Barking can be a source of annoyance and frustration for neighbours. Barking is a natural behaviour of dogs so if there are dogs in the neighbourhood, there is an expectation that they will bark. Some dogs will bark at people walking by or cars driving past but once they have continued on their journey, the barking should cease. This barking can also act as a deterrent for would-be thieves or trespassers. It is when this becomes excessive that problems arise for owners, neighbours and the dog.
Reasons for barking
Dogs bark for many reasons and often relate to how the dog is feeling. A dog’s state of mind will vary and be influenced by previous experiences and environmental factors.
What is it that triggers barking? The main triggers include protecting territory when a noise is heard, warning to back away when feeling threatened, a need for company when left alone or frustration due to boredom. The good news is that by identifying the underlying cause, greater success will be gained in terms of implementing training, exercise and environmental enrichment strategies to help alleviate the barking problem. There may also be steps that neighbours can take to minimise a potential trigger.
If the barking is due to distress, then this may constitute a welfare problem and if not addressed, could lead to more behavioural disorders such as spinning and tail-grabbing and/or chasing.
If your neighbours are approachable, working with them to find a solution is a good first option. Explaining the impact that the barking is having, without becoming angry or judgemental, can help guide discussions towards resolving the problem. Even though you may like dogs or feel that the solution is not your responsibility, offering support in the first instance can encourage appropriate action, which may include seeking help from a reward based dog trainer or qualified animal behaviourist, especially if the dog may be suffering from separation anxiety. However, if approaching your neighbour directly is not an option, then reporting the complaint to the local authority may be necessary.
Using punishment including verbal abuse, rattling chains, spraying water or any other negative experience is not advisable as it may lead to further problems. Dogs can be trained using positive reinforcement (food treats, verbal praise etc) to reduce barking. This may involve you helping your neighbour to effectively desensitize the dog to certain activities that you may undertake which cause the barking.
For more information on reward based training visit:
RSPCA South Australia Lead by Example campaign
Pet Professional Guild Australia