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 Neighbourly.co.nz 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