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Barking dogs

Barking is natural behaviour for a dog. However, persistent and uncontrolled barking can have a severe and negative influence on a person’s quality of life.

If a barking dog is bothering you, or any other repetitive noise the dog is making, the first step you should take is to contact the owner in a polite manner and let them know that their dog’s behaviour is affecting you. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the dog owner, we suggest you leave a polite note in their letterbox. Remember to include as much information as possible, such as specific times when the barking occurs and any other behaviours you’ve witnessed. It’s quite often the case that the owner is unaware their dog is misbehaving while they’re out and the matter can be easily resolved by just letting them know.

Of course, this is not always effective or possible. In these situations, the City has the following process for addressing dog noise complaints.

The barking dog complaint process

1. Unreasonable barking occurs

A dog is barking persistently or creates noise to such a degree that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in any place.

2. Dog owner approached

If the affected person/s feels comfortable, politely approach the dog owner to discuss the issue or leave a courteous note in their letterbox to outline when the barking is occurring.

3. Complaint lodged

If two weeks since notifying the dog owner have passed and the barking has continued to be unreasonable, the affected person should contact the City of Stirling via the Customer Contact Centre to lodge a complaint. Please be aware that it is essential you identify the property where the dog resides.

4. Both owner and complainant are contacted

The Community Safety team will contact the involved parties by post. The dog owner will receive information on how to address the dog noise issue and will be given time to take necessary measures to reduce the barking. The complainant will be given a 10-day dog noise diary, information on how to complete the diary and other resources that may be helpful.

5. Barking reduces

If the barking has subsided to an acceptable level after two weeks, no further action will be taken and the complaint will be closed.

6. Unreasonable barking continues

If the barking has continued to be unreasonable after two weeks, the complainant will need to complete the 10-day dog noise diary. Please ensure that the actual number of barks/howls/whines is recorded in the diary as well as the length of time each day the barking has occurred. The completed diary is then submitted to the Senior Ranger for assessment.

7. Action taken

Depending on the outcome of the dog noise diary assessment, the appropriate action will be taken. Please note, the complainant will be notified if a diary has been completed incorrectly, or if the dog noise is considered reasonable as per the guidelines for nuisance dogs.

So, what can I do if my dog is barking?

Dogs do not bark without a reason. Barking can occur when the dog is excited, when it’s threatened, when seeking its owner’s attention or when responding to a distant sound or signal.

To stop a dog from barking excessively you first need to find out when and why the dog is barking. The problem should then be treated in the early stages, as prolonged and habitual barking is very difficult and time-consuming to correct.

Excessive barking may be due to:

  • Boredom or lack of exercise - Some dogs require more stimulation than others. Whether your dog is full of energy or has a curious mind, it’s important to make sure your dog’s needs are met by providing adequate physical exercise before you leave the house and leaving them with mental enrichment toys. Some experts recommend a minimum of two hours exercise daily for certain breeds of dog.
  • Breed - Barking is a natural behaviour that may occur more in some breeds than others, often due to temperament and other breed traits Prospective owners should carefully consider this when selecting a dog suitable for their lifestyle and home environment.
  • Confinement -Dogs will bark at any noises or movements they can see, hear or smell, but are not able to investigate or reach. People or dogs passing by, birds or aeroplanes flying overhead, a lawnmower, the telephone ringing, a knock on the door or the sound of other dogs may trigger a bout of barking.
  • Isolation - Dogs are social animals and will actively seek the company of other dogs and people. When left alone in backyards all day, they may bark for attention. Most dogs will adapt to being left on their own if conditioned to do so from an early age, but this is not always the case.
  • Fence-line distractions - A dog should not be kept near a walkway, hostile neighbours, or where children can tease it. The location of the dog’s kennel or run may need to be changed if it is too close to a neighbour or other distraction. Neighbours who have dogs that growl and bark at each other should restrict each of the dogs’ access to the fence-line. A high, solid fence, or confining the dog to the rear of a property, can prevent a dog from growling, barking or lunging at passers-by.
  • Visitors - A dog will often bark at visitors arriving, whether they are strangers or friends, especially if it is behind a barrier. If a dog is introduced to visitors, it won’t be so vocal when they arrive.
  • Anxiety - Many dogs are anxious or insecure when their owners are absent and may cope with the stress of separation by barking, digging or chewing. Enrichment toys or hide bones can be given to the dog before its owner leaves home, as these can provide an outlet for the dog’s anxiety. Minimal attention should be given to the dog before its owner leaves the property.
  • Excitement - Excitable dogs will bark when overstimulated. This frequently occurs during play, or when the dog is chasing a ball or birds in the garden.
  • Changes in the dog’s life - A major change in an older dog’s lifestyle or environment may cause excessive barking. If an owner starts working longer hours, a marriage breaks up, a new baby arrives or a family shifts house, the amount and type of attention the dog receives or its status in the household may change. Instead of ignoring the dog, the owner should establish a new routine that includes exercise, training and play.
  • Discomfort - Dogs that are hot, wet, cold or without shelter may bark, as will dogs that are hungry, thirsty, sick or in pain. Before leaving home, owners should ensure their dog has access to bedding, food, water and familiar toys throughout the day. Dogs that are kept inside should have access to the outside when their owners are absent.
  • Teaching the dog to bark - Sometimes when you’re trying to quieten your barking dog you can accidentally teach them that barking is good and will get them what they want. ‘Rewards’ such as going for a walk, bringing your dog inside and giving them treats should not be used to interrupt your dogs barking. These methods can provide a short-term fix in the moment but will lead to ongoing problems.

What can be done to correct excessive barking?

There is no quick fix or easy solution to problem barking. Some dogs have behavioural problems such as separation anxiety, which requires specific treatment and behavioural modification. Once you identify why your dog is barking you will need to work out the best way to address it. Dependant on the reason your dog is barking there may be several solutions available to you. For advice on the best approach for your situation, consider approaching:

  • Your local veterinarian
  • A dog obedience club
  • An animal behaviourist.

Physical punishment should never be used to train your dog. As well as being cruel, hitting a barking dog does not achieve anything except to reward the dog by giving it the attention it was seeking. Even though the attention is negative, the dog will only remember that it’s actions (barking) resulted in getting attention. Physical punishment also increases the likelihood of future barking by making the dog more anxious and may also cause it to bite when threatened in the future.