According to award-winning book A Dog’s Purpose, dogs consider themselves ‘protectors’ of their human pack. Even our golden retriever Charm, a retired show dog, insists on shopping her toy box before scampering to bark at deliveries and visitors.
As a fluff ball owner, pet responsibility is our responsibility, including teaching them when to be quiet. All neighborhood residents and high-rise dwellers, at one time or another, experience a barking dog. While many canines are well-trained to protectively sound off at intruders, others yip at anything from rustling leaves leaping squirrels.
If your neighbor’s canine companion is in the latter category, consider these approaches to quiet things down:
1. Listen & Observe: When does barking occur - with a visitor, a package delivery, and door knock or doorbell ring? Is it incessant barking during thunderstorms, fireworks, all day or all night? Observe carefully for the facts. Objectively record dates and times for 2-3 weeks in writing, without subjective commentary.
2. Clear Calm Communication: Maintaining a good neighbor relationship requires clear and honest communication. With a legitimate barking dog concern, let your neighbor know. Avoid complaining when frustrated. Wait until the barking can be discussed calmly. Be prepared to listen and open to compromise. “John, we observed that after you leave for work, your young puppy is barking for you all day.” Remember, tone tells all.
3. Focus on the Solution: Share how the barking is impacting you and your family. After this is done, time and energy is much better spent on solutions than continuing to complain. “Will you please consider a schedule that keeps your gorgeous fur ball inside during thunderstorms? Maybe a thunder jacket would help calm your dog while you’re away? I enjoy our neighborly relationship.”
4. Be Diplomatic & Patient: Your neighbor may be unaware of the barking problem if their dog only barks when they’re absent. Politely explain the specific times that their dog barks. For example, “Buffy yipped from 9:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. then again from 2:00 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. causing a disturbance.” “May I ask if you will please find a solution such as a no-bark collar while you are gone?” If your neighbor is willing to seek strategies to help resolve the issue, give them time to implement techniques such as at-home or professional dog training.
5. Polite note: If attempts to connect face-to-face are unsuccessful (or your visit goes unheeded) write a friendly, diplomatic note tied in a bow with a dog treat. Petitions may seem like a good idea but are intimidating, especially if your neighbor is unaware of the barking.
6. Befriend the dog: If the neighbor’s dog barks directly at you, ask your neighbor for a friendly introduction. If the dog becomes more comfortable, it may stop yelping when it spots you. Be sure to ask permission before feeding the dog a treat during this process.
7. Seek a Higher Authority: Many homeowner & building owner associations, building managers, condo boards, and communities post covenants, codes and restrictions. Sometimes a friendly reminder letter from a higher authority works wonders.
8. Speak with local authorities as a last resort: If the barking continues to interfere with daily life, inquire with local authorities to enforce noise ordinances. Ask neighbors to confirm the noise disturbance, to avoid being the lone, grumpy resident with a bone to pick. This may cause lasting, negative repercussions.
A well behaved canine is a joy to neighbors. There’s nothing worse than your fur baby being banned from the neighborhood!
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management with the HOFSTEDE center, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial and Banquet Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People and NTD Television Canada. She is the resident etiquette expert for popular morning lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, National Business Journal, Reader’s Digest and Stylecaster. Her international award-winning, best-selling book Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its second printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. Sharon is the winner of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.