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How to persuade your neighbors to quiet their chronically barking dogs

Classifying the Owners of Barking Dogs

People who own barking dogs tend to fall into one of three categories.

  • the uninformed
  • the lazy and the reluctant
  • the malicious and recalcitrant
Uninformed Dog Owners

Sometimes a dog barks inappropriately simply because his human is uninformed. Either the owner doesn't know the dog is barking, or he doesn't know that people are suffering as a result, or he doesn't know that dogs can be bark trained, or he doesn't know specifically how to bark train a dog. Or he doesn't know that electronic collars are available that, in all probability, will quickly quiet the dog.

If there's a barking crisis at your house, the best you can hope for is that you are dealing with an uninformed owner. If so, all you have to do is give him the information he requires and, in just a few days, he will straighten out the problem.

My estimate is that probably five percent of barking dogs can be traced to owners who are good and decent people who will quickly quiet their dog as soon as they receive the information they need.

Anonymous Notes

It is a rare person who doesn't experience a profound dread when he thinks about calling on his neighbor to have the talk. It's so much less stressful to just leave a note or, better yet, an anonymous note. But I've never yet seen a barking problem that was that easily solved. For that reason, if you do leave an anonymous note, don't write anything you'd be embarrassed to own-up to later, because if you want to solve the problem, you'll almost certainly have to take it up with the neighbor face-to-face sooner or later, and when you do, he'll realize that you are the one who wrote the notes.

When To Go

It is the nature of our species to take the path of least resistance. To be more exact, it is in our nature to do that which in the short run, is the least distressing and the most rewarding. Knowing that, it's easy to predict when you will go to talk to the neighbor about his dog. You'll go when you reach the point that continuing to listen to the dog generates even more anxiety than the distress you anticipate experiencing when you speak to the neighbor.

You're not likely to take this advice, but you'd probably be better off taking up the issue with the neighbor early on. If you follow the dictates of human nature and wait until you're at your wit's end before calling on the dog owner, you may find yourself trying to articulate your position when you are too upset to think straight. Worse yet, you may find yourself unleashing your rage on the neighbor, and that very likely would work against you.

What to Say

In your initial visit with a dog owner of whom you have no knowledge, statistically speaking, you are most likely to find yourself face-to-face with a malicious or recalcitrant owner. Nonetheless, for strategic reasons, the first time you go to the dog owner's home, you need to assume, or at least behave as though you believe, that the dog is barking simply because the owner is uninformed.

Therefore, when you first visit the owners in their home, you should go to them in a spirit of polite comradeship and attempt to enlist their cooperation in a friendly way that will give them a sense that you all are working together to solve a problem. That way they can feel good about complying with your request that they take responsibility for their dog.

You never know. It may be that the dog next door is barking simply because the people he lives with lack the information they need to quiet the animal. With that in mind, at some point in one of your meetings, you may want to provide them with the following information:

While you are at it, refer the dog owners to the yellow pages for a listing of professional dog trainers in your area who can answer their questions and walk them through the process of quieting their dog, should that prove necessary. Or better yet, select one of the trainers yourself and visit with him to discuss bark training, but be careful. Not all dog trainers are competent, and the last thing you need is for a phony to come in, fail with the neighbor's dog, and then try to cover his incompetence by telling the neighbors that their dog is incapable of learning. So make sure that what your local dog trainer has to say about quieting a dog is consistent with what you have learned on this web site. If he seems to know what he's doing, then provide the owners with his business card. Doing that will sometimes have a positive effect.

Also, during the course of the conversation, try to determine why the dog is barking. If the animal is an entry-seeking beckoner, calling out to be let back in the house, then you may be able to easily solve the problem by telling your neighbors about doggie doors and, perhaps, offering to pay part of the price for them to have one installed.

Finally, get the dog owner's telephone number and write it down where you can find it. Having his number could prove extremely important later on.

If you are dealing with an owner whose dog is barking simply because the human half was uninformed, then, at that point, you will have done everything necessary to bring your barking problem to an end. However, if the barking still continues on for more than a week or so, you then have to consider the possibility that you are dealing with someone from the second classification of people who keep barking dogs: The lazy and the reluctant.

Lazy & Reluctant Dog Owners

Of the people who keep barking dogs, there are many who know how to train their pets and aren't really all that opposed to the idea. They just need someone or something to motivate them to do it.

To bring around a dog owner of this variety, you just need to keep calling on them, very politely, once or twice a week. And keep it up long enough to make them realize that your life is being so negatively impacted by their irresponsible behavior that you will never stop coming back until they do the right thing and quiet their dog. You just have to keep it up for a few weeks and, if you're dealing with a dog owner of the lazy or reluctant variety, that will do the trick.

But what if it doesn't? What if you do all of the above and the barking continues? Well, unfortunately, that brings us to the third classification of those who keep barking dogs: the malicious and the recalcitrant.

Malicious and/or Recalcitrant Dog Owners

In my experience, better than 45% of those who maintain noisy dogs are reflexively obstinate people who ignore polite requests and pathetic pleas, and will quiet their dogs only if you hound them for an extended period of time. Incredibly, an equal percentage are dig-in-your-heels, never-give-an-inch, hard core, incorrigibles whose perspective parallels that of Charleton Heston: i.e. you can have quiet when you pry it out of their cold, dead hands.

At first blush, it doesn't seem possible that the rate of recalcitrance could be that high. After all, if you randomly selected ten people on the street and did a psychological work-up on them, you might find that one or two of them are chronically oppositional. But you would never expect to find that 90% of those whom you randomly evaluated, were predisposed to that kind of behavior. Nonetheless, if you take a close look at those who keep chronically barking dogs, the rate of recalcitrance does indeed seem to be that high.

I'm convinced that the extremely large percentage of belligerent people found among those who choose to keep chronically barking dogs is due to the fact that it is a self-selecting population. In other words, there exists such a high rate of hostility among those with barking dogs because keeping a barking dog within earshot of a neighbor's home is a hostile thing to do. That's why we find a disproportionately large percentage of hostile people among those who choose to do it.

It should be no surprise, then, that the great majority of the time, when you scratch the surface of a person keeping a barking dog, you will find someone prone to hostility and/or altogether lacking in empathy. So trying to persuade someone to take responsibility for their canine can be a treacherous proposition, and taking steps to force them to do it can be downright dangerous.

The Typical Process and Sequence of Events

If you're thinking about pressing your recalcitrant neighbor to take responsibility for his dog, you need to know going in that there is a characteristic way in which those events almost always play-out.

You are likely to find that 95% of the time when you approach the owner of a chronically barking dog to negotiate the abatement of a barking problem, your first visit simply does not produce results. They do not quiet the animal, and the barking continues. You can explain the hardship you're suffering, ask the owner nicely to take responsibility for the animal, and provide him with all the information he needs to get the job done. However, regardless of what he may or may not say in that first meeting, 95% of the time, the barking will continue on as before.

So your first polite visit with the neighbor usually will not produce results. I'm sorry to say that if you are dealing with a hardcore specimen, neither will your second, or your third or your fourth or your fifth, because friendly, cooperative behavior is simply not in the nature of malicious and recalcitrant people.

Once it becomes apparent that you are dealing with that kind of person, then unless you have an effective, enforceable anti-barking law in place in your town, you have only two choices: Either you stop calling on the dog owner and accept the abuse, or you begin the process of wearing him down. If you decide to pursue the second option, you will be moving onto treacherous ground, and successfully negotiating that terrain will require some serious self-discipline and careful, strategic planning, if undesirable consequences are to be avoided.

Here's the first pitfall that you need to watch out for. If you repeatedly approach a malicious or recalcitrant dog owner, to ask him to take responsibility for his dog, you can absolutely count on him portraying you as the bad guy and himself as your innocent victim; that is something that, from his perspective, he must do.

That's because, almost always, when you encounter an intractably obstinate person keeping a chronically barking dog, you are either dealing with a substance abuser, or, you are dealing with a diagnosable personality disorder, (usually a Borderline, or a Narcissistic, or a Paranoid, or an Antisocial Personality Disorder) who is incapable of participating in mutually respectful relationships.

To the perception of such a person, everyone they encounter is either their superior or their inferior, which is very much the same phenomenon we find in the way dogs view themselves. However, unlike dogs who can be perfectly happy living their lives in the inferior position, predatory personality disorders can only feel worthwhile if they view themselves as dominant. To really grasp what those people are about, you have to understand that their joy in life comes not from joining with those around them in harmonious cooperation, but from conquering their acquaintances in conflict.

If indeed you are dealing with one of the predatory personality disorders then, more likely than not, your neighbor's decision to fill your home with the sound of his barking dog was an expression of his dominant one up-manship to begin with. So when you show up asking him to quiet the animal, he is going to view your request as an attempt to unseat him and assume the throne of dominance yourself. That means that, while for you the whole thing is about whether or not you are going to have a quiet place to live, from his point of view it is all part of a contest that will determine who is to be triumphant and who is to be humiliated.

To the perception of a person like that, the act of quieting his dog would amount to surrendering his control of your home to you, which is something they simply will not do because, to their perception, unless you dominate, you automatically move into the role of an inferior.

Therefore, with his perceived social position and sense of self-worth on the line, there is no possibility that such an owner will quickly and cheerfully comply with your request that he quiet his dog. Given the nature of his personality, he can't comply, and that leaves him with a serious problem, which is that he can't defend not complying.

Imagine that someone says to the recalcitrant dog owner: "I hear you're having trouble with your neighbor. What's that all about?"

If the owner comes out and describes what is really happening, he's going to have to say, "I keep an untrained dog a few yards from my neighbor's house and the constant barking has devastated the quality of his life and is causing him and his family to suffer terribly. He wants me to take responsibility for the animal and, thereby, bring their suffering to an end. But I refuse, and that's why we're feuding." He can't just come out and tell the truth like that, because it would leave him looking like the despicable bully that he is.

Therefore, at least to his way of thinking, the dog owner can't comply with your request that he quiet his dog, and he can't defend not complying. So always, such people respond to that situation by manufacturing a new scenario, one in which you are victimizing them, and they are merely standing up to your tyranny. You can count on the pathological dog owner trying to put that spin on things as he attempts to convince all concerned that the true essence of the problem is that you are an evil person who is out to get him. And if you're not very careful, he will succeed in that effort.

Here's the nature of your vulnerability: By repeatedly calling on your neighbor to discuss the problem he has created, you set yourself up to be portrayed as a villain, and you can see how it might appear that way to many outside observers. After all, people who don't know that the "anti-barking" laws are unenforceable are going to wonder why you continually raise the issue with the neighbor instead of just having the authorities handle it. And those who don't know that dogs can be easily bark trained or otherwise silenced are going to believe that by demanding that your neighbor quiet his dog, you are insisting that he accomplish the impossible. Then you also have to factor in all the people who honestly believe that a person has an inviolate right to keep a barking dog, even in a residential neighborhood. Not to mention all those fortunate souls who succeed in going through life oblivious to everything around them, who are not bothered by any type of noise and find it impossible to believe that anyone else would be vexed by it either. Those people will certainly view your behavior as totally outrageous.

So you see, with all of that already going against you, it's not hard for the intractable owner to convince all concerned that he is your victim, and that the only reason you keep raising the issue of the dog is because you are a belligerent person who is out on a vendetta, for reasons that supposedly have nothing to do with the fact that he placed a screaming animal a few yards from where your family is trying to carry on the essential activities of daily life.

That's the dilemma. If you turn to the authorities nothing will happen, and if all you do is make a polite request or two of the dog owner then, likewise, the noise will just roll on unabated. On the other hand, if you go back repeatedly to address the issue with the owner, you will be vilified as a combative aggressor who is out looking for trouble. It's a tough situation for sure, but there is a narrow crevice between the rock and the hard place, from which you may be able to find enough purchase to take effective action.

One thing you can do is to get the dog owner's telephone number in your first meeting and then, after that, as much as possible, deal with him over the telephone. Sometimes the situation is such that you just have to go over to visit with the neighbor in person, but to the extent possible, handle it over the phone. That will reduce the chances that the dog owner will do you harm and also makes it more difficult for him to portray you as being threateningly aggressive.

Something else you might want to try at that point is to offer to purchase an electronic collar for the dog owner. I can tell you from bitter experience that it is immeasurably easier to just cough up the money than it is to engage in a protracted struggle with a truly obstinate owner. If he will agree to accept the collar and place it on the dog, count yourself lucky -- very lucky.

If he refuses your offer, which is what most do, at that point you will in all probability be down to two choices, each of them even worse than the other. At that point you either have to accept the never-ending stress of the status quo, or you have to begin the process of making repeated contact with the dog owner.

Making Arrangements with Malicious and Recalcitrant Dog Owners

A truly pathological dog owner will almost always adopt a strategy of attempting to provoke you into behaving like the belligerent aggressor he wants everybody to believe you are. He will belittle you, insult you, and do everything he can think of to upset, incite, and draw you into an ugly battle of personalities in which you alternately lash-out at one another in angry conflict. That's what he wants.

Remember, if the dog owner can provoke you into participating in reciprocal acts of belligerence, it will work to his advantage. Because it doesn't take much in the way of tit for tat retaliatory strikes before the waters become so muddied that outside parties, like the police, can no longer tell if the problem is a rogue dog owner victimizing his neighbor, or two equally combative neighbors feuding for reasons that can't be clearly determined.

Therefore, it is critical that you remain calm and polite. Don't allow yourself to be sucked into an orgy of hostility in which you alternately lash out at one another. If you allow him to provoke you into lashing out even once, he will forever cite your act of aggression as evidence that the real essence of the problem is that you are out to get him.

With that in mind, don't threaten physical harm, or scream at your neighbor, or swear at him or call him names. Don't insult him or vandalize his property, and certainly don't harm his dog. If you do any of those things, you will play right into his hands by lending credibility to his contention that you are waging a totally unjustified vendetta against him, as opposed to pursuing the only option whereby you can free your home and family from the stress of a never-ending flow of noxious noise. You should instead focus your attention on making arrangements with the dog owner.

The malicious or irresponsible owner has created a situation in which you cannot sleep in your own home without first making arrangements with him. So when any member of your family wants to take a nap, telephone the neighbor or go over in person if necessary, and ask the dog owner to take the dog in until naptime is over. If you need to study, or work, or think or relax, or make an important telephone call, or go to bed for the night, or whatever, go over and ask him to keep the dog quiet until you are done. After all, if he has a right to create a situation in which you cannot use the inside of your own home without first making arrangements with him, then most certainly you have a free speech right to attempt to make the arrangements he has forced on you. Whether or not he actually ever complies with your request is beside the point. Just keep making your request. That's the key to bringing recalcitrant dog owners into compliance with the standards of human decency.

Dealing with the Police

If over time, you keep calling on your neighbor to make arrangements to use the inside of your home, at some point, usually sooner rather than later, he will inform you that you have worn out your welcome and that, if you continue to call or come over, he will have you arrested either for trespassing or for harassment. And he will almost certainly try. However, if you make clear to the police, the true circumstances of the situation, it is unlikely that they will be willing to take you into custody.

It's true that law enforcement officials don't have much use for citizens who call to complain about their neighbor's barking dog. But the cops are even less enamored of irresponsible dog owners who call up to report that they are irritated with the people next door, because they keep complaining about all the noise their dogs are making.

As a rule, unless you live in one of those extremely rare locations where there are viable police-administered anti-barking laws in place (if there is such a place), the police are going to resist becoming involved in your barking dog dispute. The only way they would be likely to take sides and try to force someone's hand is if your neighbor with the barking dog can convince them that you are so aggressively belligerent in your interactions with him that your behavior rises to the level of criminality.

Calling on your neighbor can take three forms. You can telephone him, you can go over to his house in person or, if he lives very close by, you can shout to him over the fence or from out of your window.

It could be that for you, for whatever reason, calling on your neighbor in person to make arrangements may not be an option, and after a certain number of telephone calls you may find that your recalcitrant neighbor stops answering the phone. If you do reach the point where you can't go in person and you can't get the dog owner to answer the telephone, about all you have left available to you is to shout to him over the fence.

Shouting over the fence can be a highly effective strategy, because it is almost certain to be as distressing to the dog owner to listen to you shout as it is for you to listen to his dog barking. Also, as long as your shouting consists solely of attempts to make arrangements, you may find yourself on strong enough footing to get the police to back off and simply allow you and your neighbor to shout and bark one another into submission. That is especially true if you explain to the officers that you can no longer reach the dog owner by telephone or by way of an in person visit.

Just be sure that all of your verbalizations to the neighbor consist solely of attempts to communicate. For example, shout "Hey Bob. Nap time. Time to take the dog in." One of my favorite approaches is to shout out passages read from the harm done section of I figure, it's best to regard the occasion as an opportunity to educate my neighbor, who seems so desperately in need of enlightenment.

Very often the neighbor will tell me that he does not want to hear what I have to say, to which I always reply, "I understand that, and I do not want to listen to your dog bark. Can you think of any way in which we can both get what we want?"

You are likely to find that the authorities are far more tolerant of that sort of thing that than they would be of name calling, expletives, and declarations of hate, frustration, or disapproval. Therefore, when speaking to your neighbor at high volume, imagine that everything you say is being tape recorded and that someday a judge will listen to it, and don't say anything that you would not want brought up in court.

In most places, you are at least arguably protected by law when you shout-out your pertinent, non-belligerent, free speech message. As a result, you are likely to find that the authorities in your area are far more tolerant of your shouted attempts to communicate than they would be if you were to resort to blowing a whistle, or using the blast of an air horn to give the noise-generating dog owner a taste of his own toxin.

The problem with the shouted message strategy is that the human voice is really a very fragile thing. Unless you have undergone formal voice training you will almost certainly find that standing in your backyard shouting loud enough to be heard inside your neighbor's house will quickly render you hoarse, and if you continue to do it frequently, over a period of months or years, you could very well inflict permanent damage on your voice.

If you have a decent tape recorder and the right speakers and electronics, you may be able to get around that problem by recording yourself shouting to the neighbor and, then, at the right time, simply playing the recording for the neighbor to hear.

In most places, playing a loud recording of yourself shouting is against the law, while actually shouting at that exact same volume is quite legal. Therefore, you will need to take steps to keep anyone from catching on that they are hearing a tape recording and not your actual live voice. You might want to record yourself saying a number of different things or saying the same thing in different ways. Also, when the shouting first begins, there is an excellent chance that the police will come out a time or two to see what all the yelling is about. However, after assuring themselves that you are not belligerent, it is very likely that, thereafter, they will refuse to come back to investigate similar reports.

Therefore, you might want to wait until after your neighbor has called the police out a time or two before you switch from your real voice to the tape recorded messages.

There is another pitfall that you need to consider before you begin besieging your neighbor with requests for the opportunity to use your home, and that is the doctrine of unclean hands, which says, essentially, you can't expect to get a big judgment against someone in court if your own behavior has been something less than exemplary. Therefore, if you think you may eventually want to sue your neighbor over all the noise, be sure to read about the doctrine of unclean hands and consider it carefully before proceeding.

Of your three options, going over to the neighbor's house is the most likely to get you in trouble with the police. Calling him on the telephone is the least risky, and calling out loudly to him as you stand on your own property is right in the middle. Obviously, since bombarding your neighbor with your recorded verbalizations is illegal, it also is going to be a bit riskier.

I have been told by legal experts that, if you were to keep it up long enough, you could be arrested for repeatedly calling on the dog owner regardless of which of the three approaches you used. On the other hand, quite to the contrary, other legal experts have assured me that, under the circumstances I have described, you would be well within your rights to go on reaching out to the dog owner indefinitely, using any of the three methods. And could safely do so without fear of arrest. Although, there is little chance that the police will tolerate your use of tape recorded messages, should they somehow discover that you are doing that.

I think that, in truth, more than anything else, how the authorities react to your entreaties to the dog owner will depend on how well you present yourself.

I know many officers find repugnant the idea of standing idly by while the victim is pushed beyond his limit, and then arresting him when he pursues his only alternative to submitting to the abuse. It is a sentiment I share. Being as the laws don't allow the police to protect the victims, law enforcement should just get out of the way and let the injured parties take measured and reasonable steps to clear the problem up themselves.

But you would do well to keep in mind that police officers are individuals who hold many divergent views, and you can be arrested for anything, even when you are well within your rights. Also remember that even if the charges are eventually dropped you could still spend a fortune on attorney's fees and see your life turned upside down. So keep your wits about you.

If the dog owner calls the police, then you need to be careful how you present yourself to the officers. Stay very calm and focused and, when you speak to them, be more than respectful, be friendly. Explain what you are doing and why, and point out that the entire situation is under the control of the dog owner. All he has to do to bring your endless appeals to an immediate end is to take responsibility for the untrained dog that he brought into your residential neighborhood.

It is a standard part of the pattern for the irresponsible dog owner to first try to provoke you into an aggressive act and, failing that, to make up wild tales of provocatively belligerent things that you supposedly did and said. You can almost count on him doing that eventually. That is why it is essential that you remain calm and polite at all times.

From the moment of your first meeting with the dog owner, you should assume that every detail of your every interaction will eventually become known to the police, and behave accordingly. Don't ever do anything you would be afraid for them to find out about, and don't lie to them about anything you have done. Lying to the police is an arrestable offense in many places and every time you are caught out in a distortion of the truth, it erodes your credibility and makes the officers doubt everything else you have told them.

Nonetheless, no matter how gentle your demeanor and reassuring your words, if you adopt a strategy of calling repeatedly on the dog owner, it is par for the course for him to report to the police that he believes that you represent a threat to his physical safety. If that happens to you, point out to the officers that if the guy really believed that you posed a serious threat to his safety, he would stop behaving abusively and correct the problem instead of forcing you to come back over and over again. And assure them that the minute he takes responsibility for his dog and returns control of the inside of your home to you, your communications with the dog owner will come to an immediate end.

Despite all I've just said, it is still possible that the law enforcement official on hand will tell you that the next time you contact the dog owner, you will be arrested for harassment or trespassing or whatever other misdemeanor charge he thinks fits. If that happens, point out to the officer that you have no criminal intent. You pose no threat to the physical safety of the neighbor, or to his dog, or his property, and you have every reason to be in contact with him. Indeed, it is the dog owner who has created a situation in which you must make arrangements with him before you can use your home. And you are simply there doing what he had forced you to do, as you politely ask that he take responsibility for his dog, so that the unhealthy conditions he is creating inside your home might be brought to an end. Therefore, clearly your interactions with the neighbor are not criminal in nature. Remind the officer that the civil court holds hearings on the issuance of restraining orders precisely for the purpose of dealing with this sort of situation. Bring it to the officer's attention that the civil court is the more appropriate venue for settling the problem, and ask him if instead of arresting you, he can't instead tell the neighbor that, if he wants to block you from making future contact, that he must petition the court for a restraining order. If the officer refuses, then, in a friendly fashion, and in a tone that suggests problem solving rather than confrontation, ask to speak with his supervisor and make the same request of him. If that doesn't work you can then approach the police chief and/or the city council.

If you are currently negotiating with a neighbor who is keeping a barking dog, and you believe that push may come to shove at some point, you need to go to the following link and learn about restraining orders: Seeking relief through the civil courts. If you fear trouble down the road, do it now and carefully consider the information you find there. Because forcing your neighbor into a situation in which he must either quiet his dog or go for a restraining order to keep you away could work for or against you, depending on how you handle it, and the situation with the courts where you live. You might also want to consider trying to stem the barking of your neighbor's dog by taking the initiative yourself and going for a restraining order against him.

In any case, if your neighbor demands that you be arrested for repeatedly contacting him, providing that you think to suggest it, the police are more likely to opt for telling the dog owner that he must seek a restraining order against you than they are to respond by taking you into custody. That's because it is the policy of pretty much every P.D. in the nation to participate as little as possible in matters pertaining to barking dogs. Also, the budgets of most law enforcement agencies are so tightly stretched these days that few departments can afford to book people into jail and process them through the courts for crimes as minor as politely asking their neighbors' permission to use the inside of their own homes.

One more point to keep in mind: If you are arrested and charged with a crime that could conceivably result in jail time, you have the right to demand a jury trial. And your local prosecutor is likely to have a hard time finding twelve jurors who would be willing to imprison you for committing such a blatantly non-criminal crime.

Technically speaking, it is possible for the dog owner to place you under arrest himself, but he would probably have an extremely difficult time getting the police to take you into custody. Besides, if he has any sense, he won't do it because the most you could be charged with would be a misdemeanor carrying a negligible penalty even if you were found guilty, which is very doubtful. And after that, legally speaking, you would have him firmly by a vulnerable part of his anatomy because you would then be well positioned to file a whopping civil suit against him. Most cops are aware of that and will advise the dog owner not to pursue that course of action.

The Timing, Frequency, and Duration of Your Visits

Beyond a doubt, you have a right to call on your neighbor in an attempt to arrange to use your home. But it's a matter of opinion as to how often you have a right to do it.

If the dog barks every day then I call on the owner a couple times each week. If the owner is gone during the day, then, I call on him in the evening, after dinner.

If the dog barks during sleeping hours, I go over and discuss the matter with the dog owner as often as I can stand doing it. If the dog barks at two in the morning I go over and have a talk with the neighbor at 2:10. Amazingly, if you pay a visit during the wee hours of the morning you will often find that while everyone else in the neighborhood is wide awake, thanks to the barking of his dog, the dog owner is sound asleep. But of course, after your visit the dog owner joins the long list of those who can't get back to sleep, and a ludicrous comic twist is added as he grumbles that your complaining about his dog keeping you awake all night is making it difficult for him to sleep.

The Down Side of the Plan

I want to make clear that the plan I've just laid out for bringing around pathological dog owners is not an easy way to go. Nor is it something that you will want to do if there is any way you can avoid it. However, unfortunately, in many parts of the world, people have been saddled with "anti-barking" laws that are all but unenforceable.

If that's the case where you live, and it very likely is, then, you must either go with the plan as outlined, or you must accept the abuse and the constant disruption of you life. However, Mixon's plan is something you turn to only because the law provides you with no more genteel alternative. It's not something you would want to do if you had any real choice, because you most certainly will not enjoy the experience.

Remember that there are some people who live for conflict. They crave confrontation and they love to upset those around them. Such people intentionally foster antagonisms and embrace conflict as a way of life and are forever involved in some sort of emotionally charged dispute with one person or another. Such people will often keep barking dogs and/or dogs that are dangerously aggressive as a means of drawing those around them into participating in the conflict they crave. So that barking noise coming from the other side of the fence might actually be the sound of your pugnacious neighbor trolling for conflict and, of course, when you go over and press him to correct the problem, you may be playing right into his hands.

The process of reaching an accommodation with such people is always an upsetting ordeal. Maybe not as upsetting as living forever under the tyranny of a constantly barking dog, but upsetting enough for you and all who care about you.

Total Nut Jobs

People who keep barking dogs tend to be disturbed -- sometimes deeply disturbed. When you begin pushing the buttons of that kind of person, you never know what will happen.

A 21-year-old Houston man was arrested for taking seven people hostage and torturing them with red-hot forks, electrical cords and scalding grease in a dispute over his dogs. In Marin County, just down the road from me, a man was arrested after he attempted to hire a neighborhood teenager to burn down the home of one of the people who complained about his dog. I had similar neighbors in the county of Sonoma. They responded to telephone complaints about their dogs by immediately stepping outside and letting loose a burst of gunfire.

Nut jobs. There are a lot of 'em out there. People who abuse animals are very strongly inclined toward violent behavior, and folks get killed in disputes over dogs every day. Those are good things to keep in mind as you approach the owner of a barking dog.

Having seen my share of canine-owning nut jobs, I can tell you there are a few key phrases you need to listen for. In my experience, if any of the following occur it likely means that you are dealing with a seriously disturbed person:

  • the owner denies that the dog is barking and insists that it must be your imagination or some other dog you are hearing.

  • they admit the dog is barking but say that it doesn't really bother you -- that you only pretend it bothers you because you are out to get them.

  • they insist that barking doesn't bother normal people and it only bothers you because you are somehow flawed or defective.

  • they tell you they know you are working in concert with others or that they know you are trying to turn others against them. (This perception, by the way, is greatly exacerbated by the Multiple Household laws that mandate that the victim must call on the other neighbors and recruit them to join in the legal action.)

  • they receive complaints about their vicious dog behaving in a menacing fashion and respond by insisting that the dog "just wants to play" or "just wants some loving," or otherwise refuse to acknowledge the dog's threatening behavior.

Requesting a Police Escort

In the vast majority of jurisdictions, the police do not handle animal control complaints, so they will not go out to speak to your neighbor about his barking dog. You are still entitled to police protection, however. So if you feel threatened by the owner of a barking dog, you can ask the police to accompany you to ensure your safety when you call on the neighbor with your latest request that he quiet his dog. Taking the police with you may be an especially good idea when you suspect heavy alcohol or methamphetamine use.

For whatever reason, many people are extremely uneasy with the prospect of the police showing up unannounced at their doorstep. Even if the officer is just there to keep you company while you ask them to take responsibility for their dog, or make arrangements with them so you can once again use the inside of your home, it doesn't matter. There are some people who don't want cops around under any circumstance, and they will gladly train their dogs rather than face the prospect of future police visits.

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This page on Persuading Your Neighbors is part of Section Two:
the Your Neighbor's Dog section of