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Barking Dogs

Why do dogs bark?

Most dogs make noise at some time as a way of communicating. They can be expressing excitement, boredom, stress, anxiety or defence of territory. Barking, whining and howling can be incredibly distressing for owners and thier neighbours.

How can I reduce my dogs barking?

You may have noticed your dog makes excessive noise or someone has notified you. An open approach is most helpful in resolving any problems.

Firstly try to establish what is causing your dog to bark. There may be a number of causes. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Boredom
  • Anxiety
  • Disturbances
  • Discomfort
  • Excitement
  • Attention seeking

You may require a professional opinion. You can discuss any concerns with your local council animal management officer, veterinarian or seek the services of an animal behaviourist.

Once you have determined the cause, you need to commit to a strategy. This will most likely require a modification to your behaviour too. You many need to interact with your dog more, provide additional comfort, provide mental stimulation activities and toys, attend dog obedience classes, socialise your dog, attend to any medical issues and develop your understanding of dog behaviour and body language. It is important to be consistent and to reward positive behaviour.

If the problem stems from scheduled disturbances, such as end of the school day or mail delivery, you may find relocating your dog for these times resolves the problem. If there a reoccurring disturbance caused by a neighbour, have an open conversation with them about possible forewarning to prevent your dog from creating a nuisance to others or socialisation with the neighbour so the dog doesn’t feel as defensive.

If your dog is home alone most of the day, you may want to enlist a friend or family member that can visit the dog and give them some attention while you are not there or if your dog is friends with your neighbour's dog, let them spend the day together. There are also many ‘doggy day care’ and professional dog walkers who can help to relieve the boredom of a backyard for your dog. A radio set to a talkback station can also relieve the anxiety of some lonely dogs.

Some dogs will also bark because they miss you, their main care giver, and are stressed. This is called separation anxiety. If you think that your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety, you can create an area where the dog likes to be, and feels safe without you. It could be the dog’s kennel, a crate, or a small enclosed area in a laundry or shed. It is important that your dog has access to this area when you are away so that they go there in times of stress. You should feed the dog in this area and encourage them to sleep there so that the dog builds a positive association. You can also increase their resilience to your absence by leaving your dog for short periods of time (5-10 minutes) throughout the day (e.g the weekend). This will help your dog to understand that when you leave you come back and it will make you leaving and returning a normal and predictable part of their day. Further advice can be sought from your veterinary surgeon or a dog behaviourist.

Ask you neighbours for help. Discuss ways that they can support you work towards this behaviour change.

Note: The use of electric shock training methods, including shock collars, is illegal in South Australia under the Animal Welfare Act.

What can I do about nuisance barking?

Barking is a natural behaviour for dogs and they are permitted to bark unless the barking is considered excessive.

If you are concerned about the level of noise a dog in your area is making, try to resolve the issue by speaking to the owner first. Many times dog owners are unaware their pet is causing a problem to their neighbours and are happy to put measures in place to reduce the barking when alerted to the issue and work with their neighbours.

If you approach them in a friendly manner you may be able to reach a solution quickly.

Conversely, there may be contributing factors that your neighbour may require your support in resolving, such as cats entering the property, provocation by others, startling loud noises, etc.

If the matter cannot be resolved directly with the dog's owner, you can make a formal complaint to Council who can investigate the matter with supporting evidence provided by you, the complainant.

What can council do about nuisance barking?

Each council has a procedure to respond to barking complaints.

In most instances when an official complaint has been received, the complainant will be asked to complete a seven day barking dog diary. Council will assess the evidence of nuisance, and if applicable, approach the owner of the dog to assist in resolving the barking dog issue. The complainant will be asked to submit another seven day barking dog diary. This procedure may vary council to council.

If the dog continues to create a noise which persistently occurs or it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of a person, the owner may be fined or have a Control (Barking Dog) Order placed on the dog, legally requiring them to take all reasonable steps to reduce the noise.

Unfortunately, it can take several months to resolve a problem in this way.

Click here to download the Dog and Cat Management Board's fact sheet on Barking Dogs.