I received this question from a reader recently:
“My landlord sent me a letter informing me my dog was barking too loud. We’ve done training, and he knows to be quiet when I tell him to, but I can’t very well expect him to quiet down if I’m not there to give him the right command. I’m afraid of someone lodging a barking dog complaint against me with Animal Control, but I’m even more worried about getting evicted. Help!” —Mindy L.
We have five dogs, as well as various fosters and boarders, so I know how annoying a barking dog can be. Yes, dogs bark, but there’s no reason they need to bark and bark and bark and bark and bark and bark and bark!
Because I don’t want Animal Control visiting me or my neighbors rising up against me with pitchforks and torches, I work hard to keep my dogs quiet. Part of it is training them to shut the hell up when I tell them to, but the rest is all about managing the situation before it explodes.
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Bribe Your Neighbors
The first thing I did when we moved into our house was visit my neighbors to introduce myself. I brought homemade cookies and let them know that I was very serious about keeping my dogs quiet.
I explained that we foster and board dogs, so it might seem like we have a lot of them, but they’re only temporary. I let them know that if they every feel the we’re making too much noise, I really want them to tell me so I can work harder to keep the barking under control.
I highly recommend this approach to anyone with dogs, especially people living in apartments, where the walls are usually thin. If your neighbors aren’t home when you come by, leave them a handwritten note with your phone number.
If your neighbors have already complained, then you’ll need to do some damage control. I have found that nothing disarms people like a sincere apology and a promise to fix the problem. Using the cookie-and-handwritten-note approach, explain that you’re aware there’s a problem and are very sorry about the inconvenience. Tell them you’re working on the problem, but it might take a few days. Don’t forget to bribe them with homemade or fancy store-bought treats.
An Exhausted Dog Is a Tired Dog
Yep, it’s true: When dogs sleep, they don’t bark! Tire your dog out before you leave work, and he’ll be quieter during the day. Get up earlier and either take him to the park or on a brisk walk. Play fetch or Frisbee — whatever it takes to turn your dog from a bark machine to a passed-out lump of tired.
Use Bark Control Devices Sparingly
If you’re tempted to use a shock collar, please reconsider! I consider them inhumane, especially when owners leave them on their dogs all day long. You can try a vibrating bark collar, but rumor has it that they suck. I bought a bark control birdhouse (affiliate link) — it works, but it also leaves my dogs quivering in fear at the weird noise it emanates. I’ve also tried citronella collars, but all they did was leave the house reeking of chemical lemon.
When it comes down to it, bark control devices are a lazy band-aid that doesn’t really solve the problem. Try a few management techniques instead.
Close the Drapes
If your dog can see people walking by, he’s going to bark at them. Close the drapes and remove the stimulus. You can’t remove interesting noises from outside, but you might be able to keep your pup in a quiet room during the day, where he’ll be less prone to hearing or seeing exciting things.
Crate Your Dog
Once you crate-train your dog, and his den becomes a place of safety and refuge, confine him to it when you’re out. He’ll be less likely to bark if he’s feeling secure and comforted. Of course, if you work all day, you can’t crate him the whole time, but it’s a viable solution if you’re out for a few hours at a time.
Hire a Dog Walker
You might consider hiring a dog walker, especially if crating your dog will keep him quiet. Before you balk at the extra expense — expect to pay between $10 and $25/walk, depending on where you live — then consider whether you’d rather shell out the dough or find a new apartment.