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Putting the Bite on Backyard Barkers
Education is the answer when complaints turn ugly

I understand that the constant barking of a neighbor’s dog can put some fairly nasty thoughts into a person’s mind. I’ve been on the receiving end of the steady woof-woof-woof of an anxious and bored pup. But I never blamed the dog.

When I read the recent report in The Arizona Daily Star about the frustrations of a barked-out Pima County women, I was sympathetic. Her attempts to find her rightful quiet have utterly failed. The county’s “intervention”—in the form of suggesting mediation and fining the dogs’ guardians $200—have, reportedly, done nothing to quiet the voluble pack.

But my sympathy faded fast when I visited the blog of the anti-barking organization she started, Quiet Pima County. There among the limited posts is a list of “How to Kill Your Neighbors (sic) Dogs,” which includes:

    The old standby - antifreeze meatballs.
    A gun.
    Get a pitbull and throw it over the fence.

It's a total gut punch, even if indulging dog-killing fantasies is just a way of blowing off steam. So, I'd like to offer a more constructive strategy that brings barkers in from the cold--safely. Why not help people solve their own barking challenges? I contacted a go-to trainer in my neck of the woods, Amanda Brothers of Sidekick Dog Training, with a few questions about how to help backyard barkers.

Why do they bark? Some barking is meant to communicate, ‘I’m all alone, come find me!’ Plainly said, barking is something to DO all day while the owner is gone and it is a self-reinforcing behavior, meaning dogs get something from it whether or not the owner is there to reward it. And when dogs bark at pedestrians and trucks to protect territory, it works. The person, car or dog moves on, and the dogs thinks their strategy (barking) worked and are more likely to bark again when faced with the same situation.

How long is too long to leave a dog in a yard? The answer to this question really varies depending on a lot of factors: age, lifestyle of dog and guardian (particularly the physical and mental activity and interaction the dog enjoys on a day to day basis), breed, security of yard, proximity to neighbors, dog’s preference, weather, and on and on! Personally, I do not leave my dogs in the yard unattended for any amount of time and don’t like to see others do it.

Can you train a dog out of barking when left alone? It’s tough to train a dog not to bark when the owner is absent without using something nasty and not recommended, such as a shock or citronella collar. The best way to eliminate barking is to provide other outlets for your dog including "work for food" toys, such as a Kong or Busy Buddy. Exercise is always going to help. Tired dogs aren’t barking, digging, chewing, etc. Mental exercise will help as well, including basic training, tricks, agility and other dog sports. If you have a big barking problem, I would vote for leaving the dog indoors when alone, in a crate with a busy toy and the radio on. If the dog needs a mid-day potty break, come home at lunch or hire a dog walker.

Oh, and don’t ever reward barking by giving attention (even yelling “NO!” is attention). Ignore the barking until it ceases for at least five seconds before letting your dog indoors or going out to interact with him. If the barking doesn’t stop, make a noise by stomping your feet or knocking on a window. Then, you’ll get your few seconds of quiet, which you can reward.
 

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com
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Submitted by Quiet Pima County | February 9 2009 |

Im sorry your sympathy faded fast after reading the "darker side" of the barking dog problem. Many folks dont understand that there are more than two sides to the problem. Besides the obvious problem of the barking dog and the debilitating effects it has on the barking dog victim, the problem with the barking dog owner is far greater. There is a sickness of entitlement. They believe in some delusional manner that they have every right to neglect thier dogs incessant barking.

Another problem that permiates the barking dog issue is the reluctance of victims to report it because of the fear of retaliation. To many victims have been harassed, libeled, property vandalized, stalked, physically assaulted and killed.

Another problem is the lack of law enforcement and community involvement.

Another problem is the advise that is given to victims that complain. If you were to have read the follow-up comment on the blog to that specific post you will see and possibly understand that the "dark side' needs to be brought out into the open too. "It illustrates the ineffectiveness of the system that is in place. People are willing to take matters into their own hands. This is the real deal. Its reality. You'll read about these kinds of retalitory actions taking place MORE than you'll EVER read about a small group of citzens joining together to stop it. You'll read more about a dog owner who has had a complaint filed against them, retaliating against a person who filed the complaint BEFORE you read about the person filing the complaint."

I proved my point with your story. YOU, Ms.Wogan decided to focus on the 'dark side." We thank you for bringing this to YOUR readers attention.

If we are going to change the laws, the "dark" sides we dont want to hear about or read about must be exposed.

We at Quiet Pima County do not condone taking matters in one owns hands.

It's not the dogs fault. It is the fault of the irresponsible and uncaring owner of the dog that is neglected.

Submitted by Jim | March 1 2009 |

All our barking dog problems have come from owners who have little or no buy-in to the neighborhood, regard for neighbors or interact much with their animals. Not one owner I've dealt with has assumed any responsibility in these matters but sees it as someone else's problem, not theirs. And we've never blamed the animals. They've all been normal dogs that are simply not cared for in a loving manner. All the owners only came around after they were forced by a judge and the accompanying sanctions, to take action. We now have a new renter next door to us and in only four days the barking has gotten to the point where we are going to contact Animal Control based on a conversation we just had with the owner. Her attitude was the same, not her problem, wasn't going to deal with it, and in general blew us off. Again, a person with no buy-in to the neighborhood or concern for her neighbors.

Submitted by R.J. | March 18 2011 |

Jim, what a perfect letter. You are absolutely correct in stating that these inconsiderate dog owners have no buy-in to the neighborhood. Renters and home owners alike. It's all about them. I always thought it strange that if one plays loud music and a call is made, the police show up rather quickly and state that if they have to come out one more time someone is going to jail. Yet a dog can bark and howl all day and night and we are told to contact animal control. What's the difference? I too have a rental next door that I have a "folder" on since 2006. Every yr. a new renter moves in and throws their barking dogs out in the back yard with no interaction. They usually come around after the second letter from Animal Cont. or a call to the police at 10:00 at night. Now the two dogs across the street (a woofer and a yapper) go off on average 20 to 30 times a day. Every single person that walks by, slow cars, or no reason at all. I have just sent their first animal cont. letter. I have a police report on him as well for aggressive behavior as I left a note on his mail box to ask him to shut the dogs up. And as usual I got the "your the only person complaining" routine and if you ever come on my property again bit. I can't win the war but I can win some battles. Good luck to you Jim. You sound like a very reasonable person..R.J.

Submitted by ja9johnson | May 16 2011 |

I have suffered for years because of other people's barking dogs. When I lived in the city, I had two large dogs living on either side of my house, three yapper dogs one house over, another large dog across the street. When one got started, they all chimed in - and I was treated to a bark concert that seemed to go on and on and on. My next door neighbor (who I liked a lot) would go away for a night and her dog would howl all night long, just a few feet from my bedroom. I finally volunteered to take her dog into my house at night when she was away, and put him back in her yard the next morning.

I finally got so sick and tired of the constant barking that I moved to the country, where I live on five acres, and guess what - my three closest neighbors have dogs and sound travels far out here. So, when they leave their dogs out, and some critter comes by - they bark.

I don't know what the answer is, but if I was able to find a community that outlawed owning dogs, I moved to it. Not because I hate dogs - I don't. But listening to barking dogs all the time is no fun when you are not the owner. I wish more people would consider whether they are really going to be able to give a dog the attention it needs, and train it to not bark, before they go out and get one.

Submitted by Matthew Ridgeway | June 9 2012 |

I have been trying to get property developers to understand this for years... Give us a home where peace from barking is garanteed, please!

Submitted by Anonymous | January 10 2013 |

I grew up a dog-lover, and have owned dogs most of my life. Well trained, well cared for, dogs that are never allowed to vocally harass anyone. But I too will seek out a place of quiet (with no dogs - no pets period). Too many humans are idiots, who have no idea how to socialize their animals. I have been so abused by the owners of barking dogs, that I give up. I will never ever again attempt to "talk" to a barking dog owner - never. It has proven to have very very bad long term effect. I hope developers start to pay attention. I have in the past donated to animal causes; that compassion is gone now - all because of the barking dogs; I will never donate again. I am only one of many; but dog owners (supporting barking dog owners) will not realize what they have done until it is too late. In the end, the barking dog owners will (and misplaced support) will cause their own defeat.

Submitted by Matthew Ridgeway | June 9 2012 |

Absolutely ALL TRUE! When people are pushed to the limit, they act beyond expectation. Consideration of the effects of ones actions is needed by all dog owners. Some people don't like to complain. I know of three cases where these kinds blow their top and lash out with devastating consequences. What you need to focus on is the catalyst or the reason for such actions, and quite simply, dog barking is not conducive to a healthy neighbourhood.

Control your dogs AT ALL TIMES snd everyone is happy. Introiduce licensing and education for dog owners and maybe we may have a broarder understanding in our communities about the requirements needed for keeping dogs in our communities.

You need a license to own a gun, drive a car etc, because we need responsible people to operate these things. DOgs are clearly causing a broard ranges of issues into our community. WHat do you think will help our communities cope with such animals being introduced into them?

Submitted by Anonymous | February 10 2009 |

You are to be commended for not leaving your dogs in the yard unattended for any amount of time and not liking to see others doing this.

We, the members of Quiet Pima County, deal with dog owners who are far less responsible than you are. And, right now, they're allowed to get away with being irresponsible and inconsiderate of our right to peace and quiet in our homes. That's why we're working to change the laws so that these dog owners can be held to account

Submitted by Anonymous | February 10 2009 |

Lisa,
Thank you for posting the disturbing "dark side" of the Quiet Pima County Organization. It is very scary that this was posted at their blog. I'm afraid that they will encourage animal abuse. Are they a fringe group? What other extremist behavior/ideas do they suggest?!

Thank you too for posting the excellent advice to help dog owners reduce barking. Responsible pet ownership is what should be promoted, not violence against animals that are not to blame for a lack of training or interaction.

Submitted by Kathysbadneighbor | December 6 2011 |

I'm glad as well, these were the exact threats the founder of this group made against me. I live on near three acres, 20 miles from civilization, and had no idea my dogs would bark while I was at work.

The real truth is that my dogs used a doggy door while I was at work- three twelve pound rat terriers. I received an anonymous letter stating that the sender would not be responsible for their lives if they were on her property ever.

We live in the Arizona desert with no fences, so I immediately installed an invisible fence.

Ironic, I guess, the wild pigs and coyotes that would frequent the property and be chased away by my dogs, now could only be chased about twenty feet from the house. At that point the invisible fence would prevent my dogs from going any further and they would often bark at these wild animals.

Sienko began her campaign against me. I had no idea there was a problem until I got a notice from Pima County. I then asked my four closest neighbors if my dogs were barking, they said on occasion, but not to a point of problem.

I received another notice to go to mediation, and did. This is where I met the woman from New Jersey who had come to the desert. I gave her my phone number and we had agreed that if the dogs barked she could call at any time. My retired neighbor would go to the house and make sure the dogs didn't bark. Incidentally during the mediation she let me know that a "friend" suggested throwing antifreeze meatballs or a pit bull into my yard.

She never called.

Long story longer, her campaign continued with constant video surveillance and posting on you tube.

We had a hearing at animal control, and I was fined 200.00.

Unsatisfied she called county zoning to complain about my car trailers, or RV I legally park in my property. A second attempt with zoning was unfounded as well.

When the local news came to interview me about my reckless disregard for my neighbors, I had had enough.
I finally placed an injunction against harassment on her. To my dismay it was later dropped, it's legal to constantly video your neighbor, post multiple videos on YouTube, harass you through state agencies, and post personal info online.

With "Quiet Pima County" gaining a following she continued her complaints and stalker like surveillance.

Animal control held another hearing and found that my dogs barked 49 times over the course of her two year surveillance. They fined me 200.00 per occasion.... $9,800.00- yes, almost ten thousand. Regardless of the fact that animal control had never personally witnessed my dogs barking on numerous visits; and in most of her videos my dogs appear to be barking at her.

I'm being sued by the county for non payment.

I can't sell my house, and live in constant worry about her next campaign.
That is the true dark side.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 2 2012 |

You're the one who gave her the evidence to get you fined. Its your own fault.

Submitted by Matthew Ridgeway | June 9 2012 |

So very true. COntrol your dogs, no issue!

Submitted by Anonymous | June 23 2011 |

Hello people!! She is giving advice on how to Stop dogs from barking, not badmouthing your horrible dog hater group. Yes, there are some people that are not responsible and are inconsiderate to those that would like a quieter neighborhood (I am a dog owner AND live in a neighborhood with a persistent barker that is not mine). These are what HOA's and the police are for. If a neighbor has a dog that barks, you talk to the neighbor about the issue, slip training brochures into their mail even. If they don't do anything, you talk to the HOA or police. You don't EVER take things into your own hands by HURTING dogs EVER! I don't care if it was a joke that those remarks were made, it makes me sick that people even think that way. It's like stating that some kid down the street rides his bike maniacally down the street screaming at all times while you are trying to quietly watch a tv show. What do you do? Walk over and complain to the parents duh! You don't just back over him in your car or hand him a laced popcicle! One day, that dog barking is going to alert you to some prowler and you are going to be very greatful!

Submitted by Matthew Ridgeway | June 9 2012 |

So, you hide your name because...? I know, a kid like that may be bashed by others. Don't you think appropriate behaviour is important AT ALL TIMES? Dogs bark. Dog owners should behave appropriately and attend to it IMMEDIATELY!

And no, I wouldn't let my kid behave such. Any parent that does is as bad as a barking dog owner.

What does it take to understand common respect for eachother?

DUH!

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