I don't want to be THAT neighbor.
April 7, 2013 6:44 AM   Subscribe

I am worried about my dogs adjusting to an apartment, is it a good idea to send a "hey, sorry if they're noisy, we're working on it! Please let me know if you have a complaint!" letter around to my immediate neighbors upon arrival? If it IS a good idea, any suggestions for wording?

I am moving in a few weeks from a house to an apartment. I am a bit worried about making too much noise myself, but my primary concern is my 3 dogs. All 3 have never lived anywhere but houses (all are over 5 years old), so they are a bit unprepared for "here's a noise that sounds like it's in the house, but I promise it's not, so ignore it". The complex is very dog friendly, but I do not know if any of my immediate neighbors will have dogs. I am working with them before we go and plan to dedicate pretty much every waking moment to training as soon as we arrive, but I'm wondering if a pre-emptive strike is a good idea.

My thought was to send a letter around to the adjoining units basically explaining the above and giving an email address that they can use to alert me to any issues. Is this a good idea? If you are an apartment dweller, how would you feel about receiving such a letter? OR would an in-person visit be better?

I don't want it to come across as "they WILL be loud and annoying" or "just deal with it because I told you already, so you can't complain". I am struggling with exactly how to phrase it so that it doesn't come across as weird or concerning OR tip someone over into hyper vigilance for every single possible noise that might be from my dogs. Any suggestions for wording?
posted by HermitDog to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It won't matter how you word your letter, if one of your neighbors gets annoyed they will interpret your communication in only the worst possible light. Instead of sending out something your neighbors can wave in your landlord's face, why not go directly to your landlord with your concern? That way if your neighbors do the un-neighborly thing and go banging on the landlord's door to solve any foreseen or unforseen problem, you'll have headed them off at the pass.

However, communicating with your neighbors is a great idea! Rather than a letter, though, I'd try talking to them in person. Maybe with some fresh baked goods in tow.
posted by carsonb at 6:51 AM on April 7, 2013

"I apologize in advance for any noise my three beloved dogs may make as they adjust to living in an apartment. I'm working with my veterinarian to find a solution. If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them! I know how annoying this must be, and I thank you for your patience as I try to ease our friends [Dognames] through this period. I have a box of earplugs available -- please come up to [apartment number] and have a cookie and pick up some earplugs if you want." Put it on the front door of every unit you think might be able to hear the dogs. Add two units in each direction.

If people take you up on it and visit, you can show them that the dogs aren't dangerous and explain further what you're doing to fix the problem.
posted by Etrigan at 6:54 AM on April 7, 2013

I've been on the other end of this, where a young dog suddenly turned up in a neighbour's home and started making all kinds of noise (including howling when no one was home, especially when the dog could hear us in the next unit).

If I were your one of your neighbours, I think I'd prefer an in-person visit rather than a letter; if nothing else, it would allow me to let you know how much of a problem they're likely to pose in my case. I think the tone you suggest -- "I really don't want them to bug you, please let me know if they do and I'll try my best to fix that" -- is the right one.
posted by mcwetboy at 6:57 AM on April 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

I don't think a letter is necessary- let people decide on their own if the dogs are annoying; maybe they'll adjust quicker than you think. I also wouldn't want anyone offering me earplugs to deal with their noise- if it's loud enough to bother me (apartment dweller used to a certain amount of life noise), it's just too loud, I don't want earplugs, you just have to fix it. But a visit to introduce yourself sounds nice! And you could mention the dogs then.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:03 AM on April 7, 2013

If you tell your neighbors to let you know if the dogs make noise, what will you do when they do? You can't do any more than try your best to train the dogs and get them used to the situation, which you will be doing anyway.

I don't see what a letter or visit will accomplish and it can be taken in a dozen negative ways. Either your neighbors are dog people or otherwise accommodating, in which case they will understand with or without a note, or they aren't and will not respond well to a note. You have the right to have dogs in the building, and going to your neighbors with -- ahem -- your tail between your legs puts you in a position of weakness and invites them to walk all over you.

Just do the best you can. Be sure to schedule things so that you can be home with the dogs for at least a few days as soon as you move in, and be friendly to the neighbors when you see them, but don't talk about the dogs' barking. If they bring it up (to you or the landlord), that's when you can politely but firmly state what you are doing to acclimate the dogs to the apartment.
posted by payoto at 7:06 AM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would probably wait to actually move in, and then tell your neighbors on either side as well as maybe other people on your floor, verbally, something like, "Please let me know if you hear my dogs barking. This is their first time living in an apartment and I'm working on training them to be good apartment dogs. Here's my phone number/email address/etc"

I would not send a letter to everyone in the building. That's overkill.

If the apartment is not carpeted and you have downstairs neighbors, you may want to be prepared for Dogs Horsing Around complaints from the people immediately below you. That's been an issue in other apartments I've lived in, and it's something I've addressed with my downstairs neighbors (who insist it's not a problem, but I think they're being polite).
posted by Sara C. at 7:10 AM on April 7, 2013

If you leave a letter include something like a bottle of wine with it.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:20 AM on April 7, 2013

I like the idea of an in-person visit. In my old building, my new next-door neighbor visited me, introduced himself, and told me that he was learning to play the bongo drums, with practice during [hours]. And if it was ever bothering me, I should just let him know and he'd stop.

What happened was, I'd hear him playing (and he really wasn't any good, obviously new to it). And instead of being startled, or getting bothered by his rhythm problems, or even seething (if I was otherwise not in a mood to be impinged on), I'd think, "Aw, there's Steve. Good luck to him." Knowing about the source of the noise, feeling amiably toward the maker of the noise, and knowing I was welcome to object at any time, it really helped short-circuit any bad feelings. So it turned out to be a win-win situation.
posted by theatro at 7:23 AM on April 7, 2013 [15 favorites]

Some clarifications:

The building in question is only 8 units, 4 upstairs, 4 downstairs, I'll be downstairs. There are several other buildings in the complex, each unit opens directly outside and has a balcony/patio. There's also a dog park area on-site.

The manager is pretty great, I'll mention the situation to her and perhaps she can even tell me if anyone else in my building has dogs.

I work from home full time, so other than the off chance of socializing right after I arrive, or small errands, I can dedicate as much time to their training as I need.

It seems the consensus is toward an in-person "new neighbor" visit, so I think I'll go that direction. I have been overthinking this for a while, so I appreciate the feedback!
posted by HermitDog at 7:31 AM on April 7, 2013

Seeing your description of the building, the only people I think you need to talk to are people who directly share walls with you. So possibly the other three units on your floor? Or possibly only one or two of those units?

With you working from home full time, it also sounds like you will be there to know what's going on and whether they're reacting to stuff. That said, my dog reacts to some pretty esoteric things, so be prepared for weirdness.
posted by Sara C. at 7:39 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am in control of the heat for my building, due to weirdness. So I thought: why don't I circulate an email address, that I'll set up to forward to my phone as a text, so that neighbors can let me know if the settings are correct as winter begins! (I was smart enough not to give out my actual phone number.)

One of the two neighbors never used it, though I later found out he was freezing most of the winter. Poor sap.


(She also, like, was apparently incapable of opening a window? I dunno. Nice person otherwise!)

This was, in the end, my fault. I invited it.

The point being: Why don't you see how the dogs do, and if there are problems, drop by your neighbors' with some cookies and let them know that you're working on it.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:01 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this would work, but it is worth a shot:
Dogs tend to respond to noises of people they don't know; why not introduce the dogs to the neighbors who share walls (or live above) you? Have each of them give a treat to the dogs, pet them, say hello. Maybe the dogs will be calmer about the noises of people nearby when they've identified the people in question as being friends.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:17 AM on April 7, 2013

If you are already doing all you can do, there is no reason to inform your neighbors as such. All it will do it open you up to complaining and possibly make you look like a pushover or become the target of harassment. You moved into a dog-friendly building and you have dogs. Do your best. There's no reason to give your neighbors a running commentary, a narrative, or any other reason to seek your apology. I definitely would not offer your number or email as a route to complain to you that your dogs are too noisy (as suggested above).

More here: http://ask.metafilter.com/191218/Will-you-please-be-quiet-please-But-I-am#2752331
posted by juniperesque at 8:22 AM on April 7, 2013

I agree that sending out a letter in advance could "prime" your neighbours to expect problems. I'd recommend going out of your way to introduce yourself and the dogs to your immediate neighbours, making it clear that all of you are new and friendly. If they have any common sense, the idea that it will take everyone a bit of time to adjust will not be a big surprise.
posted by rpfields at 8:30 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, new neighbor in-person visit. Don't make it about the dogs, though. Just to introduce yourself and be friendly. Mention how reassuring it is for you to have friendly people around to keep an eye on the complex when you're not there, etc. You could mention the dogs, but don't make that the focus or it will sound like the foretelling of doom and pre-prepare them to be sensitive to that.

The purpose of the meeting is to make yourself a real person. It's harder to be pissed at someone you're already on good terms with, and when you are, it's harder to just call the cops or landlord rather than considerately say something in person.

Do not give them a dated letter in writing that could show up later as Exhibit A - proof that this has been occurring and that defendant has been aware of the problem since [date].
posted by ctmf at 8:33 AM on April 7, 2013

Why don't you give it a week or two and see how the dogs actually adjust and figure out what specific problems they have (hearing other neighbors through walls, barking at them from the window, etc.) before you go announcing that they ARE a problem. Maybe they will be fine, maybe they get excited but only about one particular thing that can be easily dealt with. Given them a chance.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:54 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

One thing to consider once you've moved in...I live in a two-building low-rise complex where one of the buildings was just opened to dogs, and perhaps because of that we suddenly had like five medium dogs, mostly young. The dogs are lovely and well trained not to bark incessantly at nothing. However, their owners are SO careful about this that the noise does bother me--not the dog, the owners. You can easily block out the occasional barking, but when that's followed up by a human talking in a raised voice and stern tone, it's much harder to filter.

Point being, reasonable people will be okay with the dogs barking occasionally, and unreasonable people will never be satisfied no matter what, so don't overdo the discipline, because that's even more annoying.
posted by sarahkeebs at 9:45 AM on April 7, 2013

Dogs tend to respond to noises of people they don't know; why not introduce the dogs to the neighbors who share walls (or live above) you?

This has not really made a difference for my dog, who is also a recent convert from suburban house w/ yard to apartment living. Suspicious noises are ALWAYS SUSPICIOUS, even if they are being caused by a friendly neighbor.

In fact I have a feeling my dog is more likely to bark if it's a friend out there, because YAYFRIENDSYAY.

That said, it might at least help your neighbors be sympathetic to your plight if they meet your sweet pups first and then maybe later hear a bark or two. It's along the lines of what someone said upthread about the neighbor learning the bongos.

I'll also say that it's completely unpredictable what my dog is going to bark at. Dog barking in the distance? Doesn't care. Loud music or voices of humans going about their day to day? Doesn't care. Someone walking in this one particular part of the yard? SOUND THE ALARM.
posted by Sara C. at 11:06 AM on April 7, 2013

Too lazy to do a deep search, but I remember another Ask Me post or comment about a neighbor complaining about the poster's dog barking, but – funny thing – some specific times that they complained about, the poster was home, and knew for an absolute fact that the dog was not barking. So there was either an acoustics problem that made it seem that the noise was coming from the poster's apartment, or perhaps the complainer was just somehow convinced that it must be that dog for whatever reason. I agree with those who've said don't give anybody a reason to get that notion lodged in their mind.

See what happens when it happens, and if your dogs are barking, let your neighbors know personally at that point that you are home with them and totally committed to working it out. Good luck with the move and the doggies!
posted by taz at 11:54 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think think think you are are to be commended for being a considerate neighbor and I wish you would move in next to me instead of the a*****e who lives there now. I would be delighted to hear that he recognized that his dog's barking at 6:30 AM every morning was a problem that he was taking steps to correct! However, I agree that you don't need to send a pre-emptive letter. You sound like a very nice person and I would hate to see anyone take advantage of that. Since you are home all day, you will know if your dogs have done anything that requires an apology. I think, in a dog friendly building, a couple short incidents of barking in the middle of the day should be expected. Only prolonged barking or barking during normal sleeping hours might merit an apology visit.

If your dogs do seem to have trouble adjusting I can't recommend regular walks highly enough. An hour a day was all that was required to keep mine healthy, happy, and silent for many years of apartment living.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:39 PM on April 7, 2013

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