Is your dog barking too much?
It’s normal and natural for dogs to bark. But when it happens a lot or goes on for a long time it can be annoying and upsetting for your neighbours.
If you are away from home or just used to the noise you might not realise how bad it is.
The following advice is designed to help you work with your neighbours to sort out problems caused by your dog barking without having to involve the authorities. It will also help you understand why your dog barks, and give you practical steps to stop or cut down the barking.
Research into noise issues shows that problems are most likely to be solved when people discuss things calmly and work out a solution between themselves.
What can you do?
Talking it over
If the noise your dog is making is upsetting your neighbours, talk things over with them.
Stay calm, and try to see it from their point of view - perhaps they work shifts, or have a baby or small children.
They may be worried about whether the dog is alright. You might not know how serious the problem is if your dog is barking more when you’re not at home.
Understanding the problem
Try and find out exactly when your dog is barking, and for how long. If you’re at home, make a note yourself.
Think about using a webcam to find out what your dog is doing when you’re not there.
Try a ‘set-up’ - pretend you’re going out for the day, then wait outside the door to see what your dog does. If it starts barking and howling, go back in and tell it firmly to be quiet.
Punishing your dog will only make things worse. If a complaint has been made to the Council the investigating officer may be able to help you with times and dates of occurrences.
There are some simple steps you can take to cut down the amount of noise your dog is making. This will help calm the situation between you and your neighbours, and give you time to work out why your dog is barking:
- if your dog barks at things outside your yard or garden, don’t let it go outside on its own. Keep it away from windows or draw the curtains, so it can’t see people or other animals.
- if your dog barks at the same time every day - maybe when people in the house are going to work or school, try to keep it busy at that time. You could take it for a walk.
- try to keep your dog calm. If it barks when excited, don’t play with it at anti-social times.
- if your dog is barking and you’re in a flat or a semi-detached property, try to keep it away from shared walls.
- don’t leave your dog outside if it is barking to be let inside.
- see if you can get a friend or relative to look after your dog when you go out, or take it with you.
- make sure your dog gets some exercise before you go out - a tired dog barks less.
- some dogs only settle if they hear a human voice. Leave a radio on at a low volume.
Keep your neighbours informed about what you’re doing to stop the barking.
- be consistent - every time your dog is quiet when it would normally have barked, praise it or give it a treat. When it barks, tell it firmly to be quiet.
- remember that your dog is part of the family. If it only barks when you leave, bring it inside. Leave some toys or chews.
- if your dog is distressed, keep it inside with you whenever you’re at home - dogs are pack animals, and they need company.
Tackling specific problems
- your dog is frightened:
- your dog might look scared (ears back, tail low), have trouble settling, or keep trying to hide.
- if your dog likes hiding, make a den for it.
- if it’s scared of noise, mask it by putting the radio on quietly.
- if it’s frightened of other people or animals, shut the curtains or doors.
- barking at people, animals or cars because it's guarding his territory:
- keep your dog away from the front of your home.
- screen your windows.
- if it starts barking outside, call it in straightaway.
- your dog is barking to get attention:
- look at your dog, then look away to show you’re not going to respond. Don’t give it any attention while it’s barking. Try deliberately ignoring it for 20-30 minutes two or three times a day, and get everyone in the house to do the same. Doing this for 15 minutes before you go out can help stop your dog barking when you leave. A vet, animal behaviourist or dog warden may be able to give you advice.
- you went out without taking your dog for a walk, and it’s barking through frustration:
- wear different clothes for walking your dog.
- leave your dog’s lead where it can see it. So if you’re leaving without taking the lead the dog will know that its not going with you.
- your dog is clingy, and howls or whines when left alone:
- A vet, animal behaviourist or dog warden may be able to tell you how to help your dog get used to being on its own.
What not to do
- don’t punish your dog. It might mistake it for attention, and it could also make it more anxious.
- try not to use mechanical devices like anti-bark collars as they could make the dog even more anxious.
- Don’t get a second dog unless you’re sure it’s going to make your dog feel more secure, not less.
If the problem isn’t resolved
Dogs can be retrained. Your vet can give you further advice or they can refer your dog to an expert animal behaviourist who may suggest ways to improve your dog’s behaviour.
If you don’t take steps to solve the problem and the Council is satisfied that the noise created amounts to a statutory nuisance, a noise abatement notice can be served requiring the noise to be reduced to an acceptable level.
If you fail to comply with an abatement notice, you could face prosecution and a fine.