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Dealing with Dog Barking Noise
Most dog owners view their pets as part of the family, providing an essential part of daily interaction, companionship and protection. Barking is a dog's form of communication. However when a nuisance of persistent and loud barking or howling exists it can be upsetting and annoying to those exposed to the noise. The average dog will bark for specific reasons so do not assume that a dog's bark is a problem, it may be a warning, for instance if there is imminent danger (fire etc) or it may warn off intruders.
This page is designed to help you understand dog barking, its impact on neighbour relations and offers guidance and practical steps for you to take to stop or minimise the nuisance.
The Dog Owner
Dog Owners often have difficulty in believing that their dog barks excessively, because the dog usually barks when they are out and is not barking when they arrive home. It is important to take time out to properly discipline your dog in order to form a healthy relationship with it for years to come. A disobedient dog only causes unnecessary stress in both yours and your neighbours lives. If the noise your dog makes is upsetting your neighbours, you might find it useful to talk things over with them. Ask your neighbour to tell you exactly when your dog is barking and for how long. This can be particularly helpful if you are not at home during the day. You could 'test' your dog by pretending to go out and wait round the corner to see if the dog barks, then investigate the reason for its bark. Always reprimand him for bad behaviour when you've caught him in the act by using a firm tone of voice and don't yell or scream. Never hit your dog as hitting it will only make it mistrust you. If a dog barks incessantly, then this would require the help of a professional trainer.
Advice on Keeping Barking Noise Down
- Dog obedience should be dealt with from the start. Don't pick and choose when you will discipline it and when you won't.
- You will never have an obedient dog without constant reinforcement.
- Always reward your dog either with praise, a belly rub or a bite sized treat.
- Socialise your dog with other dogs as early as possible. This will reduce aggression towards other dogs when it is older. An obedient dog should be able to get along with other dogs.
- If your dog barks at the same time everyday, distract it by playing with it or starting a game of fetch.
- If you live in a flat or a semi-detached house, try to keep it away from dividing walls.
- Do not leave your dog outside for too long, if it is barking to be let in.
- Try and get a friend, neighbour or relative to look after your dog when you go out, or better still, take the dog with you. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise before you go out. A tired dog barks less.
Tackling Specific Problems
- Problem: Your dog is clingy, howls or whines when left alone
- Advice: Make sure you spend enough time with your dog when you are at home in order to avoid having it feel neglected when you're gone. If your dog barks from the minute you leave the house to the minute you come home, it may be letting the whole world know that it is lonely and misses you. If this is the case, take an old shirt and put it in the linen basket for an hour or two. This will make the shirt absorb the scents of everyone in the house. Then place the shirt next to your dog or have it lie down on it and this will keep it happy all day long.
- Problem: Your dog is nervous, having trouble settling and keeps trying to hide
- Advice: Traumatic events or exposure to particular stresses can make even a normally calm animal, stressed and perturbed. Tender loving care is often what is needed. You can also try putting the radio on low and tune it in to easy listening. If your dog likes hiding, make a den for it.
- Problem: Your dog guards its territory by barking at people, animals and car.
- Advice: Keep your dog away from the front of the house or flat. Screen your window. When barking occurs outside, call your dog in immediately and correct it with a firm "No" and praise the dog when it is quiet. Of course, when all else fails, you should always seek the help of a vet or animal behaviourist.
For more information and guidance, please see the Defra 'Is your dog barking too much?' leaflet.
Dog owners are seldom bothered by their own dog's barking, but it can be very disturbing to others in the neighbourhood. Barking is monotonous and repetitive and it is a sound that few people can tolerate for any length of time and could cause annoyance, resentment and bad feeling amongst neighbours. The dog owners should be approached directly and have the problem explained to them. Dog owners should involve neighbours as much as reasonably practicable in the remediation approaches they have identified and intend to pursue. In some cases neighbours are likely to have approached the owner about a dog-barking problem prior to reporting the matter to the council. Usually, people only approach the council as a last resort following frustration with the dog owner. In most cases the District Council will require records of times when barking noise is audible to be kept in order to form evidence of a nuisance.
Local Authority Action
Excessive barking is one of the most common dog complaints reported to Councils. Stratford upon Avon District Council will deal fairly and transparently with such complaints. When complaints are received, the Council has a duty under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to take reasonable steps to investigate the complaint. The Council seek to pursue an informal resolution via mediation. If that fails, the Council may consider taking enforcement action where the barking noise has been witnessed and found to amount to a statutory nuisance as defined in the above Act. Abatement Notice requires the dog owner to take steps to ensure that noise resulting from barking is reduced to an acceptable level. Note that failure to comply with an Abatement Notice could result in prosecution, with fines up to £5000, where conviction is secured.
When informal action is not possible or fails, you should complain to your Local Authority and they will investigate your complaint.
Once you make a formal complaint, you will be asked to complete diary log sheets, which should provide accurate details of
- A description of the noise and how it affects you in your home or garden.
- The dates the noise disturbs you.
- The times the noise starts and then stops.
- The diary sheets should then be returned to us for analysis, and based on this evidence appropriate action will be taken. This may involve visits to your property to witness the disturbances you are experiencing.