There is no such thing as a difficult dog, only an inexperienced owner. —Barbara Woodhouse, No Bad Dogs
If you're being disturbed by a barking dog in the 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 its owner's house, you're probably not eager to drop by to discuss things.
Here is a checklist of actions to take when you're losing patience (or sleep) over a neighbor's noisy dog.
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 may 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 may not know that a neighbor is being driven crazy by the dog. Even if you're sure the neighbor does know about the dog's behavior, it may be better to proceed as though she doesn't: "I knew you'd want to know that Rusty was digging up my zucchini, so that you could prevent it from happening again."
Try to find out the exact problem. It may be easily solved—or the real problem may not be the dog at all.
Some common problems, such as barking or digging under fences, may be relatively easy to correct 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 some resources you can suggest during your talk.
Here are some suggestions on how to get the most from your negotiations: