All dogs bark occasionally but some bark incessantly. If your dog is prone to barking, you could find yourself in serious trouble. Barking dogs could be deemed to be what is called a statutory nuisance. There is no definitive definition of a statutory nuisance regarding dogs but a dog could be considered a significant nuisance if its barking interferes with a neighbour’s ability to enjoy living in their home.
What is nuisance barking?
So, to be declared a statutory nuisance, the barking would have to be excessive and unreasonable in the prevailing circumstances and interfere significantly with how someone uses and enjoys their home. Barking for prolonged periods, frequent excessive barking and barking late at night or early in the morning could all land you in hot water.
Dogs barking when someone knocks at the door or when playing would not be considered unreasonable as this is normal behaviour and the noise stops quickly.
Does your dog bark when you are out?
Unfortunately, you could be genuinely unaware that your dog’s barking is causing a disturbance because the problem occurs when you aren’t at home. Many dogs do not cope well with being left for long periods and so will start barking. They may never bark when their owner is with them but could make enough noise to wake the dead when their owner goes out.
What happens when you annoy your neighbours?
Neighbours who are being disturbed can take private action through the courts under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Alternatively, if the local authority is satisfied that barking is causing a nuisance, the owner of the dog could be served with a notice under the same act requiring them to stop the barking. Failure to stop your dog barking could lead to a fine up to £5,000.
If you leave your dog for long periods, it could be worth asking your neighbours if the dog barks when you are out. This will alert you to the issue before someone takes action against you, giving you more time to address the problem.
But how do you stop your dog from barking?
How to keep your dog quiet
Here’s what you can do if your dog’s barking is becoming a nuisance to your neighbours:
• You could try a food ball or a Kong. These help to combat boredom as the dog is occupied and distracted by trying to get at the food out of these simple but clever toys.
• Ask a friend or relative to check on the dog and to spend some time with it each day.
• Leave a TV or radio on to mask other noises and provide a distraction. TV and radio can have a soothing effect on dogs. You can even get your hands on videos for dogs!
• Consider putting the dog into kennels while you are out or using a dog walking service. There should be a dog walker in your area who can collect your dog and keep it entertained.
• Read up on separation anxiety and employ the recommended techniques to sooth your dog. If you don’t make any headway, it could be worth investing in the services of an expert.
• Think about whether your lifestyle is really suited to having a dog. You may be forced to conclude that you must change your lifestyle, work from home more often or give up your pet.