(June 13, 2010) -- There is noting more disturbing to neighbors that a dog next door barking for hours whether by day or by night (although boom boxes are up there with the dogs).
A large percentage of reports to animal control agencies consist of this particular complaint and it tends to turn good neighbors into frustrated, angry and hostile feeling and confrontations. It can also, and often does, become a tool for revenge, exploitation of the law and unreasonable calls by those who have issues with neighbors to begin with. Such complainers are the "even one woof is too many" crowd.
Yet this is a serious problem but not without remedy. With a little patience, dedication and understanding the cause, the neighborhood can become quiet again and the relationship between residents can be mended with the return of peace and friendship again. Of course, there is no help for the "even one woof is too many" people.
Let us look at the history and emotional development of dogs and dog owners. Thousands of years ago when man first formed his partnership with the dog, he paid for the dog’s services of guarding, hunting and alarm-giving by sharing his food and warm, dry cave. He deliberately invited the dog into his own "pack" and from that time on, the dog's surrogate pack was the human family. Although times have changed, neither man or dog are able to abandon this covenant and these basic needs.
Dogs can, of course, be made to stay outside but to force this kind of lifestyle on a sentient, family-oriented and affectionate being is inhumane and cruel because of the need for the substitute pack and the need for a safe haven (the owner's house.
The negative of such a lifestyle for the dog is many sided. He can go in several directions: 1) he may become listless, lethargic, emotionally deprived and un-socialized, or 2) he may become a constant barker, hyper-reactive, fearful, an escaper, a digger or aggressive -- even vicious -- when the stress of so many solitary hours become too much to bear. Mostly the inactivity, the lack of emotional comfort and the mind-bending boredom are the main reasons for chronic barking, the dog desperately calling for attention.
Another drawback of this situation is the denial of the dog’s natural protective instinct which he is eager to use. This is a loss for both the dog and the owner. Dogs do NOT protect back yards! They bark at people, cats, birds, other dogs, squirrels, butterflies, falling leaves. Etc., just for the lack of anything else to do (much to the consternation of the neighbors) but this is NOT protective behavior. This is unbearable boredom and a sense of abandonment and a stranger can easily override it with an offering of food, or a friendly approach. And when was the last time anyone stole a back yard?
Many methods have been tried to resolve this problem, among them yelling at the dog (usually by the irate neighbor) to which the dog responds with even more barking (after all, someone gave him a form of attention); muzzles (you can not keep a muzzle on a dog all day or all night); electric shock collars (in my view horrendously cruel and possibly damaging). Many dogs tend to override the shock, in which case the voltage is increased causing more devastation.
Understanding these aspects of the dog’s needs, it is not difficult to resolve and/or manage this problem.
If the dog has free access to the house with the aid of a suitable dog-door, he will protect the house instinctively when his safe haven is threatened. Thus, when the area to be protected is reduced in size (the house itself), he is calmer, more stress-free and quieter. The presence of the owner’s scent inside is extremely calming and comforting and the long lonely hours are eased.
Feeding the dog two meals daily by dividing his daily portion into two and feeding him morning and evening (instead of bombarding his stomach which has been empty for 23 hours with the full amount at the 24th hour) also contributes to calmness and satisfaction. Such dogs are the most reliable protectors and even law enforcement officers recommend dogs as the best alarm-systems and deterrents.
At the same time, the dog is also protected from searing heat in the summer which can kill, and wet, cold winter weather, from teasing children, angry neighbors, dog-nappers and the eventual requirement that the animal be removed from the home.
It is a good idea to leave the dog with a piece of un-laundered garment with the owner’s scent to lie on, play with and snuggle up to. Leaving the television on at a low volume is also helpful because he hears human voices, sees movement and associates them with the owner’s presence who undoubtedly has the TV on when he is at home. Choose your program carefully (personally I advise against Jerry Springer...). A toy with food in it which is a challenge and reward in one keeps a dog busy for hours.
In case there is concern that raccoons, possums or other animals may enter through the dog-door is unfounded. It is rare because wildlife is not stupid and would rather not confront a dog on the property. Burglaries through the dog-door are yet to be substantiated and in my 36 years of working with owners and their pets I have yet to actually come across one. No burglar in his right mind want to face a Rottweiler, a German Shepherd or a Pit Bull who has access to his own house and they really hate the small, yappy dogs who make too much noise and alert their surroundings.
But your dog is not housetrained? Or he has fleas? Or tracks in dust and mud? It must be understood that housetraining is essential and much faster with the help of that same dog-door. As for fleas, in this day and age, with the excellent and effective methods of flea control, this should never be an issue. Dust and mud? The children track in dust and mud and probably so does the owner. These are part and parcel of life and animal ownership.
Dogs offer the priceless gifts of loyalty, steadfast devotion, love and reassuring, incomparable companionship. However, companionship is a two-way proposition and without it the dog becomes bewildered, emotionally damaged and suffers.
SO DO THE NEIGHBORS! Unless his lifestyle is changed and his needs respected, for the sake of the dog, the owner -- and the neighbors -- it would have been kinder not to get a dog at all.
Ms. Yarden's LBReport.com Archives:
Declaw or Mutilate Your Feline Friend?
Cat Licensing in Long Beach -- And About Time!
Yet Another Threat To Our Pets
Coyote "Invasion" -- Let's Manage It
The Backyard Dog
L.A. Sets Poor Example by Undermining Its Own Spay/Neuter Law
There Is No Good Excuse -- EVER! - For Abandoning A Dog Or Cat
Keeping Tax Collector's Hands Off Our Pets
Animals Are Not For Suffocating Or Burning
Ensuring Effective Dog License Canvassing in LB
Christmas With Your Companions
The Other Side of Farm Animal Cruelty
The Coyote: Truths & Myths
Katrina, Now Gustav...And Thank God! We Have Learned Something!
A Toy For Every Animal
Foiling Thieves Who'd Steal Your Dog
What To Do, And Not Do, If Your Cat Is Freaked Out By The Quake
Driving With Your Dog
On CSULB's Unwelcome Coyotes & Formerly Welcome Feral Felines
Not Merely Birth Control: The Other Side of Spay & Neuter