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Too much?

It is normal and natural for a dog to bark from time to time for instance, when the postman is delivering mail or when guests arrive. However, noise from barking dogs can be common source of disturbance, stress and nuisance. So how much is too much?

Depending on where you live, it is likely that your neighbours will be able to clearly hear the noise of your dog barking, particularly if it barks outside or you live in an attached property.

One way to judge whether the amount of barking is too much is to try to put yourself in your neighbours shoes. If they were making a noise that you found disturbing, such as playing music or hammering something, how long would it take before you found it unpleasant?

Problems arise when dog barking becomes excessive and unreasonable. Even if you can put up with excessive barking it is not reasonable to expect your neighbours to do likewise.

Examples of excessive barking can include: frequent intermittent barking over lengthy periods; sustained barking over more than a minute or two; barking early in the morning or late at night.

Barking and the law

Some neighbours will be willing to approach you about noise that is disturbing them. If they do, this is the time to carefully consider whether your dog is barking too much. If you are out at work you may not realise there is a problem. Neighbours don’t generally like to make a fuss so any approach should be taken seriously.

If a neighbour complains to the council we will investigate if your dog/s barking is causing an unreasonable disturbance to your neighbours. Officers will apply their professional judgement when making their decision. If it’s a nuisance the ASB route will be taken. If it amounts to a Statutory Nuisance we may take enforcement action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This may include the serving of an Abatement Notice on the person responsible for the dog/s requiring the stopping of the barking.

Why dogs bark

Dogs are not by nature solitary creatures. They need the security of a family group. Pet dogs regard their owners as a substitute family and it is quite common for a dog to become distressed and exhibit bad behaviour if left alone for lengthy periods.

With a family to manage or a high pressure job to balance it can be all too easy to forget the needs of the family dog. If a dog is left alone at home while you are out at work you may not realise that it is unhappy, distressed or anxious. Some of the common causes of barking include:

  • dislikes being left alone
  • frustration
  • guarding instinct
  • attention seeking
  • frightened
  • boredom
  • excitement

Training is essential

The importance of training cannot be over emphasised. Your dog needs to learn not to bark at just anything that moves. A well trained dog should be able to tell between people allowed into the house and people who are intruders. Good training combined with affection and companionship should help ensure that your dog does not develop bad habits. Start young and start as you mean to go on.

Anti-barking collars that release a harmless spray can be helpful in training to reduce barking but always seek advice before use.

Some other things to try

  • Exercise your dog with a walk and playtime games at least 30 minutes before leaving
  • Teach dogs to tolerate absences from an early age
  • Leave things to amuse him such as toys
  • Reward quiet behaviour
  • Feed him a small meal so he is more likely to feel sleepy
  • Make sure he has access to sufficient water
  • If some noises frighten him, try putting a radio on quietly, to mask the noise
  • If he barks for attention, try ignoring him for at least half an hour before you go out and don’t make a fuss of him on leaving or returning
  • Try putting your dog on his own in another room for a few minutes at first and then gradually longer
  • Leave your dog somewhere he is familiar with. Close curtains or keep him away from windows if sights and sounds set him off
  • Ask someone the dog trusts to take him out for a walk if leaving him for more than a couple of hours
  • Some dogs are comforted by the smell of an old jumper or similar
  • Try to leave your dog somewhere that barking is less likely to disturb neighbours

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