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Barking Dogs

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The problems caused by persistently barking dogs are a common neighbourhood complaint reported to councils. Below are some steps to take when confronted with your neighbour's barking dog.

Talk to your neighbour

Barking problems can be solved by neighbours communicating with each other their concerns and needs. Your neighbour may not be aware of the problem.

  • The dog's owner may not realise that the barking is causing an annoyance to other people
  • The dog may only bark excessively when the owner is not home
  • The owner may not hear the barking from various areas within the house
  • The owner may be a very sound sleeper and not be woken when the dog barks.

Prior to lodging a complaint with Council

  • Approach the owner of the dog as soon as the problem arises and state your case clearly and politely
  • If the problem persists after a week or two, speak to the owner again to provide feedback on his or her training efforts
  • If the owner is unapproachable or does not agree that a problem exists, you could contact the Community Justice Centre. This service provides free mediation which is impartial, confidential and available after hours
  • If the above method does not work, or your neighbour does not wish to mediate, you should contact the Council directly and lodge a complaint online.

Council appreciates that a barking dog can often severely disrupt people’s lives and erode their quality of life. However, the treatment and solution for a barking dog is often a lengthy, difficult and complex issue to deal with. As a majority of the barking is predominantly in the evenings or early mornings, Council relies on the complainant to provide the evidence. Evidence can be gathered by keeping a diary and/or recording the barking with an audio recorder.

What happens after a complaint is lodged

The Companion Animals Act defines a nuisance by a dog barking as:

Makes a noise, by barking or otherwise, that persistently occurs or continues to such a degree or extent that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in any other premises.

1. When the complaint is received Council's Animal Control Officer will:

  • Contact the complainant and explain the process
  • Organise an appointment with the dog owner and verify the information in the complaint
  • Confirm animal is identified and registered
  • Inform dog owner of complaint.

The complainant’s details shall be strictly confidential.

The Officer will then work with the dog owner and offer suggestions which may minimise the nuisance where the complainant is satisfied. The dog owner may also choose to seek professional assistance from a private company.

Council will allow up to two weeks for the dog owner to work with their dog and four weeks if a private company is acquired. In this period the complainant will keep a diary and monitor the progress.

If after the allotted time period the barking is minimised and the complainant satisfied the complaint will be closed.

2. If the barking persists and there is no change after the time period lapses:

  • Council will attempt to obtain corroborating evidence by sending survey letters to neighbouring properties seeking their assistance in identifying any barking dogs in the area over a two week period.

The dog owner’s address will not be disclosed.

If no surveys are returned to Council or surveys are returned with residents not having any issues, council will recommend mediation.

3. If surveys are returned and at least two separate residents are affected and it can be ascertained the dog is the one being investigated, the Animal Control Officer will:

  • Study the survey information for patterns and most likely times the dog barks and possible causes
  • Carry out listening patrols or submit report recommending a nuisance order be issued to the owner of the dog.

Under the NSW Companion Animals Act, persistent barking is regarded as similar to straying or other anti-social behaviour. Where a serious or ongoing problem is identified by a Council Officer, a nuisance dog order can be issued. This order requires the owner to stop the dog from barking persistently. If the problem continues, the owner may be liable for a penalty of $880 for a first offence and $1650 for a second or subsequent offence.

All informants must be prepared to attend court and give evidence prior to an order being issued.

4. Should Council receive further complaints after the nuisance order has expired from the same complainant, Council will consider taking court action:

  • Court action will only be adopted if there is sufficient evidence, to prove a prima facie case, from the informant and two separate residents who are also willing make statements and give evidence in court.

Why do dogs bark?

Dogs bark to communicate something to their owner or anyone who is willing to pay attention. Here are some of the reasons dogs bark:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Inadequate yard space
  • Boredom
  • Not enough human companionship
  • Inadequate shelter from weather conditions
  • Hungry or thirsty
  • Medical condition 
  • Provocation
  • Disturbances
  • Change to family structure
  • Change of territory
  • Anxiety

Dogs also bark to alert their owners of trouble such as an intruder entering the property or perhaps fire. Although a dog's idea of an intruder may differ to that of the owner. It could include cats, possums, other dogs, or even birds flying across the property. While it is acceptable for a dog to bark to warn its owner of an intruder, it is the owner's responsibility to train the dog not to bark at 'normal occurrences' such as possums, cats, birds etc. Barking at 'normal movement/noises' from adjoining properties should be considered to be unacceptable behaviour.

Solutions

Lack of exercise, inadequate yard space, boredom
Dogs become bored when they are confined in a backyard. This problem can be compounded when the yard is small, the dog is kept on a chain, locked in an enclosure or on a run. Dogs like to explore and enjoy new experiences. This problem may be overcome when the dog is treated as a member of the family, is included on family outings and taken on regular walks.

Loneliness, lacking human company
Dogs are social animals and enjoy the companionship of other dogs and of their human owners. Those that are left for long periods of time without companionship can become discontented or lonely. Dogs need to interact with other dogs and with people to keep them stimulated. Dogs that are not permitted to have regular socialisation with other animals and humans can become destructive, fearful, or bark excessively as a plea for attention. In the owner's absence, an old jumper containing the owner's scent may comfort the dog. A radio left on inside the house may give the dog the impression that it is not alone on the property. The radio may also help deter potential intruders.

Inadequate shelter
Dogs require shelter from all the weather elements and may cry for attention if it is uncomfortable due to the hot, cold, windy or wet weather conditions. They need shelter that provides soft, dry bedding, protection from the heat in the summer and warm and dry in the winter.

Hungry or thirsty
Dogs require plenty of fresh water and need to be fed well-balanced dietary food every day to remain healthy and contented. A dog will soon let its owner know by barking, howling or whimpering if it has not been fed or has no water.

Medical condition
An obvious or underlying medical condition can be the cause of howling, whimpering and barking. Flea or worm infestations, skin allergies and some injuries which are usually easily detected and treated can cause a dog to make excessive noise. A veterinarian should be consulted to eliminate any medical condition from being the cause of excessive noise.

Triggers

Other external factors that could cause a dog to bark are:

  • Birds
  • Possums
  • Dogs and cats
  • Neighbours' activities
  • Sirens and alarms
  • Uninvited visitors
  • Storms and thunder
  • Moving house.

Problem barking can be prevented by professional training and by ensuring that your animal is well nourished, exercised and not bored. First find out why your dog is barking and attempt to minimise the triggers. Your local Vet can also give advice on how to remedy the problem.

 

 

Last updated on 12 September 2017