WASHINGTON — Dogs may be a man’s best friend, but they can be a neighbor’s worst enemy if they bark incessantly.
It’s a classic problem — your neighbor may have the cutest dog by day, but come nighttime when Buddy is left outside, he likes to bark up a storm or spend hours howling at the moon.
What’s the best way to approach the situation?
“First and foremost, the commonsense thing is to go talk to your neighbor and see if there’s something you could do,” says Alexandria veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson.
She adds that residents can also turn to their neighborhood association to see whether there are rules against leaving dogs outside at night.
If that doesn’t work, there are some other options.
“One thing you can do — and if it’s a true nuisance or you’re actually worried about the dog, if the dog is left outside all day in the extreme heat or the extreme cold — then you do have the right to call animal control,” Nelson says.
If you’re worried that might mean the dog will be taken away from its owners — which might inspire a small neighborhood feud — Nelson says the officers aren’t likely to do that.
“They’re not going to go and take the dog away: This isn’t the day of the dog catcher,” she says. “They’re going to go out and try and have a conversation with the owner about making better and safer choices for that pet and making choices that are going to make that pet a lot less anxious — therefore, hopefully help to improve your life.”
Whom you call often depends on where you live. Complaints about barking dogs are handled differently area by area, usually depending on whether the issue is considered a sound violation or an animal code issue.
Each area handles complaints of barking dogs a little differently. Here’s who you could call. (Compiled by Sophie Ho)
In some places, such as Arlington County, a barking dog would fall within the noise ordinance and be handled by the Office of Code Enforcement. In other places, such as Alexandria, citizens can register complaints about barking dogs to the Department of Animal Control.
If your dog is the one that’s barking and keeping the neighborhood up at night, Nelson has a few tips to see whether the barking is due to anxious behavior or whether there’s something the owner can do to make the pet calmer.
“I’ve got two dogs, one of them a little Shih Tzu mix. He stands at my door, which has glass on each side of it, and anyone who walks on the sidewalk, he barks at them. So what we did is we frosted the bottom two panes of glass,” she says. “Now he can’t see out them and there’s a whole lot less barking in our house because of that. So just little small commonsense measures like that to help calm your dog.”
Herbal supplements and pharmacological medicines recommended by vets can also help to soothe overly anxious pets.
Some apps, such as Dog Whistle Free, say they can curb dog barking by releasing a high- frequency whistle.
But apps like these aren’t necessarily reliable, nor should they be the first stop for neighbors hoping to discreetly quiet others’ dogs, Nelson says.
“If you’ve got a super-anxious pet, and every time they bark, something really high-pitched happens, it’s almost like winding up a toy — at some point, the spring’s going to break … It’s really going to be very dependent on the dog.”
Take a glimpse at the gallery to see whom to call in your region to report a barking dog.