Barking comes naturally to dogs, but the constant barking or even whining of dogs can often be disturbing or annoying to neighbours. Often, the problem occurs when the dog's owner is out of the house, so the owner doesn't know until someone complains. However, the problem of dog barking can be solved by understanding why the dog is barking and doing something about it.
Why do dogs bark?
Dogs are sociable animals that like and need company. They bark to communicate, so an occasional bark is perfectly natural. However, if they are left alone, dogs can get upset and start to bark. They may also bark if they are bored or frustrated, ill, defending their territory, or attention seeking.
What can you do if your dog is disturbing the neighbours?
Training is important so that your dog does not bark at anything that moves. Good training, combined with affection, should mean that your dog will not develop bad habits. Start young and start as you mean to go on. There are books in the local library on dog training.
Don't punish your dog
Punishing a dog for barking is likely to make the problem worse. The best way to solve the problem is to find the reason why the dog is barking and do something about it.
Your dog doesn't like to be left alone
Some dogs get lonely when they are left by themselves so they bark and howl. A dog needs to get used to being alone. Leave if for different lengths of time, short at first, maybe in another room. When it has been quiet for some time, return and give it praise. An empty, silent house, can be lonely for a dog. Try leaving a radio on with the volume turned down low. If you are coming back after it gets dark, leave a light on. Before going out, make sure that your dog is well exercised and has fresh water to drink.
A dog may also become bored when left, so leave something for the dog to do. You could give your dog a suitable toy. Also make sure that the dog has a comfortable sleeping area.
Try not to leave your dog alone for long periods. If you have to, see if someone can look in during that time, and even take your dog for a walk, or let him out into the garden to play.
Tackling your dog's specific problems
Problem: Your dog is clingy, and howls or whines when left alone.
Solution: A vet, animal behaviourist, or community warden, may be able to tell you how to help your dog get used to being on its own.
Problem: Your dog is frightened. It might look scared (ears back, tail low), have trouble settling, or keep trying to hide.
Solution: If your dog likes hiding, make a den for it. If it is scared of noise, mask it by putting the radio on quietly. If it is frightened of other people or animals, shut the curtains or doors. Think about talking to a vet, animal behaviourist, or community warden.
Problem: Your dog guards his territory by barking at people, animals, or cars.
Solution: Keep your dog away from the front of the house or flat. Screen your windows. If it starts barking outside, call it in straight away. You could ask a vet, animal behaviourist, or community warden about behaviour therapy.
What not to do:
- Don't punish your dog. It might mistake it for attention, and it could also make it more anxious.
- Don't use electronic devices which deliver an electric shock - like anti-bark collars, it could make the dog even more worried.
- Don't get a second dog unless you're sure it's going to make your dog feel more secure, not less.
Keep your neighbours informed about what you are doing to stop the barking.
Other points to consider
Ask your neighbours to tell you exactly when your dog is barking, and for how long. If you are out a lot, ask them to note the times when the barking happens. If you are in, make a note yourself.
Think about using a web cam or video camera to find out what your dog is doing when you are not there, or try a 'set-up' - pretend you are going out for the day, then wait outside the door to see what your dog does. If it starts barking and howling, go back in and tell it firmly to be quiet. Punishing your dog will only make things worse.
If your dog is kept outside, think carefully about where the kennel is sited and where the dog can run. Try to put it away from neighbours' fences, in a place where your dog is least likely to be disturbed and therefore less likely to bark.
Getting a second dog for company might help. But do think carefully. Do you have the space and can you afford another dog? Another dog could also result in more problems, not less.
There are also devices that have been developed to help break barking habits. We would only advocate training aids that do not harm dogs.
You can contact us for more information about these devices.
If the problem does not get resolved
If you do not take steps to solve the problem, and we receive complaints about the noise your dog is making, we will investigate the complaint. We may seek to resolve the problem by mediating between you and the complainants, but when we do not do so, or when such mediation is unsuccessful, and we are satisfied that the noise amounts to a statutory nuisance, you will be served with an abatement notice requiring the noise to be reduced to an acceptable level.
If you fail to comply with an abatement notice, you could face prosecution and, if convicted, a fine of up to £5,000 (and possibly further daily fines of up to £500 for each day on which the offence continues after conviction).