Does your dog bark too much?

Advice on how to handle your barking dog

Is it illegal for a dog to bark?

NO, but if you own a dog or dogs you must ensure that the barking does not cause a Statutory Nuisance to others.

What is a Statutory Nuisance?

There is no set definition but case law has defined a Statutory Nuisance as a "material interference with the comfort and enjoyment of another's home."

What does this mean in practice?

In practice, to be a Statutory Nuisance, the barking would have to be excessive and unreasonable in the circumstances and interfere significantly with how someone uses and enjoys their home. Examples could be: barking for prolonged periods, frequent excessive barking and barking at unreasonable hours, ie early morning or late at night.

Is all barking a nuisance?

NO, the nature of dogs means that they will bark from time to time, for example to alert your attention to someone at the door or when playing but you must ensure that the barking is not occurring unreasonably. There are many reasons why dogs bark excessively - boredom, attention seeking and there are lots of ways to overcome the problem.

Is there anything I can do?

Many dog owners are genuinely unaware that their dog may be causing a disturbance and therefore speaking to your neighbours may be the quickest and most effective means of resolving matters. Individuals may also take private action through the courts under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 regarding their concerns. We would recommend speaking to a solicitor regarding costs involved in this course of action.

What action could be taken under this Act?

If the Council is satisfied that the barking is causing a Statutory Nuisance, a notice can be served under this Act which can stop the activity occurring.

How long will the noise process take?

We recommend that diary sheets are completed over 2-3 weeks. It can then take the council up to a month to determine whether a nuisance exists. A noise abatement notice will be served as soon as a nuisance is determined.

What you shouldn't do

  • Don't punish your dog. He could mistake it for attention, or it might make him more nervous.
  • Don't get a second dog to keep the first company unless you're absolutely sure it's going to make your dog feel more secure, not less.
  • Don't use an electric shock collar to train him not to bark. This is cruel and will probably make him anxious.
  • Don't leave your dog outside if he is barking to be let in.

Anti barking collars

To help you train your dog to bark less, you can hire an anti barking collar. When your dog barks, a sensor triggers the release of a harmless spray.The dog will be surprised by the sound/smell of the spray and should dislike the smell and/or taste of the spray. When wearing the collar the dog will soon learn to associate barking with the bad taste of the spray and within days should bark less. You can also buy anti barking collars online or from some pet shops.

This is a safe and usually effective way to deter a dog that's barking for no obvious reason.

Why does your dog bark?

It is normal and natural for a dog to bark. Generally, this isn't a problem if it is only from time to time, for instance when the post is delivered or if someone comes to the door. However, if it goes on for a long time or happens too often, it can be really annoying or disturbing for both you and your neighbours. No-one wants to be kept awake at night by their dog or worse still their neighbours' dog. You might just get used to the noise but it is unreasonable to hope neighbours will put up with it too. If you are out a lot and the dog barks when it is left alone then you might not even realise how bad it can be for others.

Under the Environmental Protection Act (1990) a barking dog can be classed as a statutory noise nuisance and if you don't take any action to improve the situation you could be taken to court. If convicted in a Magistrates Court you can be fined up to £5,000.

However, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the barking to an acceptable level - old dogs can learn new tricks in this case.

There are many reasons why a dog might bark including:

  • Doesn't like being left alone
  • Frustration
  • Guarding
  • Attention seeking
  • Frightened
  • Boredom
  • Excitement

He doesn't like being left alone

  • He may start barking, and continue for some time, as soon as you leave the house.
  • Try to get him used to being alone by leaving him in a room for a few minutes at a time. Using a baby gate will let you keep the dog in the room without following you but can still see you. Over time, build up the period you leave him alone for.
  • Try not to give the dog any attention for a while before you leave and when you come home.
  • Leave a radio or TV on when you leave so that he has a human voice for company and does not feel alone.
  • Leave an unwashed item of your clothing on the floor on the other side of the door to fool the dog into thinking you are still there.

Frustration

  • He might bark in frustration at being unable to get to something interesting, for example a cat in the garden or another dog he can hear barking.
  • Separate him from whatever is causing the barking. Prevent him from seeing or hearing it by keeping him away from him windows or close the curtains so he can't see people or other animals.
  • Leave a TV or radio on to help mask other noises.

Guarding

  • Dogs are territorial and have an instinct to protect you and your property.
  • Keep him away from windows or close the curtains.
  • If he barks when outside call him in straight away.
  • If the problem is barking when visitors come, teach the dog to sit calmly when they come in. You could put him on a lead before you let them in. Reward your dog for being quiet for a while by asking the visitor to give him a treat. Over time increase the wait before he is given the treat.

Attention seeking

  • Your dog may bark for no obvious reason but stop once you look at him and/or give him attention.
  • Look at him, then look away to make it clear you are not going to reply to this with attention. Don't give him any attention at all (don't look at, touch, talk to or even tell him off) while he barks. Try deliberately ignoring him for 20-30 minutes a couple of times each day and make sure everyone else in the household does the same. His behaviour may get worse before improving but try not to give in as this will only make the problem worse.
  • Don't ignore him all the time, only if he is demanding your attention. If he is being good and quiet then make a fuss to reward him.

Frightened

  • When he barks his ears may be back and his tail held low if frightened. He might have trouble settling or try to hide.
  • A frightened dog barks to tell you he is scared. This can be a useful warning as he may eventually bite or behave threateningly to defend himself. If this is the case, don't ignore the warning.
  • If he likes hiding, make a den for him.
  • If a particular noise frightens him, leave a radio on to mask the noise.
  • If other people or animals frighten him, close the curtains or door.

Boredom

  • Bored dogs may bark or be destructive. Neither are acceptable but there are plenty of things you can do to reduce boredom.
  • Take your dog for a good walk before leaving him alone, a tired dog is less likely to bark.
  • Ensure your dog has things to do when you are not there - leave plenty of toys/activities that will occupy his brain.
  • Try not to leave him alone for long periods. Ask a neighbour or friend to let him out or even walk him when you are at work.

Excitement

  • He may bark and jump about at the prospect of being taken out for a walk, being fed or visitors arriving.
  • Teach him to obey commands such as "sit", "down" or "go to your basket". If he follows your order he will probably go quiet too.
  • If your dog barks when he is excited then don't play with him at anti-social times like very late at night.

Other organisations

The Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club are good sources of information for dog owners.