Whenever people live in close quarters with each other as in a residential neighborhood there will be many ways parties can annoy each other. One of the most common complaints is the barking of neighborhood dogs.
Dogs bark for many reasons. Contrary to Walt Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” movie, the “barking chain” of communication is a fallacy. Most dog-to-dog language is non-verbal so if a dog is barking it can usually be classified in one of the following types:
- protection of territory
- pain or discomfort
Fear barking occurs when a dog is afraid in its environment. Most dogs are afraid of the dark, wind, movement they cannot comprehend (e.g.: trees or shrubs moving), and sometimes other creatures (e.g.: squirrels, large birds, shadows etc.)
Boredom barking occurs when a dog has nothing else to do. This type of barking becomes a self-reinforcing behavior and once it becomes established as a habit can be very hard to break.
Dogs are emotionally ill-equipped to be alone because they are pack animals. Without companionship they become desperately lonely and bark to establish contact with others outside their immediate prison (e.g.: yard) and to express their misery. This type of barking can also become a self-reinforcing behavior and can become chronic.
Protection of a dog’s own territory is another prime motivator for nuisance barking. If a dog sees someone it feels is a threat to its dominance of territorial domain, it will threaten the “intruder” with an aggressive volley of barking. Once the threat is removed this type of barking usually subsides.
Barking from pain or discomfort is a call for help. If a dog has no water, irregular food availability, is tangled in a chain, or has no shelter in weather extremes, it will bark for attention and help.
There are as many different sounds of barking as there are reasons to bark. A fear bark is very different from a painful bark. A lonely bark is an opposite of a territorial protection bark. If you suspect a dog is barking from neglect contact the Animal Control Division of your local police department. Their officers will take over and you can remain anonymous. If other types of barking are a nuisance you can contact city police since noise ordinances are enforced in most townships and cities. But simply talking to your neighbor first is the most civilized approach.
If the dog barking is yours try to understand the underlying reasons for it. Know all barking behaviors can be worked with and put under control but the owner must be present at all times that the barking occurs. Leaving any dog unsupervised outdoors for any length of time will guarantee a chronic barker eventually.
Behavior modification is very successful in limiting undesirable barking behavior but the owner must know what to do, be willing to do it, and must be present to be consistent in the modification techniques. Dog behavior consultants can be hired to work with you to understand your dog’s needs and how to overcome the problem. Behaviorists can be found in the phone book, through training centers, or a referral from your veterinarian. Otherwise, the dog should be kept indoors so it can not develop the habits that make them become nuisances to the neighborhood.
If the problem is a neighbor’s dog and that neighbor refuses to take action in the form of responsible, humane, and compassionate dog care, there are anti-bark devices that are available that send out ultra-sonic peals of sound each and every time the dog barks. They shut off immediately when the dog does. They have a range of 25-50 feet and work rain or shine, around the clock. So if you have tried detente with your human neighbor to no avail, you may be able to save yourself headaches with such devices placed in your own yard.
Information on these devices can be found in the catalogs of dog care such as:
a) “Doctors Foster and Smith”–1-800-826-7206– DrsFosterandSmith.com
b) “New England Serum Company/Pet Edge”–1-800-738-3343–www.PetEdge.com
c) Petsmart and their catalog—wwww.petsmart.com
d) Petco and their catalog—www.petco.com
e) Petsafe and their catalog—www.petsafe.org
The most important thing any dog owner can be aware of is their dog and its needs as a separate species. The next most important thing any dog owner should be aware of is the consideration of their neighbors.
NO ONE CAN FORCE YOU TO BE CONSIDERATE, EITHER TO YOUR NEIGHBORS OR YOUR PET BUT IT IS A CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY TO KEEP A PET FROM BECOMING A NUISANCE TO OTHERS, AND A HUMANE RESPONSIBILITY TO CARE FOR A PET COMPASSIONATELY.
Remember there are no bad dogs, just neglectful owners. Dogs are so devoted to their human “pack” we owe it to them to try to understand their world and try to meet them halfway in our relationship with our “best friends.”