It goes without saying, we are all having to make big adjustments to our daily lives in the current climate created by the global pandemic. For some, this has meant trading the morning commute for a more leisurely stroll from the bedroom to home office. Sounds like the dream setup, except for the neighbour’s dogs barking while they are away at work. In the ideal world, all dogs are well-behaved and can perfectly discern negative, neutral or positive stimuli and bark only when there is a potential intruder or danger, but we know this would never be the case.
For many people working from home, the barking next door is an understandable interruption, triggered by circumstances like noisy children walking home after school or a delivery person dropping off a parcel. On the other hand, if you are one of the unlucky few, the barking next door can be incessant and distracting enough to make it difficult to concentrate on your work. But before you pack up the home office and leave your #WFH dream behind, we recommend you read our Ten Strategies for Dealing with Noisy Dogs Next Door:
1. Calm down.
Before you decide to do anything else, take the emotion out of the equation. There are still many things that can be done. Deeply inhale, slowly exhale and try to figure things out with a cool head.
2. Identify the type and pattern of barking.
Are the barks coming from a young pup that is still getting used to being left alone during the day or are they short bursts triggered by the postman or noisy children walking home from school? Do you recognise the barking as coming from a stressful situation and therefore loud or incessant? Understanding the type of bark will help you figure out the objective and positive ways to approach it.
3. Consider your role in the situation.
Do you have your own dogs that are perhaps fighting with the dog next door through a see through fence? Does your lawnmower, vehicle or similar trigger their barking? Finding out what your role might be in triggering barking gives you an opportunity for an immediate solution. Moreover, it will encourage a bit more empathy for your neighbour, such as deciding that perhaps your role in the situation is to be patient as the crying pup grows out of that separation anxiety stage.
4. Understand the context.
It’s also important to remind yourself that even if the dog’s barking next door suddenly presents a problem for you because you are now working from home, it may not necessarily be something you can fix. Councils have their own definition of what is deemed excessive and nuisance barking, so it is worthwhile checking your council’s website for the criteria that applies to your neighbourhood. The alerted terrier reacting to a delivery person at the door, but stops as soon as they leave, does not automatically mean you can demand it to be silenced even if this happens regularly.
5. Make a detailed record of the barking incidents.
Recording the date, time and length of the barking incidents should really be done as soon as you notice the barking problem. Using a video or voice recorder on your phone can help of course, but most Councils require a log of each incident spanning at least couple of weeks. Writing things down will also help everyone involved to identify patterns in the dog’s behaviour and come up with practical solutions.
6. Approach your neighbour with empathy.
Even if you are already making efforts to build evidence that might support your complaint to Council, the neighbourly thing to do really is to give them a chance to remedy the situation first. They may not be aware that you are now working from home. The situation may have been the norm for some time so it may take a little while to figure out what is going on. Assume that they will choose the neighbourly thing to do as you would choose to do for them.
7. Be friendly and respectful in your communications.
Many would argue the best way to communicate with your neighbour is by knocking on their door and speaking to them face-to-face. Indeed, this offers not only the potentially quickest solution, but also keeps the line of communications open. However, if face-to-face is not feasible, then a note in their letter box is perfectly acceptable. We advise keeping the tone friendly and language casual to start. Don’t bombard them with all the details but give them an idea of roughly when and for how long the barking occurs. If casual isn’t your style, then try downloading a letter template available from most large Councils websites.
8. Do not communicate anonymously.
If you have ever received an anonymous note from a neighbour, then you know how it causes unnecessary stress and paranoia. Introducing yourself by letter, for example, will make knocking on their door much easier later on. As empathy goes both ways, letting them know that you are working from home will help them understand the issue form your perspective. Importantly, you are missing out on the chance to be contacted to acknowledge they are addressing the issue.
9. Proactively offer available solutions
Based on our experience, there are many genuine, well-meaning people who just need to be pointed to the right direction as far as training their dogs. Finding out the nearest reputable dog trainer and informing them of various products and solutions available in the market are a good start. It still amazes us how many people are not aware that bark collars actually already exist!
10. Formalise a complaint.
We recommend making this absolutely the last step to consider. First of all, formalising a complaint against your neighbour requires you to try many of the strategies previously mentioned. Second, what happens if Council says it is an issue they cannot help you with? Not all complaints qualify as nuisance barking after all. In this case, building a rapport with your neighbour will reap dividends in the longer run, whereas formalising a complaint right away might backfire.