Backyard ban­ter

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By SARAH MOORE

It doesn’t take much for man’s best friend to morph into man’s worst en­emy.

Bark­ing is one of the most com­mon com­plaints be­tween neigh­bours. Re­lent­less bark­ing at all hours of the day is a com­mon dis­cus­sion on Neigh­ and many peo­ple won­der what they can do to find a lit­tle howl-free har­mony at home.

So why do dogs bark in the first place? Of­ten it’s be­cause they’re bored and want at­ten­tion, or they need a re­lease for pent-up en­ergy. Dogs are nat­u­rally guard an­i­mals, so if the space they’re ‘ guard­ing’ is too big bark­ing can be worse. Cats, birds or other dogs may have wan­dered past their ter­ri­tory. It’s also pos­si­ble that dogs just miss their own­ers.

You do have rights if bark­ing from the other side of the fence is caus­ing you grief. The Dog Con­trol Act 1996 says dog own­ers must ‘‘take all rea­son­able steps’’ to en­sure their pets’ bark­ing doesn’t annoy the neigh­bours.

The first step is ap­proach­ing your neigh­bours di­rectly. They might not even be aware of the prob­lem if they’re at work dur­ing the day. Oth­er­wise note down when the bark­ing causes you prob­lems and for how long, then call your coun­cil and ask for the dog con­trol unit.

A dog con­trol of­fi­cer will then as­sess the sit­u­a­tion. The of­fi­cer will tell your neigh­bours a com­plaint has been made (this can be anony­mous) and sug­gest ways to re­duce the dog’s bark­ing. Own­ers are usu­ally given a few days to sort the prob­lem out. The of­fi­cer may also call the SPCA if the dog is seen to be suf­fer­ing in any way.

You can, if the prob­lem con­tin­ues, is­sue a legal no­tice to your neigh­bours which gives them seven days to take se­ri­ous ac­tion to qui­eten their dog, re­move it al­to­gether or ob­ject to your com­plaint. If they don’t and there are fur­ther com­plaints, your neigh­bours can be fined. The dog can be con­fis­cated and sent to the pound if the bark­ing per­sists.

So what if you’re an owner of a bark­ing dog? Con­tin­u­ous bark­ing can strain your dog’s throat and even lead to in­fec­tions – and al­low­ing your dog to bark can also en­cour­age ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour. So it’s im­por­tant to do all you can to man­age your dog’s bark­ing – both for the good of their health and your neigh­bour’s san­ity.

Ide­ally dogs shouldn’t be left at home all day by them­selves, but this is in­evitable with most work­ing fam­i­lies. A long walk be­fore you go to work could tire your pooch and keep it con­tent for the day. Make sure it has things to keep it oc­cu­pied, like long-last­ing dog toys. If you work just around the cor­ner, nip­ping home at lunchtime could be enough to keep your dog happy un­til evening. If your dog is a par­tic­u­larly ac­tive and so­cial breed like

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