It’s a scene all too common in neighborhoods in Huntsville and around the U.S.
You’re watching the birds and enjoying a quiet, relaxed evening, when you hear it.
The neighbor’s dog starts barking for seemingly no reason. The dog’s owner is inside and doesn’t do anything to stop it.
“And therefore, it creates a little bit of a rub,” said Huntsville Animal Services (HAS) Director Dr. Karen Sheppard. “And that’s where we get drawn in.”
Dog barking is one of HAS’s most common citizen complaints. For many on the receiving end of the barking, the noise can be a source of anxiety, angst or annoyance that can last for days, weeks, months and even years at a time.
Dr. Sheppard recently spoke to the Huntsville City Council about dog barking and what Huntsville residents dealing with the issue can do about it.
Check out the highlights below:
How do I make a complaint about excessive dog barking?
HAS strongly encourages residents to talk to the dog owner at least once, if not two or three times, before making a complaint. Many times, this will resolve or dramatically reduce the problem. If you’ve done this and no action has been taken by the owner, call 256-883-3788 to discuss the issue. HAS can communicate with the dog owner up to two times over a 12-month period.
What happens when I make a complaint?
After you inform HAS about the barking, the department will gather more information from you about when, how, where and what specific dog might be causing the problem. HAS then approaches the owner to make them aware of the barking and offer gentle solutions to make it stop. After talking with HAS, Dr. Sheppard said most dog owners want to be neighborly and will take steps to remedy the problem.
How about when the owner pushes back or refuses to make changes?
This is rare, but does happen occasionally in our community. Due to the nature of the complaint – noise-related – you must pursue the matter in our Environmental Court. Get started by scheduling an appointment with the City Magistrate on 815 Wheeler Avenue or call 256-427-7800 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
What are some humane ways to reduce your dog’s barking?
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to cut down on barking. A few tips include:
- Play with your pet at least an hour/day.
- Exercise your pet at least 30 minutes/day.
- Contact a professional dog trainer.
- Take your dog to doggie daycare!
- Bring your pet inside during the times that may be troublesome for your neighbor.
- Remember that many dogs may not bark when the owner is home, but may bark excessively when outside and unattended.
- Place your pet in the garage, bathroom, crate, etc., during nighttime hours or hours of concern for your neighbor.
- If your pet is housed by a neighbor’s window, move the dog as close as possible to your bedroom window to see if the barking is disturbing to you.
- Invest in a quality, non-shocking (vibrating or spray) bark collar, especially if you know that your dog barks often.
- Find a new home for your pet if you are not able to play and exercise your dog.
- Physical punishment is not effective, but teaching your dog the commands “bark” and “quiet” in a positive manner does work
- Remember that dogs, in general, do not make good security systems. Secure your outdoor items in an appropriate manner.
What other advice does HAS have for dealing with excessive dog barking?
Make friends with the nervous or hyperactive dog by talking to it, smiling and speaking kindly. If the dog seems aggressive, don’t speak or make eye contact, but offer a treat to the pet. With time, Dr. Sheppard said most of these dogs stop their aggressive behavior and begin to seek a friendship and stop barking.
Need to make a non-emergency complaint to HAS? Simply fill out this Animal Services Form to make HAS aware of the issue. The more complete and accurate information you can provide, the better HAS can serve you and address the situation. You can also contact the department directly at 256-883-3782.