Whole Dog Journal's Blog October 6, 2016

There’s no upside to a dog's nuisance barking

Posted at 08:31AM - Comments: (23)

Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Aroo! Aroo! Aroo! This is how I know it's Wednesday.

I know it's Wednesday because every Wednesday there is a gardener who comes to service a property that is occupied by a neighborhood church across my back fence and one lot to the side. The gardener brings his dog, a hound, with him to work, and while the gardener works, trimming and raking and blowing leaves, the hound roams the church property. Well, not the whole property; he pretty much confines himself to running up and down the back fence of the church property, where three other big dogs live. He bays, and they bark. For an hour. Every Wednesday morning.

"Singing the song of their people" is how many hound owners describe the baying of their beloved dogs. I get it - and I love hounds, too! - but I can't say I love baying. Or barking.

"Dogs should be allowed to be dogs, at least sometimes!" say many dog owners - or at least, the ones who don't mind a lot of barking. I agree! But only as this relates to a few playful barks, or as many barks as are needed to get my attention when a stranger is at my door, or lingering at my front gate in the middle of the night.

Barking that goes on and on reminds me of humans who have lost their minds, like dementia patients who call for help around the clock, even as they are being helped by patient and sympathetic nurses. Dogs who are locked outside and who bark relentlessly make me just as sad as mad; I strongly sympathize with their boredom, anxiety, and loneliness. It must be so frustrating to live without acknowledgement or regard.

Dogs who are alone and outdoors all day may turn into nuisance barkers, and who can blame them?

In my town, in order to make a noise complaint about a barking dog, you have to get two other neighbors to sign a statement indicating that the dog's barking is bothering them, too. This is meant to prevent neighbors who are feuding about unrelated matters from filing noise complaints in order to harass each other. The animal control officers in my town have told me stories about people who deliberately provoke their neighbor's dogs, by throwing rocks against the fences between their properties, for example, and then calling the police to complain about their neighbor's barking dogs. When the officers investigate, they learn from other neighbors that the complainant is well-known for purposely provoking the neighbor's dogs. And sometimes they learn that the people who are being complained about purposely got the dog and encourage it to bark in order to aggravate the complainant. For these and many other reasons, animal control officers often hate getting called out to investigate barking dog complaints.

As bark-phobic as I am, I've gathered statements from neighbors and filed a complaint about barking dogs in my neighborhood only one time. There is a family about three doors away that had, at the time, four or five Cattle Dog-mixes on chains and in pens in their back and side yard. (Originally, they had one intact male dog, who used to escape the yard daily, making rounds in the neighborhood, peeing on fences and triggering barking fits from all the neighborhood dogs behind fences. Then they got a female...and when the inevitable puppies came along, they kept two or three of them. And now, all the dogs are penned or chained.) At random times every day, something would set off the pack of dogs and they would all start barking, and it would take them an hour or more to all settle and quiet down.

One day I was working when the cacophony started and seemed not to have an end in sight (sound?). I walked over to the house with a note to leave on their door; I imagined that no one was home, because who could be at home and not step outside and say "HEY! HUSH!"? When I approached the house, I was horrified to see a woman through the front window. She was not only home (and not shushing the dogs) - when she saw me walking up the front walkway, she abruptly closed the front curtain! The dogs who could see me approach the door renewed and intensified their barking, and when I knocked on the door, barking from an uncountable number of small dogs in the house erupted - but no one either came to the door or could be heard attempting to shush the little dogs, either. I could only conclude this person was deaf, crazy, antisocial, or some combination thereof. I left the note, asking if there was anything I, a concerned neighbor, could do to help them manage the barking of their dogs, and when there was zero response a week later, I asked some other neighbors for help, and several added their names to the noise complaint I turned into the city animal control office.

About a week later, I was sitting at my computer and realized that it had been at least a day or so since I had heard any barking! I wondered what happened, and a few days later, I had the answer: I was walking my dogs by the house when I saw several of the former barkers standing behind their wire fence; each had an electronic (shock) bark collar on. Well, crud. I didn't see that coming. As much as I hated hearing all that nuisance barking, I hate the idea that the dogs are just as neglected and ignored as they were before, only now, they get shocked, too...which is why I haven't tried to shut down the Wednesday morning barking and baying club.

Comments (23)

I own a barker. A 70 pound Lab mix with a high, annoying voice. He barks when I'm talking to someone who comes to visit. He barks when I'm on the phone too long. He barks when he wants to play. He barks when he's in the car and we haven't gotten to the river fast enough. He barks when his ball is stuck under a branch and he can't get it out. After 7 years, using numerous WDJ suggestions to curb his barking, I finally gave in and bought an electronic bark collar. (I tried a citronella collar but it didn't always work). I've had this collar for over a year and have used it about 10 times, never for more than 15 minutes to 1/2 hour at a time. At this point, he knows exactly what it is and what it does. Nowadays, all I have to do is hold the collar in front of him, ask if he wants to wear it, and remind him that it will bite him if he barks. Instant silence. Peace.

Posted by: LucyB | October 11, 2016 12:14 AM    Report this comment

Well... Thanks for nothing. I just rescued a yellow lab who feels the need to bark at every passing car. I saw this article and was really hoping for some helpful advise... Not just someone complaining about their neighbors.

Posted by: Dlk | October 8, 2016 7:55 AM    Report this comment

Hi there! For those seeking for more information. Here are some articles that we've done in the past about nuisance barking. Some deal with what you can do about other people's dogs, and some are about what you can do about your own dog's barking.

This one talks about why dogs bark, and has some great informative sidebars on how to teach a "positive interrupt" and "Preventing the habit in bark-happy breeds."


This one discusses legal remedies for a neighborhood nuisance barker:

This is what to do if someone is complaining about YOUR dog's barking:

And I'm going to assign our Training Editor, Pat Miller, to write an updated article on teaching your dog to shush on cue.

-- WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns

Posted by: Nancy Kerns | October 7, 2016 12:39 PM    Report this comment

I am neutral on bark collars, but just recently heard of a dog who had one on nonstop. Someone finally noticed the collar prongs had worn through the dogs skin, caused a would and maggots had gotten into the wounds. They are NOT to be kept on forever because of lazy pet owners. So sad.

Posted by: Traci Simon | October 7, 2016 11:17 AM    Report this comment

Perhaps tape your article on why shock collars are not the answer to their door?

Posted by: Laurenmaddock | October 6, 2016 10:20 PM    Report this comment

We have great success with the Pet Corrector, a small red can (hairspray size) of compressed air/gas that is now sold in places like PetCo. Hold in the air and press button when dog barks. Giant HISS comes out of can, mimicking a snake or swan. Dog immediately stops what it is doing - barking, jumping, acting like a yahoo with strangers (Dog knows 'four on the floor,' but it is a work in progress.) I am a fulltime RVer. Many RVers have dogs, and many are small dogs that bark. I have turned countless dog owners on to the Pet Corrector. You can even get a holster for the smaller can, and carry it around while you are walking the dog. I get so many compliments - "I wish *my* dog would behave that way!" It doesn't replace training, but is a great aid and a godsend for times when I don't have the luxury of a training session, but just need Dog to behave. I used to have a Maltese (talk about barking!), and had what we called the Brat Can - a soda can with about four or so pennies taped inside that we would fling in her general direction when she really got going. Stopped her for a bit : )
I lived in northern Vermont for a while, where hunting beagles were very popular. The first time I heard the baying, I thought someone was being murdered!

Posted by: Specie | October 6, 2016 6:44 PM    Report this comment

Yes, we have the barking 2 lb dog wannabes next door that the owner has no interest in keeping quiet. When they first came my labs went over to sniff the fence and it started the battle. No, I don't like the bark collars, but it only took a couple of training sessions before my dogs learned that when they had them on they were not to bark. Now we put them on when our dogs go out (not turned on), they avoid the fence and do not bark. That doesn't help with the little dogs' barking...nor does it stop the marijuana grow and use smell, but that's another story. Their barking is driving all the other dog owners in the neighborhood crazy too, it's oddly reassuring that I'm not the only one!

Posted by: chasemom | October 6, 2016 3:45 PM    Report this comment

This is a very sad story. There are so many barking dogs in my neighborhood, and many reactive to other dogs. A lot of bored or fearful dogs! I must admit that it makes me a little crazy when the owners just stand there while their dog goes ballistic. My dog was attacked at 15 months, and so it is very frightening for him when dogs are so aggressive on leash. He's doing better and better at handling it though because I WORK WITH HIM. If only others would do the same.

Posted by: Alice R. | October 6, 2016 2:45 PM    Report this comment

As someone who had a Great Pyrenees and has Aussies, I am used to barking! But I get it that people who don't have dogs, or who have dogs who are not barkers, do not appreciate a barking dog. With our Pyr, she was most active from 4p-9p. If I gave her a good walk during the day, she was a lot quieter at night. We would make a point to have her in the house by 9 (we and our neighbors live on 2-5 acres, so are not on top of each other, but at least 3 neighbors could hear her) She did not bark during the day... she was happy to lie at her "post" and survey the yard, but we tried to be respectful when she was really doing non-stop barking. Usually at a roofer or worker nearby - no fun for them - no body likes to be barked at, even from a distance! Our Pyr passed away, and new neighbors moved in, with a goats and a Pyr. Their dog is doing its job, barking all day and since she lives with the goats, all night, too, keeping coyotes, hawks and fox away from the animals. I don't notice it - I hear it, but it doesn't bother me. However, neighbors on the other side work from home, and it drives them nuts! Our town has a noise ordinance that states constant barking for 10mins can get a complaint, and result in escalating fines every time a complaint comes.
Our modern lives and lifestyles have changed in the last 30 years, yet our dogs were selectively bred for hundreds to 1000s of years to be active, thinkers, problem solvers, protectors, hunters. We expect them to adapt to our sedentary, away from home all day lifestyles, where there are few off leash areas and an electric shock fence is promoted by neighborhood associations. At the same time, tolerance of normal dog behavior has all but disappeared - barking, a growl, a lip curl - not acceptable to many people today. Dogs are expected to be seen but not heard, complacent, tolerant, active when we want them to be, couch potatoes when we are not able or willing to be active with them. It is not very fair, and seems very one-sided, what we ask of mans best friend.

Posted by: lovesaussies | October 6, 2016 1:39 PM    Report this comment

Incessant barking is annoying, but as long as it is not between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. I can deal with it and tune it out. I am actually more intolerant of my own dogs barking, than neighbor dogs, probably because I don't want someone calling animal control on us. In the past year we bought a house in a new city and it is right in town with neighbors on all sides. Before we were outside of city limits in a semi-rural area where the neighbors were not so close. We were leery, because we have dogs that sometimes bark. They are never left out when we are gone or at night, and we do try to shush them if they go on for more than a few minutes. I was ecstatic to find that the new neighborhood is filled with dogs, near and far. How do we know this? We hear them bark. None of them are a problem. Only once was I awakened during the night, and yes I was peeved. We have met a few of our neighbors and found out that they were relieved to find that we too had dogs. The former owners of our home called animal control on various neighbors multiple times. I know that not everyone likes animals, but truly, I believe there is something wrong with those individuals.

Posted by: KKBaker | October 6, 2016 12:55 PM    Report this comment

I had a barker, and she was that way until she died. But I always made sure I went to see what it was she was barking about, and, yes, asked her "What is it?" She would almost always stop if I came to investigate. Exceptions were hot air balloons and other intruders in "her" airspace. I absolutely do not understand people who are home, with their dogs insanely barking outside. At least go see what it is. They could be trying to tell you that your back fence is on fire, and there are three armed men in your yard!!

Posted by: MJC | October 6, 2016 12:54 PM    Report this comment

Wheres the "TIP OF THE WEEK" . . . is it not to put a shock collar on your dog?

Posted by: Ruckus16 | October 6, 2016 12:09 PM    Report this comment

Hi! Turid Rugaas has a wonderful book that might help some of the folks that have posed here that were looking for tips to help with excessive barking: Barking: The Sound of a Language (Dogwise Training Manual)

Posted by: lgalasso | October 6, 2016 11:57 AM    Report this comment

I embrace the bark, but then I live with a Sheltie. Take your pick:
-The joy of barking
-I bark, therefore I am
-Uses his voice freely
My favorite is "Enjoys recreational barking." courtesy of Roger A. Caras from his book A Dog is Listening

Posted by: MadSheltie | October 6, 2016 11:42 AM    Report this comment

Nancy, I was hoping this article would have some useful solutions. My Cockapoo is a nuisance barker in our home and when we walk him. He barks whenever a car horn honks. He barks when he hears the mail truck down the block. He barks like crazy when the doorbell rings. Many things set him off. He is a sweet loving dog otherwise. He howls sometimes when I am in the shower.Any suggestions?

Posted by: marcyannz | October 6, 2016 10:30 AM    Report this comment

As much as I sympathize with many of your stories, there are many other ways you could have done to mitigate the problem of the barking. Because yes, it is highly annoying and I know that because it is a very common thing down here in Mexico. Most of the Mexicans that own dogs do nothing against their bored dogs barking. Now I get fed up every time I step out of my house walking my dogs (and I have some fearful dogs in addition, so barked at is nothing that is helpful to them), but there are several possible solutions that I am taking:
- the dog on the roof that always barks on us (even when I am without dogs). He got treats tossed up every time I walk by and I also jackpot-treat my dogs so they don't stark barking
- the dogs in the neighborhood that bark at us and then start figthing. Whenever I come close enough I tossed a handful kibble into their space and distract them a little bit
- the unleashed dog in the street that barks when we try to pass. Any one of my dogs that I can trust, gets off the leash and I let him run over, sniff at the other dog so that they become friends and it won't escalate into barking next time
- meeting the owners I try to give some very simple tips and show them tricks. Most dogs here are very food motivated, so that would help.

Calling animal control here is reserved to very severe cases of animal neglect and abuse as unfortunately our shelters do kill dogs when they are full. And no, the barking hasn't stopped despite over 5 years living here, but there are some dogs I can stop from becoming nuisance barkers.

Posted by: Christine - Playa del Carmen, Mexico | October 6, 2016 10:13 AM    Report this comment

It is this type of dog owner that should never of purchased the dog in the first place to begin with. First of all when you decide that you are going to become a dog owner you become a guardian to this animal. You are its keeper for life. You are its friend and companion. It is not about buying and leaving in the back yard to forget about. I believe this owner does not deserve these dogs and should have animal control come out to check conditions of these animals making sure that they are indeed getting the proper exercise that is needed for such energetic hunting dogs. I also know that the dogs that they have in the house probably have not known a walk around the block. Now I am assuming here based on the dogs in the back yard. I feel bad for these dogs.

Posted by: Peanut33 | October 6, 2016 9:56 AM    Report this comment

Dogs mostly bark to bring attention to something or someone. In most cases, a simple acknowledgement is all they're after. Most times my dogs bark only once. This is because I get off my lazy ass let them in or out. No rocket science here, just some understanding and mutual respect. I'm hoping some of my neighbors reads this. :-)

Posted by: Bob | October 6, 2016 9:28 AM    Report this comment

The more I'm around my dogs, the more it makes me believe I'd rather hear the barking than the endless droning on of people. Bark on!

Posted by: TWOGR8DANES | October 6, 2016 9:27 AM    Report this comment

I have a nuisance barker in my own home. Her barking is an issue ONLY when I am arriving home from work. My significant other works a different shift from me and is typically sleeping when I am coming home from work. One of my dogs starts barking when she hears the driveway gate open, continues while I am parking the car, walk up a flight a steps and she doesn't stop until I open the door. Obviously this can interrupt my SO's sleep. I put a citronella collar on her and if she barked more than 2 times it gave her a puff of citronella. Now we just put the collar on her, we don't have to turn it on anymore. If she is wearing that collar she does not bark.

Posted by: NOLAhounds | October 6, 2016 9:24 AM    Report this comment

I wish it was officially considered animal abuse, in North America, to not walk or otherwise exercise your dog. We have a similar problem as described in this article: neighbours who never ever take their several dogs for walks. Where we live, there are forests and trails all around! The barking is stressful in its annoyance, and angers us, but I am equally upset about the frustration and boredom of the dogs. Occasionally they escape, and what do they do? They take THEMSELVES for a walk. And when caught, they are chastised. Dog prison.

To top it off, these people have had to put down several of their dogs because of aggression issues (including one dog killing another). When you have to do it that many times, take a bloody hint! I have considered offering to take them for walks, but my health does not permit it (we have a dog, and one is more than enough for me to handle and attend to). But I also suspect the embarrassment of the neighbours would cause them to decline, even if I had the health and stamina to daily take care of THEIR dogs. AND these people claim to be big fans of Cesar Milan. What is his number ONE piece of advice? Take your dog for a walk!

Dogs NEED, inherently, to get out and about and sniff new things. It's a canine thing. No matter how big or how very small your dog is.

Posted by: Tamara Heikalo | October 6, 2016 9:16 AM    Report this comment

This article seems to have been written by a paranoid person who is surely NOT an animal lover !

Posted by: Mimiten | October 6, 2016 9:14 AM    Report this comment

sad for all but barking can be so very annoying.

Posted by: jackson's mom | October 6, 2016 8:53 AM    Report this comment

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