Dealing with barking dogs
It is a natural action of dogs to bark. However, this behaviour can cause distress and discomfort to people when it becomes excessive.
All dogs bark, but some barking dogs become a neighbourhood nuisance, greatly reducing the quality of life for neighbours and increasing neighbourhood tension. The following are some of the causes of barking in dogs.
We always recommend you seek veterinary intervention if something in your dog's behaviour changes suddenly or doesn’t seem quite right.
Being alone with very little to do for extended periods of time can lead to boredom, frustration and loneliness for dogs. Bored dogs also show other anti-social behaviours, like trying to escape or being destructive by chewing or digging. To avoid boredom you need to give your dog plenty to do when it’s alone.
Anticipating a walk, playing games, playing with children, seeing people in a swimming pool and hearing their owners arriving home often excite dogs. This uncontrolled barking is fairly easy to fix by removing the source of excitement from the dog and not rewarding the barking behaviour.
Dogs are pack animals and dogs regard their owners and family as “its pack” and they will bark in an attempt to communicate with missing members of its pack. When dogs are left alone they may fret and become anxious, often barking for extended periods of time. Dogs may also become fearful or anxious of people or objects, like the postman or the neighbour’s lawnmower. When dogs bark because of fear or anxiety, it is very important to work on reducing anxiety levels as early as possible.
Barking episodes can be set off when people come to the door or walk past your property. The dog’s behaviour is then reinforced as the perceived “intruder” leaves – the dog believes their barking has sent this unwanted guest away! Some dogs bark and act aggressively through the fence at passers-by. This may not only cause a noise nuisance, but also become frightening for strangers outside the house.
Pain and discomfort, illness or even being restricted to a small area may be a cause of barking. Dogs left chained or tied up may find it difficult to get exercise or water to drink. If your usually quiet dog suddenly starts to bark excessively, check its environment and perhaps take a trip to the vet.
As we know, all dogs will bark at some time. However, excessive barking through the day or at night does have a big impact on others and their amenity.
If your dog is barking excessively, you can try:
- Filling in gaps and cracks in the fence in order to block the dog's view of people passing by.
- Keep the dog inside or in an enclosed area, if the dog barks at regular disturbances such as possums/cats or people walking past – particularly at night.
- Ensure your dog is receiving the required amount of exercise for its breed.
- Try interactive toys that hide food or ones that are designed to require manipulation and persistence to obtain a food reward.
- Give your dog a bone or dog treat when you leave the house.
Barking dog complaints are capable of being addressed by Council under the provisions of The Companion Animals Act 1998. Council will use discretion in each individual case as to whether, and at what stage, this level of investigation is commenced.
What can I do about barking dogs?
We receive hundreds of complaints each year about barking dogs. If you have an issue with a barking dog in your neighbourhood, there are the following options:
- Try to approach the dog owner first and advise them of the problem. They may not be aware that their dog is barking.
- Seek the assistance of the Community Justice Centre (CJC) to mediate a solution. The CJC can be contacted on 1800 990 777 or if you have a hearing impairment on 1800 671 964 (TTY) or www.cjc.nsw.gov.au
- Contact Council and lodge a formal complaint regarding the barking. You should have the following information ready:
o The address of where the dog resides
o A description of the dog
o Details of the complaint. E.g. nuisance barking
o Your name, address and a contact number for Council Rangers to contact you
o Be prepared to attend Court or other potential legal proceedings.
What happens when I make a formal complaint to Council about a dog that continuously barks?
- When a formal complaint is received, the owner of the animal will be contacted as part of Council’s investigation.
- A four (4) week period will then be given for the owners to take action to settle the dog from barking
- Complaints received after this four (4) week period, will result in further investigation by the Rangers in the form of a door knock to determine the extent of the barking
- If the door knock investigation demonstrates that the dog is continuing to bark excessively, a Nuisance Order under the Companion Animals Act 1998 may be issued to the owner
- If a Nuisance Order is issued, all residents who had agreed that the dog/s bark excessively will receive a barking dog diary, to record the extent of the barking problem on an ongoing basis
- For Council to take further action there needs to be conclusive evidence that the dog does bark excessively. This evidence is gathered via two diaries from two separate residents that demonstrates a continuous pattern of excessive barking
- These types of cases are often dealt with in a Court of law. Residents who decide to complete the diaries must be prepared to attend court to give evidence.
Can I take independent action?
- If you want to take action independently of Council, you can seek a noise abatement order under section 268 of the POEO Act from the local court.
Yass Local Court: CNR Rossi & Comur Sts Yass NSW 2582 Phone: 1300 679 272.
If you suspect a dog is being mistreated, contact an RSPCA inspector on (02) 9770 7555 / 1300 278 3589 or visit the RSPCA website.