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Barking Dogs

Barking Dogs

Barking dogs are a serious annoyance. If you're being disturbed by a barking dog close to your home, read the following article and take the appropriate actions to help solve the problem.


Types of Dog Owners

First, it's important to outline the various types of dog owners.  Most owners love their dogs and include them as part of their families.  They treat their dog respectfully, with upmost care, and would never think that their dog could be causing a problem to others.   A second category of dog owners, have the same affiliation with their dogs, but lack the time, inclination or abilities to properly care for and train their dog.  Perhaps they work long hours or are just lazy, but in any case they simply feed their dog, insure that the dog's water bowl is full and then turn the dog loose in the yard to fend for itself the remainder of the day.  The third type of dog owner is in a category unto themselves. The malicious, belligerent, non-compensating dog owner who cares little about their dog’s habitual barking and has little or no respect your wellbeing or comfort.   These are the dog owners who set the bar for what not to do with your pet. 
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How to solve a Barking Dog Problem
Often times, the dog's owner has no inkling that their beloved, adorable, affectionate pet, is causing you sleepless nights, migraine headaches and multiple refills of your Xanax.  Possibly, dog's owner has never been informed that the dog’s barking is actually a noise, and that as such, carries beyond the fence and into your ears.   While it may sound difficult, these are usually the easiest situations to resolve.  Simply contact your neighbor and tell him or her that their dog's barking is causing you a problem.  At this point, calling the police or animal control would be of little value and could possibly lead to animosity or ill feelings.  Give your neighbor a chance.  Usually, talking to your neighbor calmly and reasonably is the necessary first step, and you may be pleasantly surprised by your neighbor’s willingness to work towards a solution.  Additionally, if you eventually have to call the police, the first thing they will ask is whether or not you have tried to contact the dog’s owner and if not, they may not be willing to step in.  Also, if the matter goes to court, you’ll want to show some history as to when and how you tried to solve the situation.
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Talking to Your Neighbor
As in medicine, sometimes the "cure" is worse than the disease.  Most of us, (there are a few exceptions), do not like confrontations.  Confrontations can be scary, uncomfortable and just thinking about them can cause anxieties.  You must decide when you're ready.  When your anxiety/anger from the barking outweighs your anxiety/fear of talking to your neighbor, it's time to go over and inform your neighbor of the problem.  To many people, the thought of talking to their neighbor    about the barking dog is too stressful and causes profound fear or apprehension.  In this case, leaving a note may be an alternate first step.  If you do decide to write a note, be sure that the note is pleasant and accurately describes the problem.  Include when the dog barks and all other pertinent information.     Your name, address and phone number should also be on the note, so the neighbor knows which neighbor is concerned.  Leaving an anonymous note may also be of some value, but usually it’s better to include your contact information.
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What To Say - Or more importantly, What NOT to Say
Usually, you know who your neighbors are and have probably talked to them on numerous occasions and see them on a regular or semi-regular basis.  In this situation, simply let your neighbor know that their dog has been a problem.  Don't be confrontational or appear to be angry or aggressive, but be sure to tell them that the barking has really been a problem and therefore needs their immediate attention.   And be sure not to threaten legal action. 
Sometimes, the barking is not coming from your neighbor to your left or right, but from a neighbor's dog behind your back fence.   In this case, you may not know the neighbor and have never talked to them.  This situation is quite common and is probably the case more often than not and although more awkward, it is still possible to inform them of the problem.  You could go over and introduce yourself as their back fence neighbor or you could leave a note on their door explaining who you are and what the problem is.  In each case, be sure to leave your name and phone number and ask your neighbor for the same.  Although it might not seem important at this point, a phone number may come in handy later.  And most importantly, be sure to be friendly, courteous and non-confrontational. At the same time, be sure to leave no question as the why you are there and what you expect.  And again, be sure not to threaten legal action.
In both of the above cases, it's better to confront the neighbor early on.  Don't wait until you are too angry or emotional to be rational or think clearly.
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But My Dog Doesn't Bark!          
Sometimes dog owners are blissfully unaware that their dog is causing a problem.  It's possible that their dog barks for hours on end, but only when it's left alone when the owner is absent.  The owner may not know that a neighbor is being driven crazy by their dog.  As you're talking to your neighbor try to determine why the dog is barking.  Is the dog hungry?  Does it need attention?  Does it want back in the house?  Be sure to have answers to questions such as to when the dog barks, how long it barks and for how long this has been going on.
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OK, I Know My Dog Barks - But I Can’t or Won’t Stop It
At times some people realize that their dog is barking and have never had the incentive or inclination to do anything about it.  They could be unaware that the barking noise goes beyond their fence line and that it could be offensive to others.  In this case, you must let your neighbor know that the barking is unacceptable and is causing you and your family suffering.  Having a positive attitude, you could possibly negotiate for a short period of time for them to train their dog and get the barking under control.  Again, you could offer suggestions as to why the dog could be barking and perhaps offer solutions on how to stop it.  Once you have established some rapport, you may want to suggest, tactfully, that if the owner has tried and failed to train the dog, to get a bark collar and that possibly could be of some help.  You may also suggest that a professional dog trainer is only a phone call away.
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The Belligerent, Non-compensating Dog Owner
Usually, taking to your neighbor resolves most of the barking dog problems, but unfortunately not everyone will try to work with you.   If you have talked to your neighbor and a week or so has gone by with no action, you may be up against the third type of dog owner, the one who doesn’t care about you and what you're going through and has little or no inclination to do anything about it.  They may be very aggressive, threatening and scary to talk to.  If this is the case, and you have their phone number, you could try calling them and avoid a direct and potentially dangerous situation.   Keep in mind, that it’s their dog whose causing the problem.  You’re not the bad guy, the owner is.
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Pitfalls to Avoid at All Costs
Never, under any circumstances, threaten the dog's owner with physical harm or in any way threaten his property or his dog.  No matter how hard, do not drop to his level.  Remain calm, polite and clear headed.  Don't let him build a case against you --- Don't give him the ammunition he needs to fight against you in or out of court.  If the police are called, the last thing you want is for him to be calling you the aggressor and confusing the situation.  Also, if this matter ever goes to court, you want to be sure that you are "clean" and that your neighbor doesn't have a list of misdeeds that you have committed against him or his dog.
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Government Agencies to Contact
If you have tried to talk with your neighbor and the neighbor has been unable or unwilling to resolve the issue, you will have to start calling the police or other various agencies to get help.  There are many local and state ordinances that involve barking dogs and other pet nuisances.  Calling the police department of your city, would be the first logical step to start mitigating the problem, but  the police may not be very interested in your barking dog problem and in some bay area cities the police will no longer respond to these complaints.  You could also talk to the animal control department in your city or county.  Sometimes the people there are better able to answer your questions than the police or other municipal officials.  Ask them exactly what the local laws are, and what your next steps could be to facilitate the fastest resolution to your problem.  Also, some cities have set up special programs to handle dog complaints and the people at animal control can outline the program if available.   At the end of this article there are several links to various agencies which may provide you with some assistance.
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Do I Need an Attorney?
If all else fails, or if you prefer not to get into a potentially dangerous or uncomfortable confrontation, it’s probably time to hire an attorney.  If you go this route, you're not along.  Many people prefer that a third party handle these types of situations; and it may not be as expensive as you may think.   Ask your attorney what he would charge to write a letter to the dog's owner saying that you have retained him and that he anticipates taking whatever legal action is necessary to stop the barking.   Be sure that you are able to provide your attorney with documentation showing how long the barking has been going on, for how long the dog barks, and at what time of the day the barking is most likely to occur.  Also, if you have tried to resolve the situation on your own, document what your did and what the outcome was.  You should keep a journal consistent with the above information and be able to produce it at his request. 
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Other Resources
Included here are links for more information.

San Mateo County Resource Library - Barking Dogs
City of San Mateo -- Barking Dog Complaint Packet
Got Barking

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