed who's smart, but has been untrained and given no 'job' to keep him busy. I don't know how well it would go, with, say, my mom's excitable and obnoxious (and stupid) Dachshund.
posted by carolinecrane at 11:54 AM on August 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you're considering an electronic zappy thing, can I suggest that you first try a squirt bottle?

I have three smallish, barky dogs, and we live on a street that has something like fifteen dogs between ten houses. The good news is that no one cares if your dogs are barking...and the bad news is that there's almost always a dog barking. Mine were some of the worst offenders until I invested a buck fifty in a squirt bottle from the hardware store. Put it on stream, and when they bark, shoot it at them. While most dogs like water, it seems that they do not like being squirted, especially if you're aiming for their head.

Of course, the possible downside is that if your neighbors see you doing this, they might get pissed. It's still probably a better option than a zapper, though.

That said, it's maybe worth at least trying to talk to your neighbors. It doesn't have to be all "Hey, your asshole dogs are ruining my backyard, cut it out." You could say something like "Hey, we just moved in, and it seems that your dogs really don't like us--they freak out when we go in our yard, and I'm afraid that we're upsetting them. Can we introduce ourselves to them and try to make them our friends?"

Because, you know, if you can make the dogs your friends, everyone's lives just got a little better, plus now you've established a relationship with your neighbors and have dog friends! Win all around.
posted by MeghanC at 11:55 AM on August 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

Another problem is the neighbors are fairly "tough" looking dudes who I would almost be scared that if we pissed them off, they could retaliate. Plus they don't speak much English.

These guys live across the street from me. They carried my washing machine up the stairs for me when I moved in.

Sure, there are lots of bad guys out there, but there are even more good guys out there who look like bad guys just because of [set of things]. If you approach neighbor dealings from a place of "hey, friendly neighbor, let's work together" rather than "you seem scary, so rather than interact with you I'll just peek at you through my blinds" you'll get a lot farther.

Go over, knock on their door, introduce yourself. I understand that there's a language barrier, but smiles and baked goods translate to all languages.

Once you've made friendly contact with the humans, then work on making friendly contact with the dogs.
posted by phunniemee at 12:06 PM on August 6, 2012 [9 favorites]

One important thing to note is that dogs have about a 10 second window to associate the thing they did (barking) with the bad thing that happened (getting squirted, growled at) or associated the good thing they did (shutting the eff up) with the good thing that happened (getting a treat). If you're going to use some method of negative reinforcement (hopefully with the owner's blessing) you've got to do it within that time-frame.

If they're barking and it takes you more than 10 seconds to find your squirt bottle, they'll just think you're some kind of irrational water squirting person and will probably bark harder.

The first thing I would try is walking up to the dogs and, if they keep barking, growling "NO!" or "QUIET" at them. Really, anything works just use the same word every time and use your best, guttural "Christian Bale as Batman" voice. If that doesn't work, then try adding the squirt bottle. It also helps if you can reward them when they are being good, use a high-pitched, soothing, voice and say, "Good dog!"

If you can talk to the neighbors, they might know about the problem and be thrilled that you're willing to help them train their dogs.
posted by VTX at 12:12 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Replace "2 small dogs" with "a huge great dane and a beagle" and you're describing what happened when mr. erst and I bought our house.

I was out watering plants one day and finally couldn't take the constant-barking-through-the-fence anymore... so I sprayed the dogs with the hose through the fence. Just one quick spray, like I'd "accidentally" shot the hose towards the dogs on their side of the fence instead of the plants on my side of the fence. The dogs stopped barking immediately and haven't done it since. It was like magic.

BTW, best way to piss off your neighbors? Get a beagle and leave it outside a lot. Holy crap, those dogs are obnoxiously loud.
posted by erst at 12:42 PM on August 6, 2012

Some municipalities have very strict laws about what constitutes an acceptable environment for dogs left outside for any period of time, much less 24/7 (sometimes that in and of itself is prohibited). I would look into the requirements of your area to see if there are any issues between their environment and what the law demands.

Then I'd go over in person and ask. Document it. If something happens in recourse, press appropriate charges. Likely, though, nothing will happen.

If asking does nothing, involve whatever is next up the chain - cops, neighbourhood association, animal control, city code. You have a right to enjoy your yard. The dogs have a right to be happy and safe. The neighbours have the responsiblity to manage the delta between those two things.
posted by batmonkey at 12:51 PM on August 6, 2012

Yeah, nthing trying to communicate with the (human) neighbors. Language barriers aren't insurmountable, and it's possible they do actually know *some* English, but that they only use it when talking to English-speakers. It's worth finding out, at least.

That said...I'd actually be inclined to also try and communicate with the dogs even if you can't or simply don't want to talk to their humans. I wouldn't give them treats, mind you, as you don't know if these dogs have food allergies or are on special diets, but tossing a tennis ball to them doesn't seem like it could hurt. And you might be able to figure out the dogs' names by listening to the neighbors interact with them. Many dogs bark (in my experience) because they're waiting for acknowledgment, and if you can learn their names, you might be able to just yell "[DOGNAME], SILENCIO!" or similar. I used to have a neighbor with a fairly barky dog named Bear, and had pretty good luck just yelling "BEAR! SHUSH!" over the fence whenever he started up.
posted by aecorwin at 1:00 PM on August 6, 2012

On preview, everything batmonkey said.

Dogs left out in a yard 24/7 barking constantly are likely not happy or cared for. My family got our rescue dog from people who left him outside 24/7. I believe they only agreed to surrender him after other people in the neighborhood complained.
posted by inertia at 1:05 PM on August 6, 2012

Lots of good advice on what to do, I'm just hear with a word about what not to do. Please don't use an ultrasonic bark deterrent. Here is just one example of the type of posts I see in rescue about dogs that have been subjected to these:

"This Border Collie was in a home where the neighbors used an ultrasonic bark deterrent ("dazer") on all of the dogs in the neighborhood. Zip has very sensitive hearing and started
to have huge behavioral issues when the neighbor used the dazer. Zip knows that when dogs bark, sometimes the horrible sound goes off, so if he is outside by himself and he hears a dog barking, he panics and will do anything to get back into the house, and he is in a sheer
panic when it happens and will try to tear the door down."
posted by HotToddy at 1:40 PM on August 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

I can vouch for the fact that ultrasonic bark deterrents do not deter all dogs from barking. Also they are kind of like a shotgun, in that every dog within range will be affected, even those that are not barking, so not great for innocent neighbor dogs.

You are new to the neighborhood- go introduce yourself and be friendly. If they dogs get to recognize your scent over at their place, they may not bark so much at you in the yard.
posted by ambrosia at 2:05 PM on August 6, 2012

Nthing talking to the neighbors about it first, but we had the same problem. Neighbors pretty much said "Go to hell," in regards to the request that they take the dogs inside when they incessantly barked.

Ended up just giving them a spray with the hose over the fence when the barking started, which worked well. The neighbors did not like this and ended up bringing the dogs inside when they started barking. Admittedly, this strategy made our backyard habitable but did not do much to improve our relationship with the neighbors.
posted by forkisbetter at 2:27 PM on August 6, 2012

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