My family lives in a nice new neighborhood of starter homes. Homes run between 1,600 and 1,700 square feet with small front yards, mostly xeriscaped, and medium-sized back yards. Because our small city is in the middle of a drought-stricken desert, there are few trees or dense bushes. Most front yards have but a single small tree and back yards are often limited to grass and some small flowers in flowerbeds. Because most of the families are relatively young, small children are common. Many parents have babies.
Why is this important to know? Well, for dog owners, it presents a complex minefield of issues, particularly if your dog likes to bark. For those of you who are young adults and hoping to purchase your own pooch soon, please be aware of the issues you might encounter when moving into a starter home, or small house intended for young families.
First, know your limits, in all senses. Do you have enough time for your breed of dog? Do you have enough space for your breed of dog? Be realistic about your situation. Know that big dogs need space, that your kids are not going to care for the dog like they promise and most of the work will quickly fall on you, and that that wooden fence for your backyard does little to muffle your dog’s bark. Know that the cute little puppy will grow bigger and that young dogs have lots of energy.
Be aware of how your dog acts when you’re not around. Ask a friend, parent, or neighbor whether your dog barks or howls up a storm when you leave it in the backyard, or even indoors, for a lengthy period of time while you’re away. Many dog owners may be unaware that their lovable mutt becomes anything but when left alone for more than five minutes. This is especially important if you do not work a traditional nine-to-five job. Those hours you are away from home, and leaving a loud dog unattended, can be miserable for your neighbors.
Know what can trigger your dog to bark or howl. We all know that your dog is pretty chill when you’re around, but what sets it off when you’re away? Does it bark at cars driving past? Other dogs barking? Children playing in a nearby backyard? Birds? Knowing what turns your dog into a noisy nuisance can help you minimize the problem. Perhaps you need to plan shrubs along your fence to block your dog’s view of other critters, try to bring your dog inside at a certain time of day when instigating factors are more common, or talk to your neighbors about an activity of theirs that may be exciting or frightening your pet.
Take good care of your pet. As a dog lover, it infuriates me to see other young people who impulsively bought a dog for company and then essentially abandon it to a messy backyard or patio. Do not get a dog on impulse. Do not get a dog because you feel lonely. Many dogs may bark and howl because they are kept outside all day in barren backyards with nothing to do. Make sure your pet has food, water, toys, shade, and a place to lay down that is out of the way. Make sure your yard is clean and not full of animal droppings.
Spend time with your pet. I get it – when you got your dog back in your early twenties you had lots of time to play with it and take good care of it. Now you’re in your late twenties and you’ve got a full-time job, a significant other or spouse, and perhaps even children. Your schedule is hectic and cramped and you’ve taken to leaving your dog unattended for long periods of time. Your unhappy dog is now starting to become the neighborhood noise nuisance.
I know you are busy and tired, but remember that you have an obligation to that sweet puppy you purchased or adopted all those years ago. Take it for a walk, socialize it, and don’t leave it barking for attention at all hours of the evening. After work you may just want to hang out with your friends or go out to eat, leaving your dog in the back yard, but your neighbors’ nerves may be fraying.
Be proactive in discussing your dog’s barking with your neighbors. Most people understand that dogs bark and can be rambunctious. What they get really annoyed about is when it appears that a dog’s owner is oblivious to the barking. Apologizing to a neighbor about your dog’s frequent barking or howling and pledging to be aware of the problem can go a long way toward mending fences and avoiding a feud…or a ticket from animal control. Neighbors may be willing to tolerate a barking dog if they know that you, the owner, are not simply allowing the dog to bark its head off without trying anything to fix it.
Be proactive in fixing your dog’s barking. If your dog does like to bark, remember that you have an obligation as the owner to try and stop it from waking up the neighborhood. As a young person you may not be particularly bothered by your own dog’s bark, be it the high-pitched yap of a lap dog or the deep woof of a Mastiff, but your neighbors might be more sensitive – especially if they have young ones who are trying to sleep. If your dog starts to howl and bark up a storm outside…go bring it inside. Pause what you are doing and go get the dog. Do not wait and see if it will stop.
If you need to, seek help in keeping your dog under control. Talk to a vet, hire a dog walking service, or consider putting your dog up for adoption. If worse comes to worst, and your dog appears incorrigible, remember that you might be living in the neighborhood for many years and do not want to have the reputation as the bad neighbor. Refusing to acknowledge that your dog’s volume is a problem and is out of your immediate control can spark lots of feuds with annoyed neighbors.
Ask yourself the tough questions before you get a dog. Are you committed to caring for the dog throughout its life, even after you graduate, get married, and have kids? Life will get busier and you don’t want to turn Fido into the loud, attention-seeking hound that disrupts the neighborhood because you and the fam are too busy doing other things. Many young people get dogs impulsively, while their commitments are relatively few and free time is ample.
Most of us neighbors love dogs and even have pooches of our own. We don’t want to be grouches or dog-haters and are willing to work with you about your dog’s barking if you are willing to accept our concerns and make an effort. Please, be a good dog owner.