Dogs may be man's best friend, but sometimes best friends won't shut up and are annoying as hell. It's especially aggravating when your neighbour's dog likes to bark all night long, or yap every time you go anywhere near their house. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make that pup clam up and get the peace and quiet you need without being a jerk.
Illustration by Angelica Alzona.
Talk to Your Neighbour First
This should go without saying, but you should talk to your neighbour before you try anything else. There's a possibility they don't realise their dog is barking so much — like when they're away at work — or they may be aware of the issue and working on it already. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and avoid harsh accusations since that will only make them defensive.
It's also important you do this face to face. Leaving an anonymous note on their door might seem like the best way to avoid confrontation, but it's the easiest for them to ignore. Talk to them in person and let them see who they're affecting. Use this as an opportunity to get to know them and get on their good side so they want to resolve the issue. If you refuse to talk to your neighbours, you're half of the problem.
If they're inexperienced dog owners and are not sure what to do, nudge them in the right direction. Show them bark training tip resources, like these from the Humane Society, or point them to a professional dog trainer in your area. If you do the heavy lifting and give them the info, they're more likely to give it a try.
Block the Dog's View, Make Friends and Be Present
If the dog barks every time you walk into your backyard, blocking its vision might help. The dog is probably trying to protect its territory, but if it can't see you, there's no danger. Put up a fence screen, or plant some privacy trees and shrubs along the property line between you and the neighbour's yard.
Of course, it could just be the sound of you in your yard, or even your smell. If blocking the dog's view won't work, it's time to kill them — wait for it — with kindness. The dog barks at you because it sees you as a danger to it and its family. So, in order to make it stop barking, you need to not be seen as a danger. Jen DeHaan, dog trainer and founder of DOGthusiast.com, suggests you make friends with the dog. Politely ask your neighbour if you can meet their dog and maybe play with it a little. You want the dog to get used to your presence and your scent. DeHaan recommends you have the neighbour bring their dog over to your yard too, so they can get a good lay of the land and its many smells. Food is an easy way to a dog's heart too, but do not feed somebody else's dog without their permission. The dog could have trouble digesting foods other dogs can, it could be on a very specifically timed diet for health reasons or it could have allergies. The last thing you want is to make your neighbour's dog sick. If you feel so inclined, ask the owner what kind of doggy treats they use, and ask if it's alright for you to give them one from time to time.
Lastly, the dog might bark at you every time you go in your yard because you don't go back there very often. It needs to get used to your presence, but it can't if you only go out there once a week. Find a way to spend more time out there. Put on some noise-cancelling headphones and read a book, start a garden or do your workouts in the grass. At the very least, take some old shoes, T-shirts and socks, then place them along the fence so the dog can get used to your smell. Make your presence known so it doesn't surprise the dog any more.
Bringing a dog home for the first time may seem easy, but there's a lot to consider. This graphic from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter is a quick primer to what you need to know and consider before your first furry companion comes home with you.
Use a Dog Whistle or Sonic Training Device
Dog whistles emit sound in the ultrasonic range, meaning us lame-eared humans can't hear them. But dogs can, and the sound drives them nuts. That's why they're useful for training. If you've talked to your neighbours, and their dog still won't keep quiet, you can use a dog whistle to train them yourself from the comfort of your own home. It works like this:
- Get a dog whistle. You can find a relatively inexpensive one online.
- Keep the whistle somewhere you can easily get to at all times.
- Whenever the dog starts barking, blow the whistle.
At first, this might make them bark even more right out the gate, but your persistence will pay off. The dog will hate it — don't worry, it doesn't hurt them any — and eventually it will realise that every time it barks it has to hear the sound, so it will stop. There are even some dog whistle apps out there, but they may not be loud enough to use on your neighbour's dog. An actual dog whistle will definitely be loud enough, and it's something you could use through shared walls if you live in an apartment building.
If you don't think you can keep up with the training, you might want to consider a sonic training device like the Dogtek Sonic Birdhouse or Petsafe Outdoor Bark Deterrent. You hang these up in a tree facing the neighbour's yard, and every time the dog barks, it automatically emits an ultrasonic sound much like a dog whistle.
File a Formal Noise Complaint
When all else fails, there is still the nuclear option: Filing a formal complaint with your landlord, homeowner's association, local council or even a Community Justice Centre. Noisy pets often violate the terms and provisions of apartment leases and homeowner association agreements, especially if the barking is happening at night past a certain hour. And your local council may be able to issue a nuisance order to people whose dogs are disturbing the peace.
Be sure to check your local laws. For example, the Protection of The Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) defines "offensive noise" as meaning noise:
(a) that, by reason of its level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made, or any other circumstances:
(i) is harmful to (or is likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or
(ii) interferes unreasonably with (or is likely to interfere unreasonably with) the comfort or repose of a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or
(b) that is of a level, nature, character or quality prescribed by the regulations or that is made at a time, or in other circumstances, prescribed by the regulations.
Your area likely has similar laws in place. If you file a complaint with your local council, they may investigate and the owner of the dog may receive a nuisance order. If it continues, and there's proof of the noise, they will have to pay a fine. If that's not enough to get your neighbour's arse in gear, you might just have to move.