My Street Has Gone to the Dogs
August 28, 2007 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone suggest a polite way for me to inform my neighbors that letting their large dogs run off leash is becoming a problem?

Two of my neighbors are first time dog owners. They each have very large, powerful dogs, which get along well with each other and are often allowed to wrestle around off-leash on their owners' front lawns. Unfortunately, the two dogs chase after kids, bikes, other dogs on leashes, you name it. And while they're friendly dogs, it's unnerving, to say the least, to see them tearing toward me when I'm out walking.
Both sets of neighbors are nice, likable people, but they haven't picked up on any of the hints I and some others have dropped. There used to be a lot of pedestrian traffic on our street, but it's dropped off lately due to the dogs.

There are leash laws in my city, but I don't want to pull out the big guns unless I really have to. What are some non-threatening ways to start the discussion with them?
posted by biddeford to Pets & Animals (28 answers total)
 
Ack. I'd be horrified, and I own a large, powerful dog.

Basically, you could say that even though you know the dogs are friendly, that they're really a nuisance and you're afraid that in their enthusiasm they could knock over a [small child, grandmother, etc.) and you really like the dogs, and wouldn't want them to be mistaken for strays if animal control should be patrolling, and wouldn't want them to get hit while crossing the street when they're "playing" ... it's safer for the dog, and the owner that loves their dog, if the dog is in the backyard and/or on a chain.
posted by SpecialK at 9:09 PM on August 28, 2007


Sometimes, when you want something done about annoying neighbors, you have to bite the bullet and knock on their door and have a nice chat with them (assuming that you know they're otherwise nice people). Tell them honestly and politely why the dogs are a nuisance and find the right moment to drop the subtle clue that it's illegal for them to let the dogs run about. Even if you do it with great tact, the chance that they take offense is still there, but that's really not your problem. You might even be sparing them from the heartache of someone calling animal control on them and the dogs being put in a shelter. Any short term discomfort from confronting them will probably disappear soon enough.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:10 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


If you've tried dropping hints and are nervous about directly mentioning it, then a simple anonymous letter saying "Hi neighbor, you and your dogs are great but they make me really nervous when they run around unleashed." is in order. Then, if they don't keep the dogs under better control, you can call the police without feeling like you've pulled out the "big guns".
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:16 PM on August 28, 2007


You can politely but straight out tell them to please keep their dogs leashed. THEY are being rude. Ask them nicely, and if it continues, you have to call the authorities. No matter how "nice" these doggies are, someone could get hurt by them. That's why leash laws exist.

I must tell you that I had to do this with a neighbor. My daughter got nipped and they still wouldn't do anything. I had to call the Sheriff, and it was not fun.

Again: THEY are being rude and un-neighborly, not you. It seems to be a rule of life that it's always the wrong people who feel guilty.
posted by The Deej at 9:17 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


You could let them know that one can purchase do-it-yourself invisible/in-ground electric fencing kits for relatively little money...
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:19 PM on August 28, 2007


Big smiles, a sorry to bother you but it's a bit unnerving and maybe a little white lie about how you were bitten by a dog once. If they still won't budge, they're being selfish. Then you call the cops.
posted by dhammond at 9:28 PM on August 28, 2007


This is kind of a lie, possibly, but could you couch it as concern for the dogs, and go "Oh, hello! I wanted to talk to you about your great dog-- I've noticed that he's very friendly and really likes to run after people, and the other day I noticed him running into the street just as a car was coming up the block. It worries me that something bad will happen, and I just thought you should know."
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:52 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Immediately threatening them with police is pretty crass, I think.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:46 PM on August 28, 2007


Second Burhanistan. No hints, no anonymity, no lies, no belligerance, just straightforward talk among presumably reasonable people. And if they're not reasonable after all, well, you didn't cause that and you can't fix it, so at that point you can justifiably escalate, or you can apply the Getoverit protocol.
posted by eritain at 12:01 AM on August 29, 2007


If you want to avoid confrontation, send them an anonymous letter. You never know how people might react when confronted, so to avoid the possibility of creating tension between you and them, you might want to try the letter first. If that doesn't work, you can confront them face-to-face.
posted by HotPatatta at 12:03 AM on August 29, 2007


Just lie and say one knocked you over or you saw it knock some old lady over and you're concerned about how safe it is for them to run around. If they're pooping everywhere that's probably reason enough too. And if they keep letting them run free...well have you seen Secret Window?
posted by thelongcon at 12:04 AM on August 29, 2007


I'd err on the side of nicety rather than lies or anonymous threats, and ring their door with a bag of dog treats in hand and say "Hi! I like you and I like your dog and I'm glad to see s/he's having so much fun with the other dog, but I know that I and some of our other neighbors just aren't comfortable having them off-leash out on the street like this. Is there some other place they can play or a way they can play on-leash so we can keep the other kids and dogs and property safe? Thanks, I knew you'd understand."
posted by judith at 12:23 AM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Some people will resent receiving an anonymous letter more than any sort of confrontation, and won't have much trouble figuring out who sent it either. If it doesn't work, they're going to be more resistant when you talk to them in person.

I like judith's idea about the dog treats.
posted by grouse at 3:34 AM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hm, do they have any other options for the dogs to play? Do either set have a fenced in back yard? (do YOU have a yard they could use?) Could they afford to/would zoning laws allow a fence (or electric fence) in front? Is there a dog park near by? If they have other choices available, mention them (or even provide help - maybe you know someone who can give them a discounted fence?)

Also, are you close to one neighbor? Maybe talk to that one first and enlist his/her help with the second.

A street or neighbourhood association might be able to direct you to these resources, as well.

Best of luck!
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:20 AM on August 29, 2007


buy two leashes and make a copy of the leash law. wrap it up and leave it in your mailbox. sign it, "from a concerned neighbor."

alternatively, go to them and say, "i just wanted to let you know that some of the neighbors are getting concerned about your dogs running off their leash. since it's technically illegal for the dogs to be off their leashes, i thought i'd let you know before someone calls animal control."
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:34 AM on August 29, 2007


sorry, leave it in -their- mailbox.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:35 AM on August 29, 2007


Don't be anonymous and don't blame "other neighbors" when, in fact, it is you who are concerned. Neighbors who might normally be reasonable when confronted directly can become very paranoid and defensive when they get the impression that other people are judging them without approaching them directly. This can cause them to ignore a reasonable request as a symptom of that resentment.

btw, this applies to many folks. Not just neighbors.
posted by jeanmari at 5:08 AM on August 29, 2007


Some years ago, we lived in a neighborhood in which there were lots of large dogs. A couple of the neighbors liked to let their dogs run around during certain times of day while they were outside. My daughter, who was a young elementary school kid at that time, was really afraid of dogs, especially large dogs. It got to the point where she refused to play outside with her friends in the late afternoon/early evening because of those dogs.

I really liked the neighbors so didn't want to make waves, but I finally couldn't stand it anymore. So, I just went up, said "Hi" and told them that my daughter is really afraid of their dogs, and that they really needed to keep them on their property or leashed. I said it firmly, and I said it with a smile. They knew that there was a leash law, and they got the hint.

I found out a couple of days later from a few other parents that they were also annoyed at the roaming dogs. I got quite a few thank-you's - the point being that you're probably not the only one to be dissatisfied by this.

So, I would say to not overthink this - just go over and talk to them and be pleasant but firm.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:21 AM on August 29, 2007


I'm also the owner of a large, very energetic, and friendly dog, and as much as I'd like to let him off leash to get some exercise, I don't do it unless we're in the woods, where he can't do any more harm than sending a bunny back into its hole.

I've also had experience with neighbors who were crappy dog owners (this was before I got my own dog), and it was hell. I wound up writing a letter and getting it signed by as many neighbors as I could. [The guy was abusing his wife, kids and dog, and the final straw was watching him beat his dog on the sidewalk as I was walking by with my toddler. The family wound up moving to "the country" soon after getting the letter.]

Although the situation you describe may seem relatively benign, it's not. As others have commented, it's dangerous for the dogs and people, potentially fatal even. There are a lot of good ideas here already. You might consider a tiered approach, moving to the next, more aggressive, step as necessary:

1. Dog treat + friendly chat.
2. Letter signed by concerned neighbors.
3. Phone call to animal control.
4. Phone call to police.

I just want to be clear that in my opinion the dog owners in this case are not taking care of their animals responsibly. They need to train their dogs, which takes time and patience. They need to walk their dogs on lead, which takes time and patience. Or they need to, on a regular basis, take their dogs to a place where they can run off lead.

If they can't make this sort of investment in their dogs, then they shouldn't own one. Period.

Best of luck.
posted by pammo at 5:22 AM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


I second Pammo's approach, and your neighbors are being complete assholes. I don't care how well behaved or obedient their dogs are. If some strange dog (or child) comes up and is aggressive in their dogs face it will react, and they won't be able to control it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:19 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just ask them nicely if they would keep their dogs on a leash while outside, because they can be quite intimidating to your guests and other pedestrians.

Dog owners should know this - many, many people have a fear of dogs. While that fear is often irrational, there are enough bad owners out there that they will continue to find examples to justify their fear, so as good owners your neighbors need to be conscious of that and avoid putting people in overly stressful situations. Since they are first-time owners, perhaps it's time they learned that from you.

I am a dog owner myself, and I would never allow this behavior. I do walk my dog off leash regularly, but she also has $2000+ of training in her and won't so much as give a squirrel a second look when I have her in heel.
posted by chundo at 7:02 AM on August 29, 2007


What Burhanistan said. You can't assume that other people "hear" and understand hints. Just come out and tell them nicely about your concerns. No anonymous letters, no mysterious leashes appearing in the mailbox; that sort of thing could just freak them out and make them think they had weird neighbors.

So, non-threatening ways to start the discussion: "Hi neighbor! You sure have a handsome dog! What's his name? Oh, Muffy. Her name... What a good girl! Can I talk with you about her for a couple minutes? I'm concerned about Muffy getting out of your yard." And so on...

If a neighborly yet direct request does not produce results, that would be the time to consider
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:33 AM on August 29, 2007


whoops. ....the time to consider escalation to your "big guns."
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:34 AM on August 29, 2007


If I were you, I'd go up to them with friendly advice about how they are running quite a liability risk. When (not if) an incident happens, they will get sued big time. It's all in the delivery -- if you come off like you're doing them a favour by warning them, then everyone benefits.
posted by randomstriker at 10:22 AM on August 29, 2007


I have a dog that is agressive towards other dogs. He is fantastic around other people, but we saved him from a position where he was abused and with a large group of other dogs that were mean to him. He is absolutely the cutest dog in the world, but he has his problems and if another dog approaches him he will attack, either out of fear or protection of his family or space.

We control this by keeping the dog in our yard and preventing any interaction with other dogs. The only problem is when other dogs are not controlled accordingly. The last time I took my dog for a walk another dog was not on his leash and approached my dog. While preventing a fight, I got bit. Since then I can not take the dog to areas that other dogs might be off their leash. I know that my dog is not the only one like this, there are many dog-aggressive dogs out there. Keep this in mind when you are talking to your neighbors. Plenty of other people have to face consequences when people leave their dogs off-leash.
posted by ets960 at 11:19 AM on August 29, 2007


Thanks to everyone for the great advice. I think the direct approach coupled with dog treats should work fine. Wish me luck!
posted by biddeford at 11:47 AM on August 29, 2007


Just had to throw this in...was watching Cops last nights (yeah yeah, slow tv night) and a Pit off the leash killed this poor little old lady's lap dog. The Pit acted calm and friendly when the owner came to get it, but some kind of predator/prey instinct thing, you know...I'd rather have slightly irritated neighbors than hurt kids or hurt other dogs.
posted by CwgrlUp at 3:26 PM on August 29, 2007


I let my (45 lb) dogs off-leash all the time in our quiet suburban neighborhood. I know it's against the condo regs and possibly against village ordinance. The second someone complained about it, I would keep them on leash. I would have no idea that it was a problem for anyone until they told me.
posted by desjardins at 7:56 AM on August 30, 2007


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