Barking Dogs: A Rant
Posted at 12:54PM - Comments: (10)
Why do people expect dogs to be calm and quiet when they are left outside for hours and hours, with minimal protection from the weather - or at least, a lot less than they get indoors - and nothing in particular to do? It has to be one of my top three dog - owner pet peeves. For me, there is just nothing as aggravating as listening to a dog barking incessantly. I both feel for the dog and feel murderous at the same time. Who do I want to murder? Alternately, the dog, the owner, and myself!
I'm ranting right now because there has been a rash of barking dogs on my block lately. My next door neighbor is dog - sitting for her sister, and suddenly there are two dogs who don't feel at home spending most of the day in a strange (to them) backyard. There are no dog houses or covered areas in that yard, so there is no warm and cozy spot to curl up and take a nap; so the dogs are up and awake the whole time they are left outdoors. And it's understandable that they don't understand that there are cats, dogs, chickens, and humans who routinely walk around my backyard, and who do not constitute a threat to their own temporary quarters. But what is not understandable to me is that my neighbor doesn't seem to realize, unless I call her, that the dogs barking every time I walk out my own back door is a nuisance.
There is also a dog over my back fence who lives outdoors 24/7 - which, now that I think about it, is my number one pet peeve of all time - and who barks whenever any other dog in the neighborhood barks. (Genuine watchdogs are one thing; neglected, untrained pets in town are another. What possible use is a dog in an urban yard who never gets attention, and how cruel is it to isolate an individual of a social species in this way?)
And then there are the neighbors on the back of the block I live on, who have two or three small dogs who set up a ruckus worthy of 10 dogs when people walk by their yard. The owners will occasionally yell "SHUT UP!" at the dogs, and eventually bring the dogs back into the house, but why not just bring the dogs inside without screaming at them?
I get distracted enough by the sound of barking dogs that I have done all sorts of things to prevent my own dogs from being nuisance barkers. I have habituated them to being outdoors regularly. I make sure they have ample fresh water and comfortable places to sleep. In the summer, I wouldn't dream of leaving them outside unless the dogs' sandbox is well wetted down before I left; it's in a shady corner of the yard, and really the only cool place on my property when it's hot. I have two dog crates out on my deck, situated next to the house under a porch roof, and covered in insulated crate "jackets." The crates have the doors taken off, and I allow the zippered flap of the front of the crate cover to hang like a tent flap, so the dogs can slip inside for a cozy snooze any time. I have nice, thick fleece mats inside, and I take them out and wash them at least once or twice a month, to keep them clean and smelling nice. The dogs often spend time outside when I am home, so it's not a new thing to be left outside when I am not home.
I can leave my big dog, Otto, outside when I am away from home for even a half day or more, and I do expect him to refrain from barking incessantly when I do this. I'll usually leave him with some food - stuffed Kongs or a nice big fresh juicy marrow bone. But I also let my neighbors know I'm going to be gone, and ask them to call me if they hear Otto barking; I can have a friend come over, if need be, and put Otto in my house. And I check with my neighbors: "Was Otto okay yesterday? Not barking while I was gone?"
I have two dogs, remember, but I don't leave Tito the Chihuahua outside unless I am going to be gone less than a half - hour, because he does bark when he gets bored or anxious. When I am home, he will bark only when the mail delivery person or UPS person comes in the gate. But if no one is home, he ratchets up the security level to unbearable, and barks at anyone walking down the sidewalk in front of my home (which is one block away from the town's main post office, so we do get some foot traffic!), anyone parking in front of the house, and the sound of any other neighborhood dog barking.
Anyway, I guess I am barking now. Maybe it's strange for someone who likes dogs so much to be so unhappy about barking dogs. But I assume that the dogs who have nothing better to do than bark are just as unhappy as I am, and I really do feel their pain and anxiety, too.