Animal column: Barking dog, nagging neighbor
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Dear Hopeful Henry,
My neighbor reported me because my dog barks and he said it is disturbing him. I am frustrated because, yes, my dog barks, but all dogs bark. And he didn’t bother coming to me first! Any suggestions?
Barking Dog & Nagging Neighbor
I understand your frustration. Here are some tips that hopefully will help resolve your nagging neighbor situation. The normal reaction when someone complains about your dog is to be defensive. “My dog? Causing problems? I don’t think so! Don’t go there. Being defensive only causes hostilities and tension and encourages your neighbor to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Remember, in the eyes of your neighbor, this is not just perception — but it is his reality. Try these tips instead.
Listen. Since neither of you are going to move, it is far better to defuse the situation rather than starting a neighborhood war. Set defensiveness aside, and listen to what your neighbor has to say. Really listen. There actually may be some nugget of truth to the complaint and you need to find it. If he says your dog barks underneath his bedroom window “all the time” and wakes him up, it is likely an exaggeration; but chances are your dog is barking some of the time, especially if you leave her in the yard.
Empathize and Apologize. Without admitting guilt, empathize with your neighbor: “It must be frustrating to be awakened by a dog barking.” Be sincere. Say you are very sorry he is being disturbed by barking. Reassure him that you do not want him to be disturbed by barking, and you want to help find a resolution to his concerns. Ask him to bear with you while you work on the problem.
Investigate. Ask questions of your neighbor that will not make him defensive: “Is there a time when it is most annoying?” “Are there other dogs that are barking, too?” Consider setting up a video camera or voice-activated tape recorder to document your dog’s activities when you are not home. Or, consider taking a day off work to monitor your house to see what your dog does during the day and to see if any outside source is aggravating him. Check with other neighbors to see if they hear your dog barking, or if they hear any other dogs barking.
Be Legal. Make sure your dog is current with his dog license and obey all Animal Control laws.
Take Action. Make changes to accommodate your neighbor and protect your dog. If his complaint is early morning noise and he is barking when you let him out at 6 a.m. while you get ready for work, alter your routine. Get up earlier to take him out for his morning walk, keep him quietly occupied rather than leaving him to find his own entertainment. If it’s random backyard barking while you’re away, bring him in and close the doggie door. He doesn’t need to be out all day. If the barking happens while you are home then behavior modification is necessary.
Lastly, keep your neighbor updated on what you are doing to resolve the issue, and document your actions in a journal in case the situation gets legal.
Thanks for the good question.
Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to AskHenry@LakeTahoeHumaneSociety.org or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit http://www.Facebook.com/LakeTahoeHumaneSocietySPCA, http://www.Facebook.com/Hopeful.Henry or http://www.twitter.com/LtHumaneSociety.
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