All dogs bark, but some barking dogs become a real nuisance - greatly reducing the quality of life for neighbours and increasing neighbourhood tensions. Ongoing barking is often a symptom of another problem. Taking time to understand what makes dogs bark, especially your pet or other dogs in your neighbourhood, is the first step towards solving this problem, both for the dog involved and your neighbours.
Dogs bark because of:
- Loneliness - dogs are social animals
- Stress due to separation from an owner
- Conditioned behaviour - where an owner rewards the dog for barking
- Dominance - barking until they get what they want
- Attention seeking
- Fear - dogs bark at people, other dogs or objects when scared
- Threat or territory - something unfamiliar may be a threat
- Breed - some breeds have a reputation for barking
Methods of control
The most important first step is to work out why your dog is barking. Once you know the symptom, you can find the cure.
- Avoid conditioning: do not reward your dog if it barks for the response alone
- Companionship: before leaving home turn on a radio, give your dog an old coat or box of shoes belonging to you
- Never call your dog after it has stopped barking and then punish it
- Regular exercise: where possible, walk your dog twice a day
- Access to the house: if you can let the dog inside the house, provide your dog with a single room where odours relating to you relax the dog (denning principal)
- Obedience training: a dog can be trained to be alone, and bark only on command
- Avoid stimulus, distract your dog with another form of reward at the time it usually barks at the postman
- Fence design: a fence correctly designed to restrict your dog's vision will reduce barking
- Anti-barking devices, used in conjunction with obedience training
- Discipline: show your dog that you are the head of the house, dogs are pack animals and need to be shown where they stand in relation to the family unit
Remember barking dog problems can be cured!
How to recognise and treat your dog's behavioural problems
- Do I have good control over the dog?
- What is my relationship with my dog, emotional, over-attached?
- How much do I value my dog?
- What amount of time and investment have I put into my dog?
- What is my attitude to my dog's behavioural problems?
- How much time do I spend with my dog?
- Does my dog understand that I am the pack leader?
Assess and define your dog
- What sex is my dog, is it de-sexed?
- What is my dogs breed? Look for typical problems - fearfulness, dominance, aggression or arousal in working breeds
- My dog's temperament is: timid, confident, unresponsive, intrusive, attention seeking or easily bored?
- Is my dog obedient? Try come, sit, drop, stay
- Is my dog responsive to my commands? Look for responsiveness and enthusiasm
- Who is the boss? Me or my dog, determine your dog's willingness to comply with obedience commands
- Reactiveness; Assess your dog's arousal point
- What is my dog's history? Where purchased (pound, refugee, pet shop) with previous experience and influences
- What is my dog's home environment like? Does it have an uninteresting yard, high fences, no outlook, boring?
Assess your problem
- What makes my dog bark?
- When, where and why does my dog bark day / night, when I'm not home?
- What happens after my dog barks? Does there appear to be any form of stress release for the dog?
- Is the behaviour normal for my dog? (talk to the Local Law Officers or your local veterinarian)
- Is my dogs behaviour learned or conditioned?
- How long has my dog been barking?
- How did the behaviour problem start? What were the circumstances?
- Look at the length of times this behaviour has been going on; has it been gradual, is it occasional or progressive?
- What have I tried? Assess your attempts to prevent the barking and look at the results
Once you have assessed yourself, your problem and defined the dog, use the information to determine what you can do, or who you can ask for assistance in preventing your dog from barking and becoming the neighbourhood nuisance.
To avoid boredom you need to give your dog plenty to do when it is alone.
- If your dog likes water, place a sprinkler on a timer to come on a couple of times a day so the dog can play
- Use old drink bottles or milk containers, half fill them with water or stones, your dog will roll them like a toy. They also make a good chew toy (empty)
- There are food reward toys available (talk to your veterinarian or pet shop)
- Make sure your dog has some dry food and plenty of water
- Give your dog a bone when you leave the house, this will teach your dog that when you leave there is a positive reaction - the bone.
- A variety of toys (balls, chew toys, something to climb on)
Living near a dog that barks excessively - what can neighbours do ?
Recent amendments to the Dog Act are designed to improve the ability for councils to take action when someone is affected by barking and other nuisance behaviour.
Approach the owner
Firstly, the owner should be approached directly and have the problem explained to them. It may help to provide them with times the dog is barking.
If your neighbour is unapproachable or does not agree that the problem exists, then a Nuisance Dog Complaint should be submitted via firstname.lastname@example.org or hard copy delivered to the Shire Administration offices reception.
If the barking problem continues, and further complaints are lodged, the Ranger may issue a noise abatement notice which requires the owner to abate the noise. This notice has effect for 6 months.
Failure to comply
If the owner does not comply with the notice, they may be issued an infringement notice of $200 or be taken to court, where a penalty of up to $5000 may be issued. Higher penalties apply for dangerous dogs.
Complainants who make false reports, for whatever reason, may incur civil court action for false declaration.
For further information on rights, responsibilities and penalties under the Dog Act 1976 click here