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Barking dogs

Barking is a way dogs communicate. It can mean anything from playfulness to danger.

As a dog owner, you are responsible for making sure your dog does not create a nuisance by barking excessively.

There are many reasons dogs bark. If a dog's barking is causing a problem because it is chronic or excessive, understanding and addressing some of the reasons dogs bark can help.

Some negative causes include:

  • being fixed to a point with restricted movement for long periods of time
  • deliberate or unintentional provocation by people or roaming animals
  • lack of exercise
  • no shelter or kennel
  • seeking attention
  • lack of water or food
  • loneliness and/or boredom
  • ill health
  • anxiousness or unhappiness
  • competition among neighbouring dogs and cats particularly where there is inadequate separation between them
  • kept in circumstances that are unsuitable for that particular breed
  • excited and/or are protecting their (your) property.

Other external factors that could cause dogs to bark, include:

  • birds
  • possums
  • neighbours' activities
  • sirens and alarms
  • uninvited visitors
  • storms and thunder
  • moving house.

The causes listed should not be a part of a dog's life. As well as indicating a possible distressed animal, chronic excessive barking can disturb your neighbours.

Step 1: Talk to your neighbour

If your neighbour's dog is barking excessively, talk to the owner first in a friendly and constructive way. Your neighbour may not realise their dog is bothering you, especially if it barks when they aren't home. In many cases, the owner will be happy to find a solution to the problem.

However, if you think your neighbour's dog is barking as a result of neglect or abuse, you should contact the RSPCA or an animal welfare organisation.

Step 2: Contact the Community Justice Centre

  • If the problem persists after a week or two, speak to your neighbour again to provide feedback on his/her training efforts.
  • If your neighbour is unapproachable, or does not agree that a problem exists, you could contact the Community Justice Centre. This service provides free mediation which is impartial, confidential and available after hours. You can contact the Community Justice Centre on:

Step 3: Contact Council

Finally, if talking to your neighbour doesn't work, you can contact Council. Council's Rangers will investigate legitimate concerns, however to pursue the matter properly, Rangers will need your help and you will be required to:

  • provide your name and address
  • keep records of the incidents, for example, keep a diary of how often the dog barks and when it occurs:
  • return the completed dog barking diary to Council
  • sign a Statutory Declaration of your complaint if Council asks you to be a witness, in the event that Court prosecution becomes necessary.

Here are some things you can try if you feel your dog is well cared for but continues to bark excessively:

  • If your dog barks because it misses you, look at the possibility of providing more exercise, socialisation, stimulation and company.
  • Provide adequate space for your dog to roam in your backyard.
  • Investigate - do the things you normally would, but quietly return home so your dog is unaware of your presence.
  • Take your dog to the vet - it may be sick or suffering from anxiety issues.
  • Give your dog some interactive toys to play with.
  • Play with your dog and provide 'dog time' when you are home - your dog is a pack animal and needs socialisation and environmental enrichment.
  • Ensure your dog has plenty of food, water and shelter from both the sun and rain.
  • If your dog barks when anything moves near the yard, look at the possibility of a solid fence which cuts off the dog's view of the outside world, or put up shade cloth.
  • If your dog barks because it is scared of other people or things, it may need obedience classes or familiarisation with certain items eg, a lawn mower.
  • If your dog barks because it is bored, you may need to take it for extended walks during the week - that way it will appreciate the rest when it is by itself.
  • Citronella collars and/or barking boxes may be helpful to deter a dog from barking.
  • Discipline your dog - take it to obedience school or puppy preschool and talk to your vet about what type of training courses are available.
  • Keep your dog inside or confined to the garage at night.

You can also find some useful suggestions on RSPCA's website, including training tips for excessive barking.

Please remember that most people don't like to complain. If they do, it's likely they have put up with the problem for a while hoping it would resolve itself. It's important to respect their complaint - your dog is your responsibility.

Nuisance Orders

Under the Companion Animals Act 1998, persistent barking is regarded as similar to straying or other anti-social behaviour. Where a serious or ongoing problem is identified by Council, a Nuisance Order may be issued. This Order requires the owner to stop the dog from barking persistently.

If Council has issued you with a Nuisance Order and your dog continues to bark, you may be liable for a fine. It is in the interest of both you and your neighbour, and in the interests of the health and wellbeing of your dog, to stop it from barking excessively. In most instances, you can achieve this through training and by ensuring that your dog is well nourished, regularly exercised and not bored.

More information

We can help you

If you have any questions about barking dogs or feedback to improve this information, please contact Council's Rangers: