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My Dog Barks at the Neighbors

 
By Marta SarasĂșa, Psychologist. July 24, 2022
My Dog Barks at the Neighbors

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Not all dogs have the same sensitivity to noise. Some can sleep through a storm and others will become agitated at the smallest sound. Their reaction will depend on various factors, but there are some sounds which are more likely to disturb their peace than others. Especially in built-up urban areas, our neighbors can be a common sound which leads our dog to barking. If this barking is constant or intense, it can be a nuisance and cause complaints to be made. This can even become a legal issue if the nuisance continues.

To know how to stop my dog barking at the neighbors, we need to know the reasons behind the behavior. At AnimalWised, we explain why my dog is barking at the neighbors and provide practical steps to prevent this behavior in the future.

You may also be interested in: How To Stop My Dog Barking At The Door

Why does my dog bark at the neighbors?

While we may associate nuisance barking with certain breeds, this is not the most important reason why your dog is barking at the neighbors. There is no universal explanation for this behavior, but the following are the most common reasons why dogs bark at neighbors:

  • Alarm: many dogs alert their social group through barking when they perceive a noise to be threatening. Unfortunately, they may perceive neighbors as being a threat, even if they are merely going about their normal business. In this case, the barking is usually short and intense. It often stops when the guardians come to investigate the origin of the sound or let the animal know there is no danger.

  • Guard: when the animal feels that strangers are approaching their home, they can become alert and bark in order to keep the intruders away. This behavior is often observed in dogs with access to terraces or gardens. They bark or growl when they see or hear people walking past the property. Territoriality is a behavioral trait that is influenced by the animal's genetics, their early experiences and the level of education they receive. Not all dogs present this defensive behavior.

  • Change of environment: dogs require routine and a stable home. Although some dogs can adapt easily to a new environment, others can have serious difficulty. This is common in dogs which previously lived in rural or quiet areas which then move to a highly populated space. Since they are not habituated to living with noise, they can bark at almost any sound, including neighbors. They are either fearful or simply curious when exposed to new stimuli.

  • Fear or trauma: to a large extent, a dog's previous experiences determine their behavior when exposed to certain stimuli. For example, dogs which have experienced trauma at the hand of previous guardians may have been scared when they approached. When they hear a neighbor outside, it can trigger the same fear. Dogs which have been abandoned, abused or neglected are more likely to bark at neighbors.

  • Poor socialization: the socialization period for dogs occurs when they are a puppy, but they require some level of socialization throughout their lives. During the initial stages, the puppies learn how to interact with other dogs, people and environments. They not only learn how to behave, but they learn when they should and shouldn't be scared. Dogs which have not been properly socialized may not know their neighbors pose no threat.

  • Poor education: similar to socialization, if a dog is not educated correctly and is not provided with appropriate boundaries, they may be more likely to bark at the neighbors. It doesn't necessarily mean they are scared or frightened of them. They may simply want to play or receive attention, but they have not learned that barking in this instance is inappropriate.

  • Learning-created expectations: dogs largely learn through association. A particular stimulus can trigger a specific emotion and behavior in the dog because they have associated it with an event, either positive or negative. For example, the dog may have associated the sound of the elevator or the sound of keys in a door with the arrival of their guardians. As a consequence, they bark with excitement every time these sounds, even if it is a neighbor who is passing.

It is important to make a distinction between a dog which always barks at neighbors and one which has only started to do so suddenly. In the latter case, there could be a physical reason for their barking. They may be trying to alert someone to the fact they are in pain. For this reason, we should always go to the veterinarian to rule out a possible pathological cause of this behavior.

We also need to see the distinction between a dog barking at neighbors and them barking at family. Learn the causes of the latter with our article on why my dog barks at me.

What happens when my dog barks at neighbors?

There are various factors which determine what happens when a dog barks at neighbors. For example, if we live in an apartment with thin walls, barking is likely more of a nuisance than if our neighbors live in a separate property. If a dog only barks for a short time when they see neighbors, it is different from a dog barking incessantly even when the neighbors are not visible.

If you have a good relationship with your neighbor and they can tolerate sporadic barking, it may not be a problem. When the dog barks loudly at night and disturbs the neighbor's peace, it can cause serious issues. It will depend on your local authority, but most areas will have laws against nuisance barking. There will likely be a system of complaints which will eventually lead to a hearing which can revoke the guardians license and prevent ownership for a set amount of time[1].

Your dog barking at neighbors can lead to personal issues which make living difficult for all parties. Much of this depends on the personalities and lifestyles of those involved. Although some may be more understanding than others, nuisance barking is a problem which will always need to be addressed.

Preventing a dog barking at neighbors

The best course of action for nuisance barking at neighbors is preventing it happening in the first place. This begins when they are a puppy with proper socialization. During their first few months of life, puppies have an enormous capacity for learning. From their mother and siblings, they learn how to interact with others and develop the skills they will lead later in life. Once adopted by a guardian, this learning will need to continue.

Socialization requires the young dog to become accustomed to other animals, people and environments. Especially if we live in a densely populated area, they need to be aware that noise is a quotidian aspect of life. They need not be scared when they hear children playing, music, discussions, steps on a driveway or any of the noises which our neighbors may make. This requires positive reinforcement to associate these stimuli as something unthreatening.

It is also important to ensure the dog has all of their basic needs covered. If they are neglected, they can develop serious behavioral problems, including nuisance barking. By meeting their physical and emotional needs, as well as establishing a health domestic routine, we can help prevent a dog barking at neighbors.

Dogs lose some capacity for learning as they mature, but this doesn't mean they cannot adapt as an adult. In fact, it is important we reinforce their learning and education throughout their lives. Adult dogs have more stable patterns of behavior, so behavior modification can be trickier. In the section below, we look at best methods of how to stop my dog barking at neighbors.

Learn more with our guide to socializing an adult dog.

My Dog Barks at the Neighbors - Preventing a dog barking at neighbors

How to stop my dog barking at neighbors

The first thing we need to do when knowing how to stop my dog barking at neighbors is to identify the cause of this behavior. This is often more easily said than done, especially if we adopted the dog as an adult. We need to observe their behaviors carefully and monitor their body language when they bark at a neighbor. This way, we can try to determine if the dog is afraid, curious or happy.

If your dog barks when you are not at home, it can be difficult to monitor their behavior. This is common with dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. You may not be aware they are barking at neighbors until a complaint is made. For this reason, you may need to set up a camera to record their actions while you are not away.

We should also remember that some breeds were bred specifically to be guard dogs. They are more likely to bark and perceived intruders than others, so it is important we factor this in during training. In saying this, every dog is unique and has their own individual needs. In general the best ways to stop a dog barking at neighbors are the following:

  • Use recordings to simulate the real situation: you can begin to habituate your dog to the noise of the neighbors without having to wait for the real situation to occur. Use videos or recordings where you can hear the sound of an elevator, footsteps, laughter or screams of children, bells ringing, etc. Play them in front of the dog to help associate them as neutral sounds.

  • Create positive associations: whether simulating the sound of neighbors or when they actually appear, quickly get your dog's attention. Play with them, give them some affection or even give them a treat when they are not barking. This will help them to associate not barking with something positive. Conversely, if you use positive reinforcement when they do bark it will likely make it worse.

  • Discuss the problem with your neighbors: if you notice your dog becomes nervous, is scared or reacts inappropriately when they see a particular neighbor, they may have created a negative association with this person. We can see this if the dog barks at some people and not others. If you have a good relationship with your neighbor, you can suggest they interact with the dog in a controlled environment so they can make a positive association. We should not do this if the dog is aggressive.

  • Provide an enriched environment: ensure you meet the physical, social and psychological needs of your dog on a daily basis. This includes creating a suitable environment in which they can feel secure. This feeling of security will likely reduce nuisance barking because they won't be as threatened by your neighbors. This environmental enrichment can include toys, intelligence games and even synthetic pheromones to help them feel calm at home.

  • Work on the bond with your dog: mutual trust is essential in a relationship between a dog and their guardian. If the animal trusts you, they will feel safe around you and be calmer when they hear strange noises. In many cases, they will not feel the need to bark to warn of danger or scare away a possible intruder.

There are many different auditory stimuli which can lead to nuisance barking. Learn about another common issue with our article on how to stop a dog barking at the door.

If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Barks at the Neighbors, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

References

1. LA Animal Services. (n.d.). Nuisance Barking. Retrieved from:
https://www.laanimalservices.com/laws-policies/nuisance-barking/

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