You can hear your dog barking as you pull into the driveway. It’s been a long day, and you don’t need this. But it gets worse. Your neighbour has slipped a handwritten note under the door.
You've been dreading this. You knew your dog whined for a while but you hoped he then curled up in his bed and snoozed away. But you read the note and discover that was wishful thinking. He's barking all day.
It’s a common scenario – finding out from your neighbour your dog is barking incessantly. Sometimes it's a note under the door. Or it could be a phone call. It's rarely a face-to-face conversation over the garden fence.
Neighbour intolerance of barking dogs is on the rise. A 2012 UK survey asked people to rank how annoyed they were by different neighbour noises. Dog barking topped the list. And it beat the previous favourite peeve: loud music.
So if you’ve had one of those notes, or are worried you’re only one bark away from one, you need to act. Here are some ways to get ahead of things and keep your neighbours on good terms.
1. Empathize, agree and take it on the chin
You have my sympathy. Having a dog that barks all day – especially one that angers your neighbours – is rotten.
It’s not your fault and it’s not your dog’s fault – I know that. But, your neighbours don't see it that way. They’re angry with you and your dog for barking all day while they tried to work from home.
Here’s where a simple apology, a ton of empathy and a bit of a grovel can go a long way.
Try something like:
“Yes, I know it can seem like my dog’s being bad, and I can imagine how frustrated you are. But he has separation anxiety, which means he's not barking to be naughty. He’s in a panic at being left. I find it very upsetting and didn’t realize the size of the problem until you told me about him barking all day. I’m so glad you did.”
2. Work out if it’s separation anxiety rather than another behaviour problem
If your dog barks when you’re out, that doesn’t mean he has separation anxiety. You need to rule out:
- Window barking – people, dogs, squirrels, whatever!
- Alarm barking – what’s going on in the street? Deliveries? Mail? Construction?
- Thunder/noise phobia
Separation anxiety training doesn’t apply to these conditions. Some of these problems are easier to resolve than separation anxiety. Find out if your dog might have separation anxiety by taking our quiz.
3. Once you’ve done the humble pie bit, get on their good side
Empathize with them. Tell them you understand your dog’s barking is unacceptable.
Say you see a problem too. Explain you’re not ignoring the problem – far from it. Your dog has a panic disorder, but you’re on the case. You’re training to get him to be more comfortable on his own
If they ask how long it’s going to take, be honest and tell them you don’t know. But, state that as part of the training you will reduce the amount of time your dog is on his own. Meanwhile, you promise to keep your dog as quiet as possible.
Remember, there is only one way to keep your dog from barking: you need someone with him.
4. Set up your camera
If your dog whines all day, you need to know why. Filming their home alone behaviour is the only surefire way to see what’s happening when you’re not there.
Plus, if things do get tricky you will have a record of whether, if and how long your dog barks.
5. Don’t punish your dog
If reaching for a shock collar seems tempting, don’t. These collars work by frightening your dog into stopping his behaviour. They don’t change his emotion.
If the barking stops, it’s not because he feels better about things. He doesn't bark because he’s avoiding the pain of the shock. If you use shock to stop whimpering, you’re treating fear with fear. That doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Don’t let citronella bark collars fool you either. They work because dogs find the scent of lemons disgusting. So, the training is still aversive, but in a different way.
And, if you use pain or fear to train your dog, you run the risk of your dog developing aggression. For more on this, here’s an excellent overview of how to train using rewards rather than punishment.
Don't be drawn in by the short-term fix aversives seem to offer. You're not solving the problem.
Nothing like a stitch in time
With neighbours, nothing tops getting on their good side before the problem develops. As an example, think back to when you’ve thrown a party. You invited the neighbours and gave them a gift. You put goodwill in the bank. Think about using a similar tactic if you suspect your dog’s barking will be a problem. You could take them flowers, chocolates or wine, or buy them a gift card. You could offer to help with chores or run an errand. Do whatever it takes!
It can take a village to fix separation anxiety. Having your neighbour's support rather than their opposition is priceless.
Who knows, if you succeed at keeping your neighbour onside, they might even become part of your village.
If you're worried about separation anxiety, contact me for a free consultation.