Barking dogs

Barking is an extremely common dog behaviour issue and the most common community problem reported to us. Having barking dogs in the community significantly reduces the quality of life for those affected by barking. Barking becomes an issue if a dog barks:

  • when left alone for extended periods
  • immediately after you leave home
  • excessively when people pass by your property
  • when attention seeking

Why dogs bark

  • Ongoing barking is often a symptom of another problem.
  • Dogs are social animals and often bark when they are lonely.
  • Separation from an owner can cause dogs to stress.
  • Barking may also be the result of boredom and frustration.
  • Barking is a dog’s way of seeking attention from its owner.
  • Dogs bark out of fear – this can be fear of people, objects or other dogs.
  • Dogs bark when there is a threat to their territory.
  • Some breeds have a reputation for barking.

 

Information for the concerned resident

The most effective and successful way of managing a nuisance barking dog is for the person affected by the problem (the complainant) to communicate their concerns directly with the dog owner. There is a chance the dog owner may even be unaware their dog is excessively barking and causing a problem for neighbours. Many dogs will bark when their owners are not home, and this may be due to separation anxiety. Alternatively, the dog may be providing a Neighbourhood Watch service by alerting you and your neighbours to the presence of an intruder.

You should carefully consider all issues and possibilities before deciding on an appropriate course of action. However, once you have decided the barking is excessive and disrupting your way of life, please consider the following options to manage the situation.

Approach the dog’s owner as soon as the problem arises, and state your case clearly and politely. They may not be aware of the issue. If the dog’s owner is unapproachable, or you are not comfortable approaching the dog owner, the notification letter and the fact sheet ‘Reasons why your dog may be barking excessively’ which have been included below, should be placed in the dog owner’s letter box.

Provide sufficient time for the dog owner to rectify the problem.

If the barking continues to be an issue after this period of time, you must provide written evidence to us in order for further action to be taken. The attached barking dog noise complaint form and diary sheet must be completed and returned to.

Using the 'Dear dog owner' letter

Included in this information kit is a ‘Dear dog owner’ communication letter, designed to help you and your neighbour communicate anonymously, if you feel you are unable to approach your neighbour, and to prevent any possible escalation of the issue into a neighbourhood dispute. DO NOT leave it too long to try to convey your concerns as this can lead to a build up of frustrations and defensive attitudes from both sides.

Animals - Noisy dog fact sheet and neighbour communication letter

Animals - Noise complaint form and noise nuisance diary

If you would prefer a formal mediation process to resolve the issue amicably, please contact the Dispute Resolution Centre, which can provide a free mediation service to work through the issue. Mediation helps people settle disputes without going to court. Taking part in mediation can save time, legal fees and court costs for you and the community. For more information on applying for mediation, contact your nearest Dispute Resolution Centre, or visit the Queensland Government website.

The best way to resolve an issue with a neighbour, whatever it is about, is by talking with them face-to-face. Face-to-face is much better and far more effective than phone calls, emails, letters and messages. Before talking with the other person, think about what you want to say. It is important to state clearly what the problem is and how you feel about it.

The following tips can help.

Arrange a convenient time to meet

  • Choose a good time to approach the other person to arrange a convenient meeting time so neither you is rushed.
  • Do not bring up the issue when the other person is on their way to work, or trying to get their children off to school, or are about to cook dinner. They will not be in the right frame of mind to talk if they are under stress or time constraints.
  • Choose a time which is right for you too; do not approach them after you have had a bad day or when you are in a hurry to go somewhere. This will just add to the tension.
  • Find a place where you can both sit comfortably and quietly for long enough to properly discuss the issue without interruptions.
  • Explain that the issue has been worrying you and you would like to sort it out.

Meet with your neighbour and explain the issue

  • A good way to start is to explain the issue from your point of view.
  • Try to stay calm and avoid laying blame and name-calling.
  • For example, say, 'When your tree branches hang over my roof, my gutters block up and overflow in heavy rain', rather than, 'You haven't bothered to lop your trees so my gutters are overflowing when it rains'.
  • Try not to interpret the other person’s behaviour.
  • For example, don't say, 'You're blocking my driveway on purpose just to make me angry'. Instead try saying, 'When your car blocks my driveway, I get annoyed because it’s difficult to get in and out'.

Let your neighbor tell their side of the story

  • Give your neighbour a chance to give their views.
  • Be prepared to relax, listen and take everything in.
  • Do not interrupt when your neighbour is talking.
  • Show that you are listening by maintaining eye contact, and acknowledging what they are saying with 'mmm's’ and by nodding your head.
  • You might not agree with what they say, but there is nothing more frustrating than talking to someone who does not seem to be listening.

  • Try working on the dispute together and work out what you both need to do to resolve the issue.
  • Two or more people working on an issue together can get further than one person telling the other to change.
  • Since you are taking the time to work on an issue, take the time to get a solution that is acceptable to both of you.
  • Get the whole issue out in the open.
  • Do not leave out anything that seems less important or is the hardest to talk about. Those are the things that will ruin any solution you come up with.
  • If you can come to an agreement by talking together, that's great!
  • It is a good idea to write down the details of what you have agreed to and each of you should keep a copy.

Meet again in the future

Agree to check with each other at a specific time in the future to see how things are going—and do not forget to do this catch up meeting.

If you can not reach an agreement

If you can not reach an agreement, do not worry. Discussing the issue may have helped you both better understand each other's point of view.

 

Information for the dog owner

We understand you are not able to be at home all the time with your dog, and you may not be aware of the dog's behaviour while you are away. If you have received a noise complaint about your dog and/or are trying to fix the barking behaviour of your dog, you can use the short letter we have designed for dropping into neighbours' letter boxes to monitor the behaviour of your dog.

Animals - Noisy dog letter for the dog owner

Most people have a dog for protection and companionship. However, barking dogs may generate conflict between neighbours and are the source of many complaints within the community.

It is important to understand the difference between a dog being a good watchdog and a nuisance barker. A good watchdog barks only when stimulated by what it thinks is a significant threat such as someone attempting to enter your property or things that may worry it (eg. a snake or another animal in the yard, a house on fire, a bath overflowing).

A nuisance barker is one which over reacts to life’s perceived threats or worries and where normal ‘events of everyday life’ cause excessive and prolonged barking that is ‘above and beyond the call of duty’. Such dogs are often poorly trained or bored and some can even be anxious or fearful.

It is easy to teach dogs good barking habits. So, when your dog barks excessively, you may find neighbours react by believing that you don’t care about their needs or the needs of your dog.

Some breeds of dog are more likely to bark at intruders. Small breeds like terriers are often more alert and sharper than many large breeds, but they can also be nuisance yappers.

If you have a young dog or a pup that barks excessively, it is a good indication that it may be developing into a nuisance barker. It could be a sign that you have a fearful or anxious pup.

There are many successful ways of training your pet at home, but both dog and owner will benefit from attending puppy classes. Classes provide an opportunity to socialise with other people and animals. If you have an older dog, formal training under the guidance of a dog trainer or behaviourist will be invaluable.

To train your dog not to bark, it is important that your target is to reward silence rather than to punish the noise. Punishment is usually not a precise way of changing behaviour and can confuse dogs. Rewarding a wanted outcome is much more precise than punishment and you then have the choice of rewarding the same outcome several times in quick succession to create a stronger response.

When training a dog, stick to the same sequence of commands and use them over and over again. Don’t keep changing the words you are using. Also, use your reward immediately after the barking stops to encourage their good behaviour quickly. Try the ‘bad dog – good dog’ routine. For example, if the target is for your dog to leave the fence where it is barking, to come to you and to sit, stick to the sequence of commands of QUIET then COME then SIT. The word QUIET should be firm but not too harsh.

If your dog responds, reward it with a ‘good dog’ happy voice and a pat.

If your dog fails to respond, don’t grumble at it. Instead, guide it to COME to you and to SIT and then reward it.

Also, your command sequence will be much more effective if you practice it when your dog is not barking. When your dog is calm, go into the yard and teach it to COME and SIT and reward it. Rehearse the sequence many times to reinforce that knowledge.

What effect does this have on desirable 'watch dog' barking?

It’s much easier to turn barking on than to turn it off. So, your first task is to teach your dog the commands needed to turn off the barking. Once your dog has learnt this, you can then choose to allow watch-dog barking when it is needed.

Dogs belong to the family Canidae, which includes wolves, jackals and foxes. They are pack animals and can be stressed and begin barking when the pack abandons them (ie. you or your family leaves the house). Some of the reasons for this may include:

  • Separation anxiety – occurs if your dog usually barks as you are leaving home and continues throughout the day. It is much too exuberant in its greeting when you get home and can exhibit a variety of other behaviours. There are many solutions but keeping it busy with activities during the day will help. Your vet can provide you with further advice.

  • Boredom – barking is often caused by boredom but your bored dog may also be destructive, dig holes or escape. To help stop this behaviour, fill your dog’s day with fun activities and look for the many ‘do-it-yourself’ dog toys and timer-activated feeding devices that are available. Check your library, pet books and the internet for ideas.

  • Fearful dogs – fearful dogs are often over-reactive to the normal activities of everyday life and will bark excessively to try to ‘scare things off’. These behaviours are often worse when you are not home to offer comfort and guidance. Socialising your dog with other dogs will often help but professional guidance with a qualified behaviourist or veterinarian may be needed.

  • Territorial – a territorial barker is usually bold and confident. Solid fences will often help but we recommend the help of a trained professional to reduce this behaviour.

  • Choose a dog that is right for your property (ie. small yard, small dog)
  • Restrict the dog’s vision through a fence or gate (and/or opaque barrier) between your dog and children, animals, the postman etc – anyone who may provoke barking
  • Confine the dog in the back yard, away from ‘passing’ traffic that can provoke barking
  • Consider training. Talk to a reputable trainer or local dog obedience club about ways to discourage bad habits
  • Keep your dog inside at night (or in a shed/garage)
  • Exercise your dog (dogs are less likely to bark through boredom if they have worked off excess energy during the day/night), and spend plenty of time with your dog
  • Take your dog to the vet for a thorough health check to rule out a possible health issue (desexing may be a good option)
  • Give your dog a balanced and varied diet, as well as plenty of fresh water
  • Provide noise insulation for the kennel
  • Leave food treats and interesting toys for your dog to play with when you leave the house for the day (also consider leaving a radio or television on so the dog can hear it)
  • Never leave your dog unattended when you go on holidays, consider placing your dog in a boarding kennel
  • Obtain a bark control collar as a means of training the dog

Dogs often bark at postal workers and junk mail delivery people, and it’s not because of their uniform. Most dogs are territorial, and if someone approaches the gate the dog barks. If that person then goes away without coming inside, the dog thinks it has done its job and scared them off.

As the postman delivers around the same time every day, the dog will begin to lay in wait and reinforce this behaviour for all passing traffic. It is important to stop this practice at an early age. Take the time to lead your dog outside to meet these frequent gate-callers and socialise your dog at an early age.

To teach your dog to limit its barking at these gate-callers, use the QUIET – COME – SIT method detailed in the ‘basic training tips’ section earlier.

If you are unsure why your dog is barking, take the time to determine the following:

  • Time of day – does your dog bark at certain times of the day? What is happening in your neighbourhood at that time? Is the postman delivering mail? Is your rubbish being collected? Are children coming home from school and walking past your property? Are straying cats or possums in your yard at night?
  • What are you doing? – are you leaving to go to work when your dog starts barking? Are you away for extended periods of time, resulting in your dog’s boredom? Are you rewarding the unwanted behaviour by reacting to it? 
  • What is your dog doing? – is your dog stressed, excited, bored or lonely? Is your dog trying to get to you – its ‘pack’?

Most owners ignore their dogs when they are well behaved. Good behaviour may be taken for granted, for example, resting and playing quietly. Then, the owner encourages bad behaviour by paying attention to the dog when it barks. It’s easy to understand why dogs learn that the only way they can get the owner’s attention is by barking.

  • What makes your dog bark?
  • When, where and why does my dog bark (day/night), when I’m not at home?
  • What happens after my dog barks? Does there appear to be any form of stress release for the dog?
  • Is the behaviour normal for my dog?
  • Is my dog’s behaviour learned or conditioned?
  • How long has my dog been barking?
  • How did the behavior problem start?  What were the circumstances?
  • Look at the length of time this behavior has been going on;  has it been gradual or is it occasional or progressive?
  • Some dog owners find it useful to keep a diary or log of their activities and their dog’s barking. This may be useful to pinpoint when and why your dog is barking.

Sometimes it is difficult to determine the cause of barking. Your dog may be unpredictable. The barking may just be a bad habit, it may be attention seeking or in response to something you can’t see.

Once you have assessed yourself, your problem, and your dog, use the information on this page to determine what you can do, or who you can ask for help to prevent your dog barking and becoming a neighbourhood nuisance. An alternative is to discuss your dog’s behaviour with your local vet or veterinary behaviourist, particularly if you feel your dog is anxious.

There are many books and DVDs available through your local library, and information on animal management and local laws are available on our website. There are also many technical devices, obedience clubs and animal behaviourists in the area, be sure to ask lots of questions and consider what they teach before you join.

Talk with your neighbours

You may want to get your neighbours to help you document the barking for a few days, given that your dog may be barking when you are away or at work. Explain to your neighbours that you are aware of the issue and ask for their help and patience while you try and solve the problem. If you are concerned about speaking with your neighbours you may wish to use the communication card in this package. The cards enable your neighbours to give you feedback anonymously.

Steps to take

Investigate and record when your dog barks (what time of day), where it does the barking (eg. inside or outside), what is around at the time it barks (eg. children, postman etc.) With this information you will have a better understanding as to what is motivating your dog to bark excessively and how you may train your dog to reduce its barking to an acceptable level.

What not to do

In the meantime, do not shout at the dog in an attempt to stop it from barking, as this may have the opposite effect and encourage it to bark more. Shouting may stop dogs barking temporarily, but in the long run, many dogs bark because they want attention and they know barking will get it.

Points to remember

  • Barking issues are common. If you have a barking dog problem, you are not alone!
  • Behavioural issues can be understood if you learn more about your pet’s behaviour
  • Seek professional help if necessary

The aim is to control and modify the dog’s barking and in turn help prevent boredom and/or separation anxiety in dogs.

Separation anxiety is a behavioural problem that occurs in dogs that become highly attached to their owner, another dog or other family member, and become extremely distressed in their absence. This condition can arise if your dog is left alone for long periods of time, coupled with boredom. Subsequently, this may lead to excessive nuisance barking. Distracting a dog from a loved one’s absence may reduce the level of barking. This is often achieved by using food or toys.

Methods to control the barking

  • Avoid conditioning – do not reward your dog for bad behaviour.
  • Companionship – before leaving home, turn on the television or radio, or give your dog an old coat or item   of clothing that belongs to you.
  • Never call your dog after it has stopped barking and then punish it.
  • Increase physical exercise.
  • Regularly walk your dog and change the route you walk.
  • Take your dog for a drive.
  • Spend FUN time with your dog.
  • Avoid routine e.g. carry your keys with you at different times not just the times you are leaving.
  • Access to the house – if you can let the dog inside the house, provide it with a single room that may smell like you (for comfort) in order to relax the dog (the ‘denning’ principle).
  • Obedience training – a dog can be trained to be alone, and bark only on command.
  • Avoid stimulus – distract your dog with another form of reward at the time it normally barks at a neighbourhood disturbance (eg the postman).
  • Fence design – a fence correctly designed to restrict your dog’s vision of outside stimuli if your dog can see outside.
  • Anti-barking devices, used in conjunction with obedience training, can reduce barking.
  • Discipline – show your dog that you are the head of the house. Dogs are pack animals and need to be shown where they stand in relation to the family unit.
  • Spend the time to work out why your dog is barking.

The main cause of barking is boredom. As well as the other methods of control mentioned above, there are also some simple ideas worth a try. To avoid boredom you need to give your dog plenty to do when it’s alone.

Beat the boredom and help control the barking

Here are some suggestions:

For the best results, try interactive toys that hide food, such as a "Kong" (a rubber toy) or ones that are designed to require manipulation and work to obtain the food reward. Leave toys, rope chews, rawhides and even bones for a dog to play with and use up time while alone. Leaving an article of clothing with the scent of the missed loved one on it can also work well, especially for puppies.

  • Use drink bottles or milk containers – remove the lid; cut a few squares in the side and place dry biscuits or ice inside. Your dog will roll them like a toy. They also make good chew toys when empty.
  • There are food reward toys available (e.g. Kongs). Talk to your vet or pet shop.
  • Make sure your dog has plenty of water available.
  • Give your dog a bone or dog treat (e.g. a pig ear or chew toy) when you leave the house. This will  teach your dog that when you leave there is a positive reward – the bone or treat.
  • A variety of toys (balls, chew toys, something to climb on) can be left in the yard for your dog to play with. Remember toys need not be expensive. Be mindful to alternate your dog’s toys as they are just like kids – they will get bored with the same toys and ignore them.
  • You can also try feeding your dog during the day when you are NOT home – as this activity alone can keep your dog busily distracted for hours while it 'hunts' for the food you have hidden, fulfilling its natural 'hunting' instinct.

Toowoomba Dog Obedience Club Inc – Toowoomba

  • 07 4632 7143

Bark Busters Home Dog Training – Toowoomba

  • 1800 067 710

Think Canine Training and Behaviour – Toowoomba

  • 0409 890 906

Sue Bloom Dog Psychology – Toowoomba

  • 0410 698 004

Golden West Dog Training – Withcott

  • 07 4637 4226

Please check your local Yellow Pages for a complete list of dog trainers in your area.

Dogs Queensland                         

  • 07 3252 2661

Darling Downs Kennel Club          

  • 07 4661 4737

Allora Kennel Club                        

  • 07 4696 6216

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