Dogs are an important part of our local community, but dogs that bark excessively or persistently can unreasonably interfere with the peace, comfort or convenience of others. If you have a problem with a neighbour’s dog or your own dog barking a little too much here is some information that may help.
Dogs bark for many reasons, and even though they appear to be “barking for no reason” they are in fact trying to communicate something.
The main reasons dogs bark are:
- Lack of exercise
- Inadequate yard space
- Boredom or lack of stimulation\enrichment
- Inadequate shelter from weather conditions
- Hunger or thirst
- Medical conditions such as an illness or discomfort
- Disturbances such as thunder, wind, unusual sounds
- Change to family structure/separation anxiety that can lead to destructiveness, howling or escaping
- Movement outside the dog’s property
Whilst some barking is very normal behaviour as per the reasons listed above, it is the owner’s responsibility to manage their dog’s barking so that it does not become excessive and cause a nuisance.
- A dog that barks a lot is a good watchdog.
False: Dogs that bark excessively make poor security systems as neighbours often ignore the barking.
- My dog does not bark when I am at home, so it does not bark when I am out.
False: Many dogs bark because of anxiety and isolation. Most complaints are about dogs that bark when their owners are not home.
- It is natural for dogs to bark a lot.
False: Barking is one of the dog’s main ways of communicating. However, it is NOT normal for a dog to bark at every noise, passer-by, nor to bark for long periods of time.
- Dogs bark because they are lonely and need another dog for company.
False: Getting another dog does not usually prevent or fix a barking problem.
- Dogs only bark too much if they are teased, bored or not exercised.
False: Dogs bark for many reasons including inappropriate confinement, passing distractions, isolation, guarding, anxiety, discomfort and attention seeking. It is important to work out why the dog is barking before the problem can be solved.
Sometimes, the dog’s owner may not realise that the barking is causing an annoyance to other people, because:
- The dog may only bark excessively when the owner is not home.
- The owner may not hear the barking from some areas in their house.
- The owner may be a very sound sleeper and has not woken when the dog barks.
Approach your neighbour – this may resolve the issue without further action
Council’s expectation is that you attempt to contact the dog owner and advise them that their dog is causing you a nuisance by barking. In most cases, problems with barking dogs can be worked out between neighbours. Consider approaching your neighbour, either in person or by sending them a letter. More often than not, the problem can be resolved if you approach the owner of the dog and explain the effects of the dog barking.
A sample “Dear Neighbour” letter (PDF 38kb) is available to help you if you are not comfortable approaching them in person.
When can a complaint be made to Council?
If after direct contact with your neighbour, you were unsuccessful in resolving the problem with your neighbour, you will need to complete the following to make a formal complaint to Council.
- Identify the address where the dog resides and provide a description of the offending dog/s.
- Complete Council’s Barking Dog Complaint Form (PDF 40kb)
- Complete a Barking Dog Log (PDF 43kb) over a continuous period of 14 days.
Things to note in a Barking Dog Log:
- Date, time and duration of nuisance noise
- Whether it was consistent (C) or intermittent (I),
- Type of noise (barking, howling, whining, etc.)
- If you know the reason for the barking
- Effect dog’s barking is having on you.
Continue to record on the Barking Dog Log after you send in the 14-day report you already completed. This will enable Council to move to the next step in dealing with an issue, should the owner have not resolved the nuisance noise.
The more evidence you have, the more impact it will have should the matter proceed to legal action.
What will Council do once a complaint is made?
When Council receives a complaint from you which includes the “Barking Dog Complaint” form and the “Barking Dog Log”, Council will appoint an Animal Management Officer who will contact you to discuss the issue, what can be done and what may be needed further from you.
The Animal Management Officer will:
- Study the diary to establish barking patterns to try to determine the reason for the dog’s barking
- Confirm that other nominated residents are being affected by the dog’s barking
- Advise the dog owner of the complaint and discuss possible solutions
- Inform the dog owner of their responsibilities.
If the Animal Management Officer believes there is a problem with the dog, they will work with the owners until they believe that the owner has done everything possible to help correct the barking behaviour.
The Animal Management Officer can issue a verbal warning to the owner and/or a written warning (Notice to comply). Infringements may be issued to the dog owner for failure to comply with a written notice.
Council can only commence court action if it:
- Owner of the dog is not complying with Council’s request
- Dog is a problem
- Owner of the dog has exhausted all avenues to resolve the problem
- Complainant is prepared to go to court
If at any time, Council does not receive assistance from you in resolving this issue and you have not done what Council has requested of you, the complaint can be terminated and you may choose to take your own court action. (If you don’t understand what you have just read, then you are advised to seek legal advice.)
- Make sure that you do not inadvertently reward your dog for barking. Offering a food treat or positive reinforcement while in the act of undesirable behaviour, may very well encourage your dog to continue that behaviour. Wait until your dog is quiet before letting the dog inside or giving it attention.
- If the dog is barking at people or noises on the other side of a fence, try moving the dog to another part of the yard, put something up to block the dog's view or put up a barrier to keep the dog away from that area.
- If the dog barks at regular disturbances such as children walking to school or rubbish trucks, keep the dog inside or in an enclosed area during these times.
- Ensure that the dog has adequate exercise, is not bored and has playtime with you.
- Make sure that the dog has food, water and shelter from the weather.
- Sometimes teaching the dog to stop barking on cue can help... When the dog barks, make a noise to interrupt and once he stops, say “quiet” and when quiet give the dog a food reward to reinforce the quiet.
- Environmental enrichment can help immensely for dogs that are bored. Try alternating between things like scattering dry dog food across the lawn or burying dog biscuits/treats/chew treats in a sandpit, Kong branded dog toys stuffed with food are great boredom busters, marrow bones, chew toys, etc. Empty soft drink bottles filled with dry food are also a great boredom buster.
- Attend an accredited dog obedience school – the approach taken will depend on the reasons for barking.
In most cases excessive barking can be the symptom of an underlying matter. Taking some time to understand what makes your dog bark is the first step towards solving the problem.
- Boredom, lack of exercise, mental stimulation and enrichment
Solution: Increase enrichment by providing a different range of toys designed for chewing, licking and chasing. Rotate the toys available ensuring they don’t lose interest. Try scatter feeding (scattering dry food over the grass) or hiding treats, giving them a fun game to play using their nose and increasing mental stimulation. Spend more time playing with your dog whether it be fetch, chase or tug games. A good walk and smelling different scents provides quality mental stimulation crucial for a happy dog and assists burning their energy.
- Reactive barking to sight or sound of passers-by or sound or movement in a neighbour’s yard
Solution: Try blocking their view out onto the street or creating a barrier 1-2m from the fence line. Discourage any unwanted barking whilst you are home. Speak to your neighbours and if possible, introduce your dog to them so they get an association between the sounds and scent that is largely unseen on the other side of a fence.
- Separation Anxiety (engage the services of a Canine Behaviourist and/or Vet)
Solution: Make you leaving the house a positive experience for your dog by rewarding them with a treat or feeding them when you leave, ensure you give them something to do (enrichment). Do not make leaving the house and coming home a big deal and try not to create a fuss by working them up. Lots of dogs prefer to be where they spend most time with the family, indoors. A dog door gives your dog a choice of where they want to be, reducing risk of excessive barking.
- New environment or change in circumstances or routine
Solution: You may have recently moved house, changed job or routine, acquired a new dog, or had a pet pass away leaving a remaining dog sad and confused as to why their friend is no longer around. Give them time to settle in and adjust ensuring a strong routine is in place. Take them on regular walks, spend time playing and interacting with them. It is easy to cuddle on the couch with them when you are home but remember, they need exercise outside the home as well.
- Nighttime barking
Solution: Is your dog getting too much sleep during the day suffering from boredom and lack of enrichment? Keep them busy during the day, have a solid routine in place. If possible, bring them inside at night, whether it be in the house, laundry or garage.
- Medical condition
Solution: An obvious or underlying medical condition can be the cause of howling, whimpering and barking. Flea or worm infestations, skin allergies and some injuries, which are usually easily detected and treated, can cause a dog to make excessive noise. A veterinarian should be consulted to eliminate any medical condition from being the cause of excessive noise. (Listing of Vet Clinics in Brimbank can be found below)
Owners need to teach their dogs what is or is not acceptable barking. This learning process can be time consuming, and persistence is required to achieve successful results. There are various ways of training dogs and devices can be purchased to assist in the discipline of dogs.
One simple inexpensive method well worth trying and persisting with involves the use of voice control and a water spray gun. When the dog is barking at the birds, cats, possums or neighbours, the owner should go to the dog whilst it is barking and squirt (jet spray not mist) it in the face with water saying “NO” in a firm voice.
The owner should never call the dog to receive the reprimand as it will believe that it is being reprimanded for coming to its owner. A dog should never be reprimanded after the incident as this confuses it as to why it is being punished.
Other Training methods include:
- Dog obedience schools, where dogs can be socialised and desensitised from some irritants that can cause excessive barking.
- Purchasing or hiring Anti Barking Collars. Note: Legislation states that some collars require dogs to have Veterinarian checks first and owners to be guided by accredited dog trainers before use. Enrolling your dog in a dog obedience club can help get it into good habits.
Dog obedience and regular training can provide mental and physical stimulation and help prevent “boredom” barking.
Four Paws K9 Training
Offers group obedience classes for puppies and adult dogs in Keilor Downs and also offers in-home training behavioural consultations.
Phone: 0412 523 998
Search the internet for options available to you other than those listed above.