How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner and a Good Neighbor
I have a great love for dogs. Although I currently do not have one, I have had many. I've also had my fair share of neighbors with dogs. Many times, it was not a pleasant experience.
I am going to share personal experiences about neighbors with dogs before facts and tips. Stories pack a better punch.
“Can't you shut that dog up?"
The boy gave me a pitying look. "Not really," he said. "Vlad's a believer in free speech.”— Joanne Harris, Peaches for Father Francis
When my husband and I moved into our first home, there were scads of young families teeming with children and pets. The neighbors next door had a dog who barked outside every night, ALL night long. The master bedroom where my husband and I slept was very close to the fence. My husband was a critical care nurse and needed sound sleep.
Otherwise nice people, I decided to approach them nicely and diplomatically. I gave the wife a heads up on the all-night barking and it was keeping us up and my husband needed his sleep (but then again, we all need our sleep). She said she wasn't going to do anything because her dog didn't bark and besides he's a watchdog. I went a few more times but heard the same response. She was insulted by our complaint about her precious pooch.
Eventually, my husband broke and went over there and read her the riot act. That wasn't the best way but we had asked civilly several times. They refused and even invited us to move if we didn't like it. Her husband came over and yelled at my husband for yelling at his wife. Fair enough. The neighbor on the other side had complained too, we later found out. We put up with this for years. We should have just reported it. I don't recall if we did but it probably would have made no difference.
A few years back some new neighbors moved in. They got a dog about a year or so old. They left him in the yard when they went to work. The dog howled for three hours every time they left home. It drove me crazy. I wrote a very nice note saying I knew they were nice people and they probably were not aware of the situation. So it was a kind "heads up."
The man came over and apologized and just as I thought, they were unaware of it and he thanked me for letting him know. The dog never howled again. This man had a very bad temper and yelled a lot at his wife and son. I called the cops twice just in case it was a domestic violence issue. But he was always kind to me.
I also had neighbors behind me who had several small dogs that yipped and yapped for long periods. No resolution.
The video below provides one solution for the dog owner or the neighbor.
Dogs Who Bite and Attack
Not all dog bites are caused by an owner's irresponsibility. People should learn dog safety to prevent being bitten. Especially children. More on that later.
Other times, owners are irresponsible with their dogs either knowing their dog has a propensity to bite, and/or who don't care if they bite someone.
- The last neighbor I mentioned (who had the howling dog) would let his dog out while he was tinkering in the garage. The dog would run wild in my yard but the man always called him back and hollered, "Sorry about that." One day my seventy year old neighbor on the other side of me went to his mailbox. The dog was out and bolted toward the other neighbor who was minding his own business and bit him. He went over to the dog owner and told him, "Your dog just bit me, you need to keep him locked in the yard." The man with the dog exploded and loudly told him it was his fault, which was ridiculous. When it happened again my bitten neighbor called animal control. I don't know what became of it.
- My friend Kristi and I were going for our daily walk around the neighborhood and stopped to talk to a mutual friend. Her little fancy dog was on the lawn. Out of the blue, the darling ran up and bit Kristi. The neighbor laughed. "Oh, he does that sometimes." Then he did it a second time. Again the woman thought it was cute. Because the woman was a friend Kristi didn't want to make too many waves. I took her to the doctor for a tetanus shot and we quit walking by there.
- A few days ago I went to a friend's house. The man's wife had just died and his daughter had just arrived to live with him. She's a friend and I wanted to visit and asked if I could come by. The man's dog is a guard dog. When people come over he puts the dog in a fenced yard where he can't hurt anyone. It's always necessary to call ahead for that reason. The daughter was not aware of this apparently because she greeted me at the car with the dog. He came right up and bit me. She was surprised and said he's never done that. Either her dad was not aware I was coming over or didn't know she took the dog with her to meet me. I went and got a tetanus shot and thankfully his rabies shots were current. Although I tried to hide it, I was pretty shaken up.
- Several years ago I was walking my collie down a residential street in my neighborhood. I'd never taken that route before. As we passed by a house a dog charged out of an open garage which was partially blocked from our view by a vehicle and attacked Nellie. No one was around. Thankfully a relative drove up and broke it up. As it turned out, the dog owner was a co-workers dad. She said neighbors have complained for years but the dad doesn't care and continued to let their dogs out. Nellie had a thick coat and was unharmed but it really shook us both up pretty badly.
Friend's Facebook Post
"Our dear friend, Fred (our dog) was killed today by a pit-bull and another dog. We are grieving. He was rescued by us 1 & 1/2 years ago. He was tied up where he was before. We let him run and be free on our ten acres. He went out every morning to see what had been on the property while he was sleeping. This morning he met with his doom. I don't know why people who keep attack dogs let them run free. I love animals - why do I have this great sorrow over all animals!"
Owners need to take responsibility if their dog is known to escape frequently. Fix the escape route. No one should ever let their dog deliberately roam off-leash with no supervision.
I sometimes find dogs roaming the neighborhood. No doubt they have escaped or the owner doesn't care that they're loose. They follow people around and approach other dogs walking with their owners, trespass on property, pester people at our community lake and poop everywhere they go. Sometimes they are threatening and even attack. Children are vulnerable (which is one of many reasons they should be supervised at the lake). Some dogs have caused the destruction of property.
It is also important for the dog's own safety. Vengeful people may harm the dog, or steal it if it's a nice breed. Happens all the time. If it's a small dog, eagles and coyotes could attack them.
Things Dog Owners Should Consider
- Even the best-behaved dog can bite if feeling threatened, frightened, or in pain.
- Dog owners often grow accustomed to their dogs incessant barking, but must consider that others are not.
- Being a considerate dog owner means you will have friendly relationships in the neighborhood.
- The majority of people are not being mean and insulting you and your dog by complaining about barking, wandering into their yards, causing a disturbance, or biting. Don't take it personally.
- Be willing to hear them out and try to be objective rather than defensive. Be willing to accept your Fido may well be misbehaving. Then show you care about the issue, apologize and show through word and deed you will try to correct or prevent the problem.
- Realize you and your dog are not entitled, the exception, and too special to have to correct or prevent the issues brought to your attention.
- It is not "no big deal" when your dog bites someone. It's not cute, funny, or most of the time deserved. Try to think about another person's dog biting you or worse, one of your children.
- Some people are afraid of dogs. They've likely had a scary experience with a dog.
- It is not the other person's responsibility to correct your dog or to find a solution if your dog behaves badly.
Please Do and Please Don't
- Keep your dog contained for delivery people and people walking by. Secure gates, doors, and fences.
- Teach your dog not to jump on people. It's annoying, their nails scratch, and they can knock people over.
- Don't let them off-leash unsupervised even if you are at the dog park if he is aggressive with other dogs or highly excitable and annoying other dogs by jumping on them or pestering in some way.
- Spay and neuter. Dogs in heat draw other dogs who may fight with each other or be aggressive to anyone nearby. There are low and no-cost spay-neuter services usually in your county if you can't afford it. Look into it.
- Keep your dog's shots up to date. By law, they have to be immunized for rabies periodically. Sometimes large pet shops offer certain immunizations at a discount price.
- If your dog is frightened in situations where there are a lot of people, keep them home or don't go. It's not fair to him or others and it poses a risk of biting, even if he is a sweet dog.
- If your dog snarls and nips at people while you are carrying them around in public, warn people not to get close, or better yet, keep them away from people.
- Clean up dog poop if your dog wanders into another's yard and messes on their lawn, or being walked somewhere.
- Get training if your dog has bad habits like digging, barking for long periods of time, biting, or jumping on people.
- Muzzle your dog or crate him when going to the vet or groomer if experience has shown he will be aggressive with other animals in the waiting area, or staff. It's only for a short time.
- Don't leave an aggressive dog in the car at any time with the windows open. People may not see him or at their own poor judgment, they stick their hand or fingers in the window.
- If your dog is infested with fleas, keep him away from other homes, especially where dogs are present. Treat them.
- If you want your dog unleashed take him to places with a low population like a quiet beach, country road, dog park, etc.
- Use baggies at parks and on walks.
- Keep the dog away from visitors if he is not friendly.
A Word to Neighbors of Dog Owners
It is not easy to have to go to a dog owning neighbor and confront them about an issue their dog is creating. Here are some suggestions:
- For the first visit, come with an amiable attitude, use diplomacy with the intent to inform them not to accuse them. If you blast them right off you've already lost the battle.
- Check with neighbors to see if they have the same experience or concerns. If their attempts at resolution failed, try these:
- Write a letter or a neighborhood petition to the Homeowner's Association if you have one, and to the landlord if it's a renter.
- Call animal control, even the police in some circumstances. Citations, fines, impounding, and eviction might change everything.
- If the dog has harmed someone, immediately report it to animal control and the police.
- Educate yourself about dogs, such as how or how not to approach an unfamiliar dog. The video below is about children but it applies to anyone.
- Teach your children safety around dogs and how to be kind to them.
- Poisoning, shooting, or stealing a dog will only get you a bed at the local jail or prison or you'll get a big fine. Let the authorities handle it.
- Don't tease or disrespect the dog.
- Don't complain if there is nothing to complain about.
Do you respect your neighbors and ensure your dog is well-behaved?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Lori Colbo