Talking to Neighbors Who Have a Barking Dog

Ways to attempt working something out before rushing into legal action over a local barking dog.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

If you're being disturbed by a barking dog in your neighborhood, the best first step is to ask the dog's owner to stop the noise. But a surprising number of people ignore or botch this process. Perhaps it's not all that surprising. Approaching someone with a complaint can be unpleasant and in some cases intimidating. And if you're afraid of your neighbor's burly watchdog, which snarls at you whenever you come near the house, you're probably not eager to drop by to discuss things.

Here, we'll discuss:

  • your options when trying to solve a neighborhood barking issue
  • the most effective ways to approach the neighbor whose dog is barking, and
  • constructive suggestions you can make about how to actually get the canine noisemaker to quiet down.

How You Can Solve a Barking Dog Problem

Here is a checklist of actions to take when you're losing patience (or sleep) over a neighbor's noisy dog.

  • Ask your neighbor to keep the dog quiet.
  • Try mediation, especially if you and the neighbor have other issues.
  • Contact animal control authorities and request that they enforce local laws restricting noise.
  • Call the police.
  • Bring a nuisance lawsuit in small claims court.

We'll discuss the first possibility below, and you'll find more information about other possibilities on Nolo's page concerning Neighborhood Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets.

          Approaching the Neighbor About the Dog's Barking

          Start by talking to your neighbor calmly and reasonably. Even if you do eventually end up in court, a judge isn't likely to be too sympathetic if you didn't make at least some effort to work things out first. So it's a no-lose situation, and if you approach it with a modicum of tact, you might be pleasantly surprised by the neighbor's willingness to work toward a solution.

          Sometimes owners are blissfully unaware that there's a problem. If a dog barks for hours every day—but only when it's left alone—the owner might not know that neighbors are being driven crazy by the dog. Even if it seems impossible your neighbor doesn't know about the dog's behavior, it could be better to proceed gently, as in, "I knew you'd want to know that Rusty seems unhappy while left alone, so that you could take measures to ease his stress and prevent the issue from disturbing our neighborhood peace."

          Focus on Possible Solutions to the Barking Dog Problem

          Try to find out the exact problem. It might be easily solved—or the real problem might not be the dog at all.

          Barking can be corrected with proper training of both the dog and the owner. Often, local humane societies offer free advice and referrals to trainers or obedience schools. Before you talk to your neighbor, make a few phone calls and see if there are resources you can suggest during your talk.

          Here are some possible ways to get the most from your negotiations:

          • Write a friendly note or call to arrange a convenient time to talk. Don't blunder up some rainy evening when the neighbor is trying to drag groceries and kids into the house after work.
          • If you think it's appropriate, take a little something to the meeting to break the ice: some vegetables from your garden, perhaps.
          • Don't rush into threatening legal action (or worse, illegal action). There will be plenty of time to discuss legal remedies if relations deteriorate.
          • Offer positive suggestions. Once you have established some rapport, you might want to suggest, tactfully, that the owner get help with the dog. Try saying something like: "You know, my friend Tom had the same problem with his dog, and since he's been taking the dog to ABC Obedience School classes, he and his neighbors are much happier." Of course, if you make suggestions too early in the process, the neighbor might resent your "interference."
          • Try to agree on specific actions to alleviate the problem: for example, that the dog will be kept inside between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., not just that the owner will "try to keep Ranger quiet."
          • After you agree on a plan, set a date to talk again in a couple of weeks. If your next meeting is already arranged, it will be easier for you to talk again. It won't look like you're badgering your neighbor, but will show that you're serious about getting the problem solved.

          If none of that works, your next step is likely to look into what state or local laws say about barking dogs.

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