Confronting neighbors about their dog's incessant barking.
December 30, 2003 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Anyone have any experiences to share with confronting neighbors about their dog's incessant barking? [more inside...]

This dog barks day and night. We're appalled that a) none of the other neighbors notice and b) the dog's owners themselves don't seem to notice or care. But this dog's yapping is driving us fucking crazy. We're not real tight with these neighbors, and one of them seems a little unstable. I'm willing to go over and calmly ask them if they can get it under control. But I wanted to hear some other peoples' experiences first, to see what kind of responses I might expect.
posted by yalestar to Human Relations (25 answers total)
in my experience, the neighbours just smile, then deny there's a problem with their "little darlings", but maybe you live in a country with a bit more respect for such things. good luck.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:20 PM on December 30, 2003

Describe the situation a little more: are you urban, sub-urban, rural? Is the dog outside all this time? Is it confined to a yard? Is it an indoor pet that you can hear through the walls?

What kind of nuisance animal laws does your jurisdiction have? What kind of noise ordinances?

Are you in a situation to make a good gesture such as offering to help out on the cost of obedience training?

Do you think that the other neighbors _really_ don't hear the dog -- or do they just not want to get involved? If they can't hear the dog, why can you?

For starters, though, I would call the local ASPCA or Humane Society and see if they have any resources/suggestions.
posted by silusGROK at 4:33 PM on December 30, 2003

Our council have a noise pollution section within Environmental Health for just this kind of situation. Essentially I think they send them a letter telling them to keep the dog quite.
posted by feelinglistless at 4:37 PM on December 30, 2003

Someone left a note on my door about my roommate's dog. Now the dog is confined to a room instead of hanging out in the back yard. The note was unsigned, but it did the trick.

Now, does anybody know how I can get my roommate to sweep up dog hair?
posted by Frank Grimes at 4:42 PM on December 30, 2003

Try the calm approach first, though you shouldn't expect any results. It's entirely possible they don't know or care about the barking, if they're at all like most of the folks in my own neighborhood. Failing that, about all you could do is condition the dog against barking: turn a hose on it when you catch it starting up again.
posted by majick at 4:42 PM on December 30, 2003

Couldn't you call the police without the neighbors knowing it was you?
posted by callmejay at 4:42 PM on December 30, 2003

Response by poster: Describe the situation a little more:

It's a suburban setting. The dog seems to spend most of its time outside in their fenced yard. You're right: I assumed the neighbors can't hear it, but given the fact that there are many houses equidistant to the dog with no other obstructions or barriers, I'd have to believe that at least some of them can hear it. Whether they're as annoyed by it as we are, I couldn't say.

I like that idea of offering a friendly gesture. Anything to make it seem less like a personal attack. I don't have a dog myself, but I've been trying to imagine how I would react if someone came over and politely asked me to get the barking under control. And I think I'd be pretty contrite about it, so long as the complaint was civil.

As for nuisance and noise ordinances... my next step will probably be looking into just that. I'm just wondering whether it's best to at least register a neighborly complaint first.
posted by yalestar at 4:47 PM on December 30, 2003

If one of the neighbor/owners seems "unstable" as you put it, I'd advise a call Animal Control or whatever officially empowered body handles animal problems in your community instead of taking matters into your own hands. I say this only because they do have the power of law behind their activities and some basic training for dealing with both unruly animals and people. Both the power and training could come in helpful if the unstable neighbor freaks out at the suggestion that his dog is a disturbance, and animal agents can (and almost certainly will) also investigate (in a way that you can't) to be sure that the poor animal isn't barking his head off because he's being neglected and simply needs some meaningful attention.

Being neighborly is great, but this, to me, is one of those situations in which the most neighborly thing is to maintain a distance and let people who can do more than "request" or "suggest" intervene -- on the animal's behalf and yours.
posted by Dreama at 5:04 PM on December 30, 2003

I was in one of those situations years ago and solved it eventually by moving. The owners themselves didn't care, the police told me essentially to quit bugging them, and Animal Control found no violations. This was in suburban/ex-urban So. Cal. It turned me completely against dogs and their owners.
posted by TimeFactor at 5:25 PM on December 30, 2003

Unstable-violent, or unstable-loony-tunes-but-pretty-harmless?
posted by Blue Stone at 5:36 PM on December 30, 2003

Yalestar... I'd look into ordinances first. Maybe go so far as to call the enforcement agencies to take their temperature ("Do you enforce this? What will happen if I need to call you? If the neighbors feign ignorance/innocence?") -- that way, when you go over offering the olive branch, you don't come up short-changed if they turn out to be less-than-neighborly.

"Hey Joe, I've been meaning to talk to you. I don't know you really well, so don't take this the wrong way... but Lassie's (learn the dog's name first -- makes referring to the problem easier without involving accusatives like "your dog", which sounds too much like "you") barking is really getting to me and I'm here to see if there's anything we can do about. She may be lonely, or she may just think barking is the in thing... I dunno."

"Screw you yalestar."

"Look, I was hoping to resolve this friendly-like... I'd even be willing to go in on some obedience training. The folks at the Humane Society say a properly trained dog ... "

"Maybe you didn't hear me the first time: screw you."

"I heard you... but I was hoping I could keep the authorities out of this. The fine for nuisance barking is $600, and I just don't see why we can't resolve this ourselves."

Anyway, you get the idea.
posted by silusGROK at 5:50 PM on December 30, 2003

Dogs will bark for awhile when they are in a new setting (like a new home) but they stop when they get used to it. A constantly barking dog is a very unhappy dog. It's likely that it doesn't have food, water, proper shelter or all 3.

I've gone through this dozens of times and I've tried notes to the offending neighbors and they never work. Call Animal Control or the SPCA to come and have a look. Chances are, the dog needs a new home.
posted by jabo at 7:10 PM on December 30, 2003

Now, does anybody know how I can get my roommate to sweep up dog hair?

Roommate might be partial to a note on your door.
posted by Feisty at 8:13 PM on December 30, 2003

three words: prestone® marinated beefsteak.
posted by quonsar at 8:25 PM on December 30, 2003

quonsar: :-( We post dog questions b/c we love the critters, not because we yearn for their deaths.

Hmm, basically, I second what everyone else has said. Animal control is a county function where I live, and it's complaint-driven. I'd recommend you call the animal control officer FIRST and see what codes are actually enforced, just as Silas recommended.

Do check into the situation, if the dog is barking, there's probably something else wrong. And even if animal control doesn't usually do anything about a simple barking problem, they might be more inclined to act if you let them know the animal is being neglected as well.

One last threat you can use, if you have to - I bet anything that dog doesn't have a valid license. In this county, non-licensing is a $50 fine, completely preventable if you license the dog before animal control finds out about it. So if you have the Silas recommended conversation and it turns ugly, let them know about that fine, should animal control be forced to pay them a visit for your complaint.

Do high-pitched sonic whistles do a good job of curtailing barking, in general? Anyone know if they hurt the canine?
posted by Happydaz at 11:11 PM on December 30, 2003

I put up with this kind of shit for three years. One night, I howled - not without pleasure - "WILL YOU NEVER FUCKING SHUT UP" to the beast - only 20 minutes after its man had gone to bed - and I never had any more troubles. He immediately came and fetched his hideous,shrieking dog off of the porch. Wiithin 6 weeks, he moved away and made his house a rental property.
posted by crunchburger at 12:01 AM on December 31, 2003

So, the idea that "he doesn't notice it" is typical, losing bullshit. He is very aware ofit, and will quickly retreat when challenged.
posted by crunchburger at 12:02 AM on December 31, 2003

One night, I howled - not without pleasure - "WILL YOU NEVER FUCKING SHUT UP"

Precisely my advice, and repeated experience with children and other domestic animals.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:35 AM on December 31, 2003

I'd agree, the stealth approach seems best. In fact, I wouldn't even say anything to any other neighbors, except to find out about your neighbor in a general way. You may want to learn from other neighbors if there is a history of other problems without creating unnecessary drama. Submitting a complaint to the correct city department removes much of the likelihood for direct conflict, a virtual fence making for good neighbors.

Otherwise, find a high-frequency mp3 and train the dog yourself.
posted by yonderboy at 4:06 AM on December 31, 2003

As an addition to the other advice given, if you're going to actually confront your neighbours, please remember that how you phrase your request may make all the difference in the world.

"Your damned dog is keeping me up all night!" is not likely to get a great response from anybody except the kind and considerate people who wouldn't have let this sort of thing happen in the first place.

On the other hand, if you can phrase your concern as something to their benefit, you'll find people much more accommodating. "I'm worried about poor Spot. I'm not sure if you've noticed - I can hear it because I sleep with the windows open - but he barks all night. Have you taken him to the vet to see if he's okay?"
posted by jacquilynne at 7:32 AM on December 31, 2003

Depending on your relationship with the neighbour, I'd definitely recommend going through the officials. If you know each other well enough to nod in passing then maybe you can talk to them about it.

Not all confrontations about such things go bad though. This summer my gf and I moved and our dog didn't much like the new place and being alone for 8-10 hours per day while we were off at work. We didn't realize it, but she was barking pretty consistantly through the day much to our neighbours' chagrin.

One of them asked us if "there's anything [we] can do to shut that thing up?" If you do talk to them, I'd avoid this sort of tone, because it did put my back up, but the confrontation wouldn't have been worth it, and we were in the wrong.

We looked into it, and there are a number of solutions available. The two we looked at closest were ultrasonic and citronella collars. Both have a microphone and when the dog barks either play a burst of ultrasonic noise or spray a bit of citronella solution under the dog's nose, both on the "discomfort will make them stop" principle.

We went with the citronella (our townhouse complex is pretty pet-dense and we didn't want other animals to pay for our dog's noisiness) and it did wonders. The next day our neighbours were significantly friendlier.

The downside to the citronella collars is they have only 15 charges. For our purposes it worked fine, our dog quickly learned that noise = bad smell while the collar is on. She did end up figuring out how much noise she can make before setting it off, but it's a very low decibel noise that the neighbours have told us they don't even register.

My gf's brother-in-law tried a citronella collar with his dog, and it worked for a while but eventually she learned that she could deplete the catridge by barking 15 times in rapid succession and suffer only a few minutes of discomfort. It sounds like your neighbour's dog would do similarily (especially if barking all hours) so an ultrasonic may work best as presumably their usefulness is only limited by battery life, and since your neighbours don't seem to want to tend to their dog, refilling a citronella canister doesn't seem up their alley either.

All that being said though, from what I gather of your situation from your posts, I'd have to agree with the majority and suggest you get some officials to discuss the matter with them.
posted by cCranium at 7:51 AM on December 31, 2003

So I'm thinking a small wall of piezo tweeters and a frequency generator would probably solve the problem. Nothing like a 120dB blast of ultrasonic noise to get a dog to STFU.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 AM on December 31, 2003

crunchburger better said, and funny too.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:11 AM on December 31, 2003

Sound-activated piezo tweeters. Solar powered. Or offer to buy one of those sound-activated collars. I would leave an anonymous note first, because if they know that you have gone to the officials they might seek revenge.

I copied off a bunch of "how to" articles via google and left them anonymously in the neighbor's mailbox. The problem went away. Later we met them f2f and they are quite cool, so I'm glad there was no bad blood between us.

I know someone who had a dug undermine the foundation of his porch, causing $$$ of damage. The neighbors and city officials refused to help. Someone took the dog up into the mountains and dispatched of it with a single gun shot (not me).
posted by mecran01 at 6:23 PM on December 31, 2003

Being neighborly is great, but this, to me, is one of those situations in which the most neighborly thing is to maintain a distance and let people who can do more than "request" or "suggest" intervene -- on the animal's behalf and yours.

I could not disagree more strenuously. I once had a neighbour call the police because I had a whopping two friends sitting on my porch with me late at night; in my city our noise ordinance carries a mandatory $250-per-complaint fine and is unappealable. (Luckily the police officer violated the law and didn't charge me.) Obviously they have a different idea of what's acceptable than I do, but I would have been happy to try to reach some kind of compromise if they'd had the fucking balls to talk to me face-to-face. Instead, they've made a permanent enemy.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:33 PM on December 31, 2003

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