“One dog barks at something, the rest bark at him.”
– Chinese proverb
“One dog barks at something, the rest bark at him.”
– Chinese proverb
In my practice, I have met a few owners who have received complaints about their dog’s excessive barking. Unlike the note seen below, most complaints in Christchurch seem to be made by people to Animal Control, which instigates a visit by an officer to your home.
It’s natural that a complaint will put you into a defensive mode, but being in that frame of mind often means you don’t handle the situation as well as you should.
Here’s my advice on how to constructively approach a barking dog complaint.
Be Considerate and Listen
Don’t get angry.
If a neighbour complains to you directly, listen to what they have to say. Ask questions about the time of day that the dog is barking, length of time the barking lasts for, and understand the location of your section and proximity to the neighbour.
If the Animal Control Officer pays you a visit, pay attention to what they are saying and the steps they want you to take. Don’t feel intimidated because they are a Council officer – ask questions to understand the scope of the complaint, and how much time you have to respond.
Put yourself in the position of your neighbour and show some empathy for their stress. Particularly if you have a neighbour complain to your directly, try to build a bridge from the complaint to ways to solve the problem so both of you can remain happy.
Ask your neighbour to keep a log book of the barking (I know that one of my clients had an Animal Control officer ask for this). Make random visits to your home at off-hours to see if you can hear your dog barking. To make this effective, park your car a couple of blocks away and walk to your property – your dog knows the sound of your car!
Check all of your fencing for security. If your dog is being visually stimulated by activity over the fence, find ways to cover and reduce the gaps in your fence.
Keep Documentation – You Can Still Be Cooperative While Defending Yourself
I’ve seen situations where a neighbour is hard to satisfy and perhaps ultra-sensitive to barking. When this has been the case, I’ve suggested that the owner take their dog to a day care centre on random dates. When compared to their neighbour’s barking diary, they can show that their dog was not on the property that day. (This can be a very powerful defense in dealing with the Council.)
It may pay to seek the support of either an animal behaviourist or a dog trainer (there is a difference in scope of practice). If you hire professional expertise, then provide receipts and a report to show along with any other evidence of what you have done to help decrease your dog’s barking.
If you’ve reinforced your fencing to reduce your dog’s visual stimulation – take photos before/after.
The Animal Control section has the option of installing bark recorders, which can help you track the problem. They can confirm (or not) the extent of the barking to validate a complaint.
The good news is that most barking complaints can be resolved, through management of your dog’s environment, focusing on the problem, and being constructive.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand
An international group of researchers has conducted a study on canine behavior showing that gender, age, context and individual recognition can be identified with a high percentage of success through statistical and computational methods of pattern recognition applied to their barking.
The results of the study have been published in the journal Animal Cognition.
This research aimed to understand the acoustic signals obtained from dog barking when the dog subjects are subjected to certain situations. The research was conducted through the development of a computational system based on statistic modeling that is able to recognize diverse characteristics of the dog (gender, age, individual, situation).
This diagram has been used to help ‘map’ the computing system behind the research:
The experiments were carried out in Budapest with eight Mudi breed dogs from Hungary, usually used as sheep-dogs—three males and five females. Each dog (aged between one and 10) registered 100 barks. A total of 800 barks was obtained by placing the dogs in seven different situations: (a) alone, after the owner tied the dog to a tree; (b) playing with a ball; (c) fighting, when a human pretended to attack the dog’s owner; (d) receiving their food ration; (f) in the company of a person who was foreign to the dog; and (g) preparing to go out with the owner. Each one of the 800 barks was characterized from 29 acoustic measurements.
By using the diverse computational models obtained from the collected data during the experiment, researchers successfully recognized the dog’s gender 85.13% of the time, while the age of the dog (recoded as young, adult and old) was classified without mistakes 80.25% of the time. The task of identifying the situation in which the dog was engaged was successful 55.50% of the time, while the recognition (among the eight dogs participating in the study) of the Mudi breed was successful the 67.63% of the time.
Whilst a highly technical bit of research, particularly for those of us who are challenged by computer programming and mathematics, there are applied uses for this research such as in assessing dog behavior. Software programs using these models could help to identify fear, anxiety and levels of aggressiveness in a dog.
Since I have Beagles in my massage practice, I thought it would be useful to profile this medium-sized breed.
Beagles regularly feature on the most popular breed list in the United States. Using American Kennel Club registrations from 2011, the Beagle is the third most popular dog.
The Beagle originated in the United Kingdom where they were used as hunting dogs for rabbits and other prey animals because of their keen sense of smell and ability to track. As a pet, owners have to watch their Beagle because he/she will easily follow its nose to track interesting smells – potentially wandering far from home.
Beagles are classified as being tri-colour (black, white and tan) or lemon (yellow) and sometimes even red or white. An average life span is 15 years.
This breed is prone to hip dysplasia, intervertebral disc disease, and allergies. Some develop seizure disorders and hypothyroidism. Regular ear cleaning is recommended because their long, floppy ears (which are very appealing) help to create an ideal environment to hold moisture and bacteria in the ear canal.
The Beagle is a hound and can be extremely vocal, so good training is needed. Beagles are also known for their appetites and so to keep the weight off, a balanced and healthy diet is needed with careful attention paid to how much the dog is eating during the day (treats, ‘finds’ on walks, etc.) Plenty of exercise is also needed.
Owners of Beagles tell me that since they were bred as pack dogs (for hunting), they don’t do well as a solo dog in a household. They need companionship and can become depressed if left alone for long periods of time. (This depression can lead to problem barking problems, too.)
Beagles are often spotted at airports, cruise ship terminals and postal depots because they are widely used as agriculture and drug detector dogs. That’s because they can be trained to put their keen noses to good use! I even came across this YouTube clip from the television show The Doctors where Beagles and Dachshunds are being used as detector dogs for bed bug infestations:
Sadly, because of their size and temperament, they are often used in laboratories for animal testing. In November 2011, I covered a story about 40 laboratory Beagles who had been rescued.
Perhaps the most famous Beagle is Snoopy (the cartoon by Charles Schulz). Snoopy was obviously a white Beagle.
If you are looking for a lively pet with minimal grooming requirements and generally a good temperament, then the Beagle may be right for you!