Dogs that bark excessively often become a major problem in our community. Some people think it is normal for dogs to bark consistently. It isn't.
Barking dogs are a nuisance and are not conducive to good neighbourly relations. Constant barking usually means the dog is bored, lonely, frustrated or ill.
What the Law Says about Barking Dogs
The Domestic Animals Act 1994 defines animal noise nuisance as a dog (or cat) that:
“Creates a noise by barking or similar 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.”
A dog owner must not allow their dog to create a nuisance.
Council takes all barking dog complaints seriously where the complaint can be substantiated. If a barking dog problem cannot be resolved, fines can be issued or the matter may be referred to court to obtain a court order requiring the dog’s owner to take action to resolve the problem.
Why Dogs Bark
Dogs can bark to alert their owners of trouble such as an intruder entering the property or perhaps fire.
A dog's idea of an 'intruder' may differ to that of the owner. It could think cats, possums, other dogs or even birds flying across the property as 'intruders'. It is the owner's responsibility to train the dog not to bark at these regular, non-threatening 'intruders' or occasional normal domestic noises or movements in neighbouring properties.
Some reasons that dogs bark
Lack of exercise, inadequate yard space or boredom
Dogs become bored when they are confined in a back yard. This problem can be worse 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 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.
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 is warm and dry in the winter.
Hunger or thirst
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 to drink.
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.
Remove the source of the provocation or remove the dog.
If the source of provocation is a person, discuss and solve the problem with the person or if the person is unapproachable, contact the Dispute Settlement Service.
Change to family structure
Family changes can include a reduction in the family such as marital separation, death or family members moving away. Alternatively, the changes may be a result of expansion to the family, for example marriage, a partner moving in, children returning home, taking in boarders and especially when a new baby arrives in the family.
When there is a decrease in the family for whatever reason, this can cause confusion and insecurity within the dog resulting in what humans may determine as behavioural problems.
People understand that during marital separation, when family members move away or there is a death in the family the other family members grieve and feel the loss of that member. The family dog will also feel the loss and will mourn for the missing family member.
Dogs can bark, howl and whimper as a way of dealing with the loss of one of the family members. The way humans react to changes can directly affect the behaviour of their pets. In times of family reduction, the family pet may require comforting and reassuring.
When families move house, it causes a time of upheaval, stress and insecurity. A period of time is required for the re-adjustment into a new house and new neighbourhood.
Dogs are territorial creatures and when they are removed for their home territory, they can become insecure and stressed resulting in several behavioural problems. The dog may try to jump the fence or dig out in an attempt to find its way back to its own territory or it may bark and howl in its distress and insecurity.
Humans base their home on the place they live and keep their possessions. A dog's territory is based on the area that the dog has claimed as its own by scent-marking landmarks to define the dog's territory.
When a family moves home it cannot be assumed that a kennel placed in the back yard will be accepted as the dog's new home. All of the landmarks that have been scent marked by the dog have been taken away from the dog. Until the dog can re-establish a new home territory that it can claim for itself, the dog may be insecure and may display unsettled behaviour.
When moving house, the dog owner needs to comfort, reassure and assist the dog in establishing its new territorial home.
What can be done about a Barking Dog
The Dog Owner's Neighbour
Barking dog problems can sometimes be solved by approaching the dog's owner in a neighbourly manner and discussing your concerns with them. Or you could write a politely-worded note and put it in their mailbox, if you do not feel comfortable speaking with them.
The following points need to be considered:
- 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.
If you are unable to resolve the matter with your neighbour or if you do not feel comfortable contacting your neighbour, you can contact Council with as much information as possible including:
- Your name and mailing address
- Your contact phone number
- Property address where the dog is located
- When the dog barks and for how long
- The effect the barking has on your well-being.
The Dog's Owner
You should work through the above list of reasons that dogs can bark and understand and address the issue.
As many dogs behave differently when their owners are away from home, you may also consider monitoring your dog by using one of many recording applications that are available on the Internet for smart phones and tablet devices. A search of the Internet for barking dog monitor should provide a few choices.
You can use apps to record your dog while you are not at home and then be able to assess the extent of the issues. If you need some advice about using the apps, you can contact Council for further help.
You should also consider taking your dog to a local dog obedience training school where dogs can be socialised and desensitised from some irritants that cause excessive dog barking.
Obedience training can help stop dogs barking. If previous attempts have failed, there are established services available that will provide professional advice on preventing behavioural problems, such as barking.
Please see your vet or a pet organisation for advice on other methods to limit barking.
Other useful information:
If a barking dog complaint is made to Council, they will contact the dog owner to:
- Advise them that a complaint has been received and ask that they monitor their dog to assess the extent (if any) of the barking.
- Send them barking dog behaviour information.
- Ask them to contact Council.
When the dog owner contacts Council, they will be provided with further information and advice.
A period of 14 days is generally allowed for the dog owner to firstly assess the issue, to take action to make improvements if necessary.
Council will contact the person making the complaint and send them a set of log forms and a complaint form. During the 14 day period, the person making the complaint may wish to keep a log of the days and times the dog is barking excessively and the effect it has on their household. If after 14 days from receiving Council’s letter the person making the complaint believes the barking behaviour has not improved, the complainant will need to advise Council in writing using the complaint form and complete the log forms for another 10 to 14 days. Once Council receives the completed forms, contact is made with the dog owner to discuss the matter further.
Unless the Council receives the complaint and logs in writing, then Council may not be able to help any further. These are required for Council to determine the best course of action with the dog owner. Council cannot act on repeated phone complaints.
Please Note: Council Officers do not get involved in neighbour disputes and may conduct their own investigation to substantiate a nuisance complaint objectively without taking one person’s word over another.
Important: Council does not initially tell the dog owner the identity of the resident who has complained about the barking dog. Complainants should be aware that they may be required to give evidence in Court to support their complaint should the alleged nuisance remain unresolved. At that point your identity will become known to the dog owner.