The Borough of Queenscliffe receives many complaints regarding barking dogs. Sometimes you can resolve the issue easily by approaching the dog's owner in a friendly manner and discussing your concerns with them.
Before you approach the dog owner, consider the following points:
- The dog's owner may not realise that the barking is causing an annoyance to other people.
- The dog may only bark excessively when the owner is not at home.
- The owner may not hear the barking from various areas within the house.
- The owner may be a very sound sleeper and not be woken when the dog barks.
Why dogs bark
Barking is a natural thing for dogs to do; it is how they communicate. A problem occurs when the barking becomes excessive, causing a nuisance.
Dogs bark for many reasons. Even when they 'appear to be barking for no reason' they may in fact be trying to communicate something to their owner or anyone who is willing to pay attention.
To work out why a dog is barking, you need to consider life from a dog's point of view. For example, many dogs bark to alert their owners to trouble, such as an intruder entering the property. While the word 'intruder' immediately conjures up an image of a person for us, to a dog an intruder may be a cat, a possum, another dog or even a bird flying across their property. While it is acceptable for a dog to bark to warn its owner that someone is entering the property, it should be trained to ignore such things as birds, cats and neighbour movement/noises.
Other reasons why dogs bark include:
- Lack of exercise
- Inadequate yard space
- Not enough human companionship
- Inadequate shelter from weather conditions
- Hunger or thirst
- Medical condition
- Change to family structure
- Change to territory.
Solutions for barking dogs
Lack of exercise / inadequate yard space / boredom
Dogs become bored when they are confined in a backyard. This problem can be compounded when the yard is small or the dog is kept on a chain or on a run or locked in an enclosure. Dogs like to explore and enjoy new experiences. This problem may be overcome when the dog is treated as a member of the family, included on family outings and taken on regular walks.
Loneliness / lacking human company
Dogs are social animals and enjoy the companionship of other dogs and their human owners. Those that are left for long periods of time without companionship can become discontented or lonely. Dogs need to interact with other dogs and people to keep them stimulated. Dogs that are not permitted to have regular socialisation with other animals and humans can become destructive or fearful or bark excessively as a plea for attention. In the owner's absence, an old jumper containing the owner's scent may comfort the dog. A radio left on inside the house may give the dog the impression that it is not alone on the property. The radio may also help deter potential intruders.
Dogs require shelter from all weather conditions and may cry for attention if they are uncomfortable due to hot, cold, windy or wet weather conditions. They need shelter that has soft, dry bedding, gives protection from the heat in the summer and is warm and dry in the winter.
Hunger or thirst
Dogs require plenty of fresh water and need a well-balanced diet to remain healthy and contented. A dog will soon let its owner know by barking, howling or whimpering if it has not been fed or has no water to drink.
An obvious or underlying medical condition can be the cause of howling, whimpering and barking. Flea or worm infestations, skin allergies and some injuries that are usually easily detected and treated can cause a dog to make excessive noise. A veterinarian should be consulted to eliminate any medical condition as a cause of excessive noise.
Remove the source of provocation or remove the dog. If the source of provocation is a person, discuss and solve the problem with the person or,with Council's Law Enforcement team.
- Birds: Retrain dog not to bark at birds.
- Possums: House the dog indoors overnight when possums are active. Have possums professionally removed. Retrain dog not to bark at possums.
- Dogs and cats: Locate owners of intruding dog or cat and discuss problem with owner; request dog/cat owner to confine animal to its own property. Retrain dog not to bark at other dogs or cats.
- Neighbour's activities: Retrain dog not to bark at normal noise/activities taking place on neighbouring properties.
- Sirens and alarms: Some breeds of dogs will bark or howl at the sound of sirens or alarms. Dogs have sensitive hearing and the volume or pitch of a siren or alarm may actually aggravate the dog. The dog should be reassured and either taken inside or distracted from the noise and quietened. Some dogs can be desensitised to the sound of sirens and alarms to solve the barking.
- Uninvited visitors: Take appropriate action and reward, reassure and quieten dog when intruding visitor has left the property.
- Welcomed visitors: Welcome visitor in, reassure dog and socialise visitor with dog to enable dog to learn that visitor is a friend and not an intruder.
- Storms and thunder: The dog should be reassured and either taken inside or quietened.
Change to family structure
Dogs are naturally 'pack' animals. When placed in a human family environment, the dog perceives the family as its 'pack'. A change to the family situation disrupts and upsets the dog's perception of where and how it fits into the structure of the 'pack'. These changes can include a reduction in the family as a result of marital separation, death or family members moving away. Alternatively, the changes may be a result of expansion to the family i.e. marriage, partner moving in, children returning home, a new boarder and especially when a new baby arrives in the family.
The dog may see new arrivals to the family unit as a threat to the dog's perception of its position and dominance in the 'pack', resulting in aggressive behaviour and resentment towards the new family members. The dog owner will need to take firm but loving action to deal with any displays by the dog of resentment and aggression so that the dog can learn to accept the new member of the household and understand its new position in the 'pack'.
When there is a decrease in the family for whatever reason, this can cause confusion and insecurity within the dog resulting in what humans may determine as behavioural problems. People understand that during marital separation, when family members move away or there is death in the family, the other family members grieve and feel the loss of that member. The family dog will also feel the loss and will mourn for the missing family member. The way humans react to changes can directly affect the behaviour of their pets. In times of family reduction, the family pet will need to be comforted and reassured.
When families move house, it is a time of upheaval, stress and insecurity. A period of time is required for readjustment to a new house and new neighbourhood. Dogs are territorial creatures and when they are removed from their home territory they can become insecure and stressed, resulting in several behavioural problems. The dog may try to jump the fence or dig out in an attempt to find its way back to its own territory. The dog may also bark and howl as a result of distress and insecurity.
Humans see their home as the place they live and keep their possessions. A dog sees its territory as an area that it has claimed as its own by scent-marking landmarks to define the dog's territory. When a family moves to a new home, it cannot be assumed that their dog will accept a kennel placed in the backyard as its new home. All of the landmarks that have been scent-marked by the dog have been taken away from the dog. Until the dog can re-establish a new home territory that it can claim for itself, the dog may be insecure and may display unsettled behaviour. When moving house, the dog owner needs to comfort, reassure and assist the dog in establishing its new territory.
Training techniques for barking dogs
Training dogs takes time and patience. You cannot train a dog in a week; it will take several weeks to reinforce what you want in the dog's mind. All members of the family will need to be consistent with the training technique. While this is time consuming, your persistence will pay off.
Dog obedience clubs are a great place where dogs can socialise with other people and dogs. This may help desensitise your dog. Instructors at the club can help you with your particular problem, give you advice and support you until you find a solution that works for you. Private trainers are also good, as they come to your home and can help assess the situation.
Anti-barking collars are a good way to curb a barking dog, particularly if the dog only barks when you are not home. The collar works by releasing a citronella spray when the dog barks. Dogs find the smell unpleasant, while to people it smells like lemons. You can purchase anti-barking collars or hire them from your vet.
A simple method well worth trying and persisting with involves the use of voice control and a water spray gun. When the dog is barking at the birds, cats, possums or neighbours, the owner should go to the dog while it is barking and squirt it in the face with water whilst saying, 'NO – BAD DOG' in a firm but controlled voice. The owner should never call the dog to them to receive the reprimand or else it will believe that it is being reprimanded for coming to the owner when called. A dog should never be reprimanded after the incident as the dog will not know why it is being punished.
Sometimes it is nice to also reward your dog if it is lying quietly in the backyard.
Lodging a complaint with Council
To lodge a nuisance noise complaint you will need to:
- Identify the correct address of the offending dog
- Contact council to receive an official Barking Dog Diary
- Keep a diary of the dog's barking habits for a period of two weeks noting the date, time and duration of barking, and the reason, if known, as well as the effect the dog's barking is having on you (diary example below)
- Forward the diary and signed complaint form to Council.
You may wish to continue to keep the diary of the dog's barking habits for a further month. This will monitor whether the problem continues or improves as a result of any action taken.
Upon receipt of your letter of complaint and diary, Council will:
- Appoint an officer to investigate your complaint
- Study the diary for barking patterns that may reveal the reason for the dog's barking
- Identify whether other residents are being affected by the dog's barking
- Advise the dog owner of the complaint, discuss possible solutions and inform them of their responsibilities, the offences and penalties.
The Council can issue any or all of the following:
- Verbal warning to dog owner
- Written letter of warning
- Issue a Notice to Comply to abate all nuisance noise immediately.
Should the dog owner fail to comply with the Notice to Comply to abate the nuisance, Council may issue an infringement notice against the owner.
If the noise complaint persists after an infringement notice has been issued, Council may proceed with legal action against the dog owner in the Magistrates Court and seek a Court Order.
An infringement notice or legal proceeding will not be issued against the dog owner unless the complainant is prepared to give testimony in the Magistrates Court.
Where an order has been made by a Magistrates Court it must be complied with. Failure to do so is an offence and a magistrate may impose further penalties.
Example of a diary extract
Reason (if known)
Impact on you
Garbos emptying rubbish in street
Baby started crying
Children leaving for school
Dog training organisations
The following clubs operate in and around the Borough of Queenscliffe.
- Professional Dog Trainers Association of Victoria – 03 9877 6522
- Geelong Animal Welfare – 03 5248 2091
- Bellarine Dog Activity Club – 03 5278 1800
- Geelong Obedience Dog Club – 03 5243 4555
- Bark Busters – 1800 067 710
- Bellarine Veterinary Practice Point Lonsdale – 03 5258 4862
- Leopold Pet Hospital – 03 5250 3300
- Mobile Vet – 0428 393 465
Bureau of Animal Welfare
Phone: 136 186