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Bark, Bark, Arf, Arf, Yap, Yap, Yap
Whether you have a dog or not, if you live in a populated neighborhood, you are bound to have a yapper or two. While most dogs bark at the occasional rabbit or mailman, some dogs can go on for hours and wear on your last nerve. Before it snaps, take a few tried-and-true steps to restore peace and quiet to your community without alienating your neighbors.
Why Dogs Bark
Until we can truly get inside a dog's head, we won't know exactly why a dog barks. But, based on her behavior, we can often guess why a dog barks. Someone rings the doorbell, and the dog barks to communicate a warning. You show him a tennis ball, and he barks to indicate he wants to play. You've left her outside too long, and she barks to ask to be let in. Here are the most common reasons dogs bark:
- To protect his property from intruders.
- She's lonely or bored. Dogs are pack animals and can actually have separation anxiety.
- To get attention.
- When greeting or playing. Kids playing outside can trigger barking.
The Neighborly Option
Confrontation is not my strong point. However, I believe that meeting face-to-face softens any kind of complaint. If your neighbor's dog is forever barking at nothing in particular, your first step might be to meet with Rover's owner in a kind, friendly manner.
One option might be to buy a chew toy, put a bow on it, and knock on the neighbor's door. Perhaps you could introduce yourself with something like this:
"Hi. I'm your neighbor and I thought I would bring your little doggy a gift. He seems to be quite vocal and I thought this might calm him down. If it works, perhaps the other neighbors wouldn't mind chipping in to keep him stocked in chew toys. Do you think he would like it or do you have any other ideas?"
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Don't visit when you are frustrated or angry. If the owner believes you want what's best for the dog, he may be more receptive to taking positive action.
The DIY Option
When I moved into my beautiful Colorado neighborhood, I was enthralled with the view of Pikes Peak, the park just a few doors down and the mature landscaping of the well-manicured yards. However, once we unloaded the truck and put our 7-year-old West Highland Terrier in the backyard, the nerve-wracking battle for turf began.
We had failed to notice that the neighbors just behind us had three large dogs that were very vocal about their territory. Add to that the house next to theirs had two small children who liked to feed the dogs through a hole in the fence, and it was a veritable three-ring circus.
Thinking they would all get used to each other, I tolerated the commotion for about two weeks in the middle of our gorgeous summer. When my family and I could stand it no longer, I went to the experts: Google. I found a sound-emitting device that could help curb barking. But, like most things too good to be true, there were some dangerous side effects.
According to a January 2020 article in Psychology Today, these "aversive" devices can cause stress and psychological harm and thus should be avoided for use on pets. Positive reinforcement is a more humane way to train your dog.
So I studied my Westie to see what triggered the barking. I soon realized that when he could see the other dog through the fence, the antagonism intensified. I ended up overlapping the slats on the fence so the mutts could not make eye contact. While it didn't shut them up completely, they did settle down quicker.
I also got a dog puzzle, one that required him to work for his treat. When the barking ensued, I'd toss him the puzzle and he'd happily work it long enough for the other dogs to lose interest.
Distract a Barking Dog With a Puzzle
The Last Resort Option
If reasonable measures don't help quiet a dog's barking, it is possible to file a formal complaint. Most cities have noise ordinances that make it unlawful for owners of dogs or "other hoofed animals" to allow "unreasonably loud or persistent" barking, howling or other noise that disturbs the peace. You may file a noise complaint with the city who will then investigate the circumstances. If the animal control officer finds the noise to be unreasonably loud or persistent within the circumscribed perimeter (in Colorado Springs, the boundary is 500 feet from the outer perimeter of the property), the city can issue a legal warning to the pet's owner. If the owner does not take action to stem the problem within a reasonable amount of time, a citation can be issued. Citations often come with penalties and may require an appearance in court.