Barking comes naturally to dogs, but the constant barking or whining of a dog can be disturbing or annoying for the neighbours. Often the problem occurs when the dog’s owner is out of the house and so isn't aware of it until someone complains.
In law, a barking dog can be a nuisance and the owner can be taken to court if he or she does nothing to stop the nuisance. If you wish to make a formal complaint about a dog barking, please click on Noise Pollution for further advice.
As a responsible dog owner you can try some of the following ideas to stop your dog from becoming a nuisance. You may also wish to look at the leaflet How to Prevent Noise Nuisance - animals for further advice. It can be downloaded from the right hand side of this page, under the heading documents.
Why Dogs Bark
Dogs are not, by nature, solitary animals and they need the security of a family group. Pet dogs regard their owners as a substitute family and soon become distressed when left alone.
There are a number of reasons why your dog may bark, including:
- Boredom or frustration
- Attention seeking
- Defending its territory
- Medical problems
The Importance of Training
Training is important so that your dog does not bark at just anything that moves. A well trained dog should be able to tell the difference between people allowed into the house and people who are intruders. Good training combined with affection and companionship should mean that your dog will not develop bad habits. Start young and start as you mean to go on.
Some Simple Things to Try
Some dogs just don’t want you to go out. Get your dog used to the idea that you are away for different periods of time and at different times of the day. That way he won't be so concerned each time you leave. Also, don’t make a fuss of your dog when you leave him.
Try putting your dog on his own in another room – at first for a few minutes, then gradually build up the time you leave your dog alone. Do not return to your dog until he is quiet for a period. When you return, praise him.
Some dogs will bark because they want to join in what’s going on outside. If this is a problem, try leaving your dog so that he cannot see outside.
Some dogs will settle only if they can hear human voices. Leaving a radio on at low volume might help, but make sure the radio is not too loud - You don’t want complaints about that!
Try not to leave your dog for long periods. If you have to, see if there is someone who can look in during that time. Maybe that person could also take your dog for a walk or let him out into the garden, if you have one.
If you have to leave your dog for long periods
Feed and exercise him before you go out and leave him some fresh water. Make sure his bed or basket is comfortable, and leave him his favourite toy. Check that the room is not hot or too cold, and that there is adequate ventilation. If you aren’t coming back until after dark, leave a light on.
Some Other Points
If you keep your dog outside, think carefully about where you put his kennel and where he can run. Try not to put it near your neighbour’s fence or where your dog will be tempted to bark.
Don’t blame the dog and think that you will solve everything by replacing him with another. You probably will not, unless you change your lifestyle at the same time.
Getting a second dog for company might help, but think about it carefully. Do you have the space and can you afford a second dog? Another dog could result in more not less problems.
"But nothing I do works"
Ask your Dog Warden to suggest other alternatives. You should also go to your vet. Sometimes a dog will bark because he is ill – anxiety is often the cause of barking. You can ask your vet to refer your dog to an animal behaviourist who is expert and can suggest ways to improve your dog's behaviour.
If an Environmental Health Officer gets involved and is asked to investigate a complaint, the result may lead to a statutory Noise Notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 being served on you. This is a legal document which will allow you a specific time – usually 21 days – in which to stop the nuisance caused by your barking dog. You may incur financial penalties if you do not stop your dog barking and ultimately may be required to part with your dog. That is why it is most important to co-operate in making improvements at a very early stage.