Whole Dog Journal's Blog September 30, 2013

Virtual Dogsitting

Posted at 01:56PM - Comments: (7)

A friend has fielded complaints from a neighbor about her dogs’ barking. The thing is, she leaves her three dogs in the house when she’s at work, and the neighbor who complained to her is, I’m not exaggerating, at least 1,000 feet from her house.

We brainstormed and came up with this: virtual dogsitting. She aimed her laptop’s camera at a place in her living room so that it can take in a view of the one dog who has to be crated (or she very creatively chews things in the house, like books off the shelves and even a picture off the wall!), two of the other dogs’ beds, and a slice of the couch. The two dogs who are loose in the house can leave the living room and go “off-camera,” but if they bark anywhere in the house, the laptop’s microphone can hear them.

I have a big old laptop that is too slow to run more than one task at a time; I use it only as an emergency backup. But it can run Skype! So we set up our computers for Skype sessions. Before she leaves for work, and on days when I’m going to be working at my computer for much of the day (my friend gets home at 2:30 pm), we initiate a Skype video session, so that I can see, and more importantly, HEAR what her dogs are doing all day while she is gone. I turn off the microphone on my end, so my friend’s dogs don’t hear and bark at the sounds coming from my house (or my dogs barking at my mailman!). We didn’t worry about their view of my home office; none of her dogs have ever so much as glanced at the screen.

We also imagined that if her dogs did start barking out of boredom at something, I could possibly call their names or admonish them in some way, and tell them “Good dogs!” when they shushed. However, I haven’t turned on my mic once.

I’ve watched them for a total of five days. And only one of the three dogs (the crated one) has barked that whole time, and on exactly three occasions (twice in one day, once on another) for less than 30 seconds each time. The rest of the time, my view into my friend’s living room looks like an oil painting. The dogs sleep all day long. They stand up, stretch, and change positions every so often. But they don’t even chew the bones my friend has left for them, or get up to get a drink of water!

I do hear my friend’s parakeet squawking from time to time (off camera) – it always makes me jump! -- and even the chirping of birds outside the window closest to the desk that her laptop is sitting on. But “barking all day long,” Mr. Grumpy Neighbor? Sorry, it’s not these dogs. I can testify to that.

Comments (7)

the dog in the crate is fine as long as he is out and walks when owner comes home. No place in there did she or he say the dog never got out to exercise. I think they must love the dog very much to keep one after it destroyed so much.I really think the dog could have a case of separation anxiety. The owner should maybe for the dogs good seek some professional help. some people have to work for a living and now it is not always safe to kennel or leave any pet outdoors as some people just do not like any animals and lie on them or hurt them.

Posted by: monasue614@att.net | October 7, 2013 11:05 AM    Report this comment

I continue to be horrified that people lock dogs in cages all day, destined to sit in their own waste, then let them out briefly for a few hours, as if that is any kind of a life. So the dog chewed some things while she were out? He's a dog! What did she expect? Perhaps the dogs would be better placed in a home with someone who has the time and desire to provide them with daily exercise and engaging activities, instead of imprisoning the poor creatures in cages and removing them only when convenient.

Posted by: ROBERTA G | October 5, 2013 11:29 AM    Report this comment

the brindle color dog in the photo....what kind is it??? we found a stray exactly like it. Thx, rausha

Posted by: Unknown | October 4, 2013 7:21 AM    Report this comment

We live on 10 acres and have 2 fenced in areas in the backyard connected to the house (about 1 acre fenced for the dogs). On closing day a "crazy" neighbor called animal control and sent them to our house. She has also called 911 and sent them to our house. She painted on the road at the end of our long driveway 2/10 of a mile long "769 respect the neighborhood and quiet your kennel". My dogs sleep on a $9000.00 Ethan Allen leather sectional sofa never in a kennel and that is what I told the police when they showed up. We were at our vacation home for 2 weeks that first summer and my other neighbor emailed me to say the police were at my house. She had called 911 to report us for dogs barking and no one was home.....had not been there for 2 weeks! On one side I have the best neighbors in the world and we are close friends....have keys to each others' houses I take care of her horses and cats when she is away...her husband bush hogs a path through our woods for a walking trail. On the other side lives a nasty lunatic as a neighbor. Our dogs might bark at a deer or a heron fishing in our pond but they don't bark for long. We do have a lot of dogs....our own and foster dogs.....but we have plenty of room and they all live inside with us.

Posted by: Olivia | October 1, 2013 7:00 PM    Report this comment

I lived in a condo complex with my cocker spaniel for years with no problems. Then I moved to a different condo down the street, in the same complex, and immediately heard about complaints made by my new next-door neighbor. The new next-door neighbor didn't talk to me directly and try to fix the problem but, instead, went to the condo manager behind my back and complained about my dog. I decided to investigate the problem myself. I parked outside the complex and then walked over to my condo and made noise. I found out my dog did what I call "alarm barking": he barked at me when I got near a window and then immediately settled down when I moved away. The big surprise was that the complainer's dog barked for hours on end -- what I call "boredom barking" -- monotonous, non-stop barking having nothing to do with anything going on outside. The neighbor didn't know because the dog waited to start barking until the neighbor left the house. I didn't report my neighbor's dog, because my neighbor had made a remark to me that I could stop my dog's barking by shutting him into a dark closet. I was afraid she would abuse her dog if I reported her. It's been my experience that the very people who complain are usually the ones who are the worst offenders. After dealing with a bout of cancer, I realized that life was too short to stay where I was living. After 17 years of condo living, I bought a house on an acre and a half outside of town, and moved. I've never been as happy as I am now. I only wish I had encountered the bad neighbor sooner and moved earlier.

Posted by: Deborah G | October 1, 2013 12:53 PM    Report this comment

We had a similar complaint about one of my dogs - a white poodle - right after we brought a red poodle in as a foster. We too turned to our cameras. We learned that our white poodle never barked. The red foster barked when people or dogs walked by the house but not once they were no longer in sight.

The complaining neighbor was down a house from us and worked part time during the day. The next door neighbor said my dogs rarely bark and when they do, he actually goes out side to see what the issue is because they do not bark without provocation. The next door neighbor is retired.

Not all neighbors are reliable.

Posted by: Susan T | October 1, 2013 10:40 AM    Report this comment

Very cool idea!! Am going to try it right away thx!!!

Posted by: Linda F | October 1, 2013 10:35 AM    Report this comment

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