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What to do when a neighbour's dog won't stop barking

Date

Emma Kelly

Marilynne Read with her two dogs Oscar and Murphy.

Marilynne Read with her two dogs Oscar and Murphy. Photo: Jay Cronan

It's a loud problem that can leave Canberrans in canine-populated communities ready to tear their hair out – the incessant barking of a neighbour's dog.

But rather than feed a noisy, four-legged pet poison-laced meatballs – and face hair loss – a friendly chat or a written submission to Domestic Animal Services is a disgruntled resident's best pathway to peace.

There were 137 complaints of barking canines across Canberra in the 2013-2014 financial year. Three resulted in formal notices, while a small number of owners were hit with $150 fines.

Marilynne Read has some advice to dog owners to help their dogs to be quiet.

Marilynne Read has some advice to dog owners to help their dogs to be quiet.

But the vast majority of complaints were resolved without formal action.

Approaching the dog's owner in person or in writing was ideal, a Territory and Municipal Services spokesman said.

Submitting an "animal nuisance complaint" was the next step if communication was unsuccessful or not an option – but be prepared to put pen to paper.

If the noise continues after a fortnight, disgruntled residents must complete a "dog bark diary" covering at least four consecutive days.

Only then could rangers investigate further and potentially issue an animal nuisance notice or fine, the spokesman said. 

"DAS prefers to assist the offending dog's owner to resolve the issue by providing support to identify and address the cause of the dog's barking," he said.

Marilyn Read knows what it's like to be on the noisy side of the fence. She approached a behaviourist vet and a trainer to quieten her four-year-old Maltese-cross poodle, Oscar.

Oscar thought his barking was deterring walkers and other canines from coming too close to his park-side backyard – it also set off four-year-old toy poodle, Murphy.

But Ms Read was not aware of the problem until a friendly neighbour informed her of Oscar's noisy behaviour while she was out.

She has since covered the fence and rewards Oscar for cutting his barking short and returning to the house when called.

"Apparently [the barking] is nowhere near as bad as it used to be," she said.

Ms Read said the poison meatball incident in Gungahlin sparked renewed concern for the safety of her pets and motivated her to continue Oscar's training.

Geraldine Wickham has come up against yapping dogs of all shapes and sizes, including Oscar, during a decade of training canines in the capital.

While training was essential, she said one of the most important steps was fostering an amicable line of communication.

"I think dog owners are a bit like parents in a way; they can be very defensive about their 'children' [but] most owners would want to know [if they were barking] so they can do something about it," she said.

Owners could also take the heat off a disgruntled neighbour's angry note or verbal concern with a friendly thank-you letter and a box of chocolates.

RSPCA ACT education office Kelly Walton agreed a friendly chat could do wonders.

She said investigating the reasons behind incessant barking, such as a lack of exercise, loneliness or boredom, was also important.

However, something more serious like anxiety would require specialist help from a vet or behaviourist.

22 comments

  • the ACT gov't simply does not treat noise abuse properly. Wait two weeks!! then keep a diary.
    Just cut/paste NSW noise abatement laws and have the Police deal with it as it happens, they can also slap a noise abatement notice with big fines if noise re-occurs, also covers loud neighbours and their music and cars.

    Failing that, there are some good "toys" you can get off the net which will make a noise only the dogs will hear and will male them bark. Just turn it on at 2.00am and get some payback......

    Commenter
    stoney
    Date and time
    August 21, 2014, 9:01AM
    • Save your money, those high frequency noise makers are about as useful as a wooden leg in a bushfire.
      I made two remote controlled "super high powered, long range twin horn" "warning, don't put near your ear as permanent hearing loss can occur" kits available online to scare comorants of a dam that had fish stocked in it.
      I tested it on grazing kangaroo's not 4 meters from the units, they didn't even stop grazing or look around.
      I did some more checks and adjusted the frequency, still good for nothing even though they where working as designed the first time.

      Commenter
      dusty
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 10:26AM
    • Tend to agree. When we had a horrendous noise problem (all night generator) next door, we found that that they had a marvellously detailed, caring and sharing, 'process' that didn't get an 'outcome' - a prompt abatement of an evident nuisance.

      Commenter
      Stephen
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 11:07AM
    • payback....... I like it. get that chainsaw ripping at exactly 7am on saturday morning right outside their window and then go out. see how they like it.

      Commenter
      smilingjack
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 1:48PM
    • @dusty,

      thanks for that,

      The laws are clearly not there to support people, so therefore the law needs to be changed.

      If your neighbours are car hooning in your street do you wait two weeks then make a diary of the events. If you shop is robbed do you also wait two weeks to see how many more times it is robbed.

      Perhaps any insomniacs out there could take big dogs for a walk around the house of whoever makes the laws. If your dog barks or howls ask it nicely to stop or just encourage it.

      Also drop a flyer in all your neighbours letter boxes telling them the phone number for noise complaints and the relevant ministers name and number and watch the 137 complaints skyrocket.

      Commenter
      stoney
      Date and time
      August 22, 2014, 12:02PM
  • yeah a neighbouring unit's dog used to only bark - continuously - when she went to the gym - when she came home it promptly stopped - so she was surprised to be advised that her dog barking was a problem.

    In NSW Strata laws applicable to most residential complexes, standard by-law 1 says 'must not make any noise at any time likely to disturb another resident' - so after an official warning, this can be grounds for termination of a tenant's lease - staying here is subject to your complying with our by-laws - repeated breaches - notify agent - termination of lease required - bye-bye !

    Commenter
    Frank
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 21, 2014, 9:58AM
    • Be sure to take an independent witness to back up your version of what was said if you go to speak to your neighbour about their constantly barking dog/s.
      Then you will be the worst person in the world in their eyes, they will twist what you said & you will be number one suspect when some-one else has had more than enough and takes the "self help" stop barking method after they keep barking.
      People with barking dogs fall into two categories,
      1. Those who don't know its happening.
      2. Those who don't care it's happening.
      Better to give it to them in writing via a "Dear neighbour, I live some distance away but your dogs are upsetting us with their constant barking" letter in their mail-box, with-out your name & address.
      More often than not they will take it personally rather than fit a citronella collar or anti-bark collar or fix the reason why its barking mindlessly at all hours of the day & night.
      Quite a few dog owners have no idea about training or looking after a dog and all its needs, they might think they do but the constant barking is a sure sign of a problem/s with the dog and their environment and training.....and most likely....the owner.

      Commenter
      dusty
      Date and time
      August 21, 2014, 10:09AM
      • The problem is that most inner suburban NIMBY's refuse to acknowledge that their dog barks all day. If you are retired, a pensioner, sick or at home working/studying you cannot get away from the incessant yapping noise.

        Then when the said owner comes home and you tell them about their annoying dog it is met with; 'well, can't you just get out of the house for the day'? - what for days on end, every day because you can't take responsibility for your dog? Seriously, this is the mentality of some people? And those who buy dogs for their young children, who are much too young, are particularly bad at not looking after their behavioural needs.

        Commenter
        responsible dog owner
        Location
        inner north
        Date and time
        August 21, 2014, 11:28AM
        • Wait, are we neighbours? Because I swear I have the same issue. A dog that barks continuously when the couple are out. I see them walk that stupid dog twice a day on massive walks. But it still barks whenever they leave the house and when, oh I don't know, a wind blows a leaf across the backyard. It drives me up the wall. I try to study, the dog barks. I try to read a book, then dog barks. I try to garden, the dog barks. Seriously. I've had it up to here with that stupid barmy dog. The only time I don't hear the dog is when I'm at work.

          Commenter
          Gronks
          Location
          Inner North
          Date and time
          August 23, 2014, 8:15PM
      • The process that DAS has for investigating noise complaints is seriously flawed. 3 separate complaints from 3 different neighbours about a nuisance dog in a particular place in Monash has resulted in the first investigation not being conducted correctly (DAS's words), with the next 2 having the investigating officer sitting in the offenders street when the dog is at it's quietest (as noted in the 'bark diary'! ) After 7 years the dog still barks while the owners are out, at times for 3-4 hours at a time. Please DAS, review your processes and take 3 individual complaints about the same address seriously! The negative effects it has on nearby families is huge.

        Commenter
        Jen
        Date and time
        August 21, 2014, 12:11PM

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