Why do dogs bark?
Dogs bark, it's a natural behaviour and the way they communicate. We understand barking can be annoying but have you ever considered why a dog barks?
Many factors can cause or trigger a dog to bark, including:
- Boredom, loneliness or a lack of enrichment
- Unsuitable yards, enclosures or kennel location
- Lack of adequate food, water, exercise or training
- Guarding or protecting property/territory or feeling threatened
- Protecting their owner or their family
- Strange or new noises such as fireworks
- Thunderstorms, high altitude planes or wailing sirens
- People passing or children playing nearby
- Some dog breeds are known to be more inclined to bark (such as guarding, herding, or hunting breeds)
Like humans, dogs have two types of verbal communication:
- Intentional - some dogs have learned that barking works to get attention (negative or positive);
- Reactive - some barking is a symptom of arousal, a trigger or due to a behavioural or health concern.
In most cases, barking occurs to make something go away or make something come closer.
How can I tell if my dog is a nuisance barker?
You may have been unaware that your dogs’ barking is causing a nuisance, especially if you are not at home. If you don’t know why or when your dog is barking, think about ways to identify why your dog may be barking when you are not at home.
You could achieve this by:
- keeping records when you are at home to record the possible triggers that may cause your dog to bark, the times they occur and how long your dog barks for
- asking your neighbour to keep barking dog records for you as well
- asking other neighbours' if they have noticed excessive barking
- pretend that you are leaving home. Follow your normal routine when leaving but park your car down the street and quietly walk home. Listen from outside your property to see if your dog starts barking
- use a barking monitoring app on a mobile device you can leave at home to help capture any potential nuisance barking that may occur when you are not at home.
What do I do if my dog is a nuisance barker?
Try to identify the trigger for barking and use enrichment, exercise, and training to reduce unnecessary barking behaviour. Don't yell at or punish the dog as this may cause other behavioural problems.
Speak to your neighbours who may be able to help you with time frames and what possible triggers may be causing your dog to bark.
You can also consider the following:
How often do you exercise your dog?
- Daily walking, especially before you leave in the morning, can reduce problem barking
- Try doing training activities such as sit or drop at regular intervals during your walk. This will exercise your dog’s mind, increase obedience and further tire your dog
- A tired or content dog is less likely to bark
Is your dog barking at passers-by?
- Is it possible to confine your dog to a section of the yard so it can’t see people or other animals walking past?
- Could you erect a sightscreen to remove any possible visual triggers? A sightscreen can be as simple as attaching opaque material (eg weed matting) to your fence
Is your dog bored?
- A chew toy, such as a KONG containing food, given to your dog just before you leave home in the morning will have your dog spending ages trying to get its breakfast out
- Scattering food around your dog’s area will also assist to keep your dog busy.
- Other options may include leaving your dog in a comfortable single room such as the laundry, with their chew toy and a radio or television on in the next room
- Try making a sensory garden for your dog with different smells so your dog can spend their time exploring.
Changing your dog's environment can also assist in reducing their barking, such as:
- restricting access to areas where they would usually bark
- using visual barriers
- allow your dog inside the house
- creating 'chill out' zones
- crate training (safe space); and
- exercising your dog in the morning including brain training (lots of sniffing can be calming and tiring).
Council can offer suggestions and provide information to reduce barking, however, it is the responsibility of the dog owner to find a resolution that will work for you and your dog.
There are also a number of other professionals who may be able to assist.
- Reputable dog trainers can be found on the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website, www.apdt.com.au
- Recue organisations such as RSPCA or Animal Welfare League are also a great source of information
A neighbour may approach you regarding the noise your dog is making. The first step is to remain calm and keep an open mind. Ask your neighbour to record the time when your dog is barking and for how long so that you have a better understanding of the situation.
If you are contacted by Council, it is not unusual for owners to jump to the conclusion that we will immediately remove their dog. A lengthy and thorough investigation must be undertaken before any type of enforcement action is considered. We understand that you love your pet and we'll work with you to try to resolve the issue.
It can be really helpful if as an owner you are able to identify the cause (barking trigger) and take immediate action to help improve the situation. We recommend researching the needs of your dogs breed; ensuring sufficient food, water and shelter, increasing physical activity and the use of enrichment and basic training.
If the barking persists, you should speak to your local vet as your dog’s barking could be due to a behavioural or health concern.
What does Council consider to be excessive barking?
Council local laws require that the owner or keeper of a dog must ensure that the barking, howling or whining of the dog is not ‘excessive’ in all circumstances. The law further states that the barking, howling or whining of the dog may be considered ‘excessive’ in all circumstances if:
- the barking, howling or whining of the dog is made for more than a total of 6 minutes in any hour from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on any day; or
- the barking, howling or whining of the dog is made for more than a total of 3 minutes in any 30 minute period from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on any day.
What can I do if I live near a dog that barks excessively?
Dog owners sometimes are often not aware of their dog's barking, since it usually happens when the owner is not at home. Before lodging a complaint with Council, try approaching the owner or leave a friendly note in their letterbox and explain the problem to them. It may help to provide the owner with times that the dog is causing a nuisance. If the dog owners are unapproachable or do not agree with your assessment, you can lodge a request with Council to investigate. It is important to note that should you raise a complaint with Council, your details will remain completely confidential.
Council considers the barking, howling, or whining may be excessive when:
- the barking, howling or whining of the dog is made for more than a total of 6 minutes in any hour from 7am to 10pm on any day; or
- the barking, howling or whining of the dog is made for more than a total of 3 minutes in any 30 minute period from 10pm to 7am on any day.
In simple terms, if you feel the barking nuisance exceeds these timeframes and breaches the above definition, you are entitled to lodge a complaint with Council.
You can contact Council via one of the following options:
Phone: (07) 3412 3412
Mail: P O Box 3226, Logan Central DC QLD 4114
What happens once a barking complaint is lodged with Council?
It sounds simple, doesn't it? Contact Council, lodge a complaint and hopefully the barking will stop - If only it were that easy. Barking behaviour and the reasons dogs bark can be a complex issue and one that may take time to resolve.
The first task for Council is to determine if the complaint is valid. While in most situations the barking may be easily identified, however there are some instances where it isn’t as easy. Sometimes, the wrong dog may be accused, the complaint may be the result of a neighbourhood dispute and sometimes one neighbour may be overly sensitive to barking while other neighbours hardly notice it at all.
We'll need your help to identify when and how long the dog barks for including getting you to complete a Barking Dog Record for a continual two week period.
Why two weeks? Two weeks is a reasonable amount of time to enable us to determine the most active times that the barking occurs and to identify any patterns of behaviour based from the information you provide to Council. Once we've received the completed Barking Dog Record we can start investigating the barking complaint.
It's important to understand that each barking nuisance is unique.
What actions does Council take to investigate a barking complaint?
- Within 2 business days of a complaint being raised with Council, an Animal Nuisance Response Officer will contact the complainant to discuss the details of their complaint and to explain the barking process. The complainant is advised that an acknowledgement letter will be sent to them following the phone call. This letter will also contain a Barking Dog Record which is to be completed and returned to Council within 28 days, should there be no improvement in the barking.
- Council then contacts the dog owner to advise them of the barking allegation and to explain the investigation process. At this time, the possible triggers for barking are discussed and solutions are suggested.
- Following the phone call to the dog owner:
- An SMS link to online education is sent
- An education package is sent containing specific educational fact sheets and other relevant information via post/email.
- If the complainant returns the completed Barking Dog Record to Council, Council will contact the complainant to discuss the information received. It is important to provide honest and accurate observations.
- Council assesses the information provided by the complainant to identify the most active times that the barking occurs. Council will then focus on these timeframes to conduct noise assessments/monitorings. A minimum of 2 monitorings will be conducted, no matter what time of the day or night. In some instances, a neighbourhood survey may also be conducted to assist with the investigation
- When an officer conducts a monitoring they are looking to see if excessive barking exists. Under the local law, excessive barking is described as:
- Barking, howling or whining of the dog is made for more than a total of 6 minutes in any hour between 7am to 10pm, or
- Barking, howling or whining of the dog is made for more than a total of 3 minutes in any 30 minute period between 10pm to 7am.
- Where excessive barking is identified (a breach), Council may issue a Compliance Notice to the dog owner to immediately take action to reduce the barking. Council continues to offer assistance to the dog owner to resolve the problem.
- Where a dog owner cannot reduce the excess barking and further breaches are obtained, Council may take further enforcement action which may include:
- Issue of a Penalty Infringement Notice and/or,
- Removal of the dog/s from the property
- Where Council does not detect excessive barking dog, the investigation is finalised.
- However if further complaints are received, Council may resume or commence a new investigation.
If required, Council will continue to provide ongoing assistance, however the most important thing to remember is that it is the dog owners’ responsibility to find a solution to resolve their dogs’ barking.
What if the barking problem has not been resolved?
Where Council is unable to obtain a breach for excessive barking dog following a noise assessment/monitoring, the investigation is finalised.
If the barking continues to be a nuisance the customer may lodge a new barking request and Council may resume or commence a new investigation. A new Barking Dog Record may need to be completed and returned. This will ensure that the most active times that the nuisance barking is occurring is still accurate.
Council will again communicate with the dog owner to advise of further barking allegations and to discuss further advice to reduce the nuisance barking.
Council also has the ability to engage with an external organisation who specialise in recording noise nuisances. The recorded information can be scientifically analysed to determine if a breach exists. However, this method is only used in extreme circumstances.
We appreciate not every barking dog nuisance is resolved first up, however with an increase in support and education provided by Council to barking dog owners, this has significantly improved in the last 12 months.