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Like a Good Neighbor


by Lexiann Grant 
Email: lexiann@frognet.net
Copyright© 2000

The following article has been provided by the above author. All copy rights are held by the author and any reproduction of this material in whole or in part must have the authors approval.




by Lexiann Grant

Do you as a dog owner, feel like your non-dog-loving neighbors hate you and your canine family member, and wished you lived in another neighborhood, even another planet? Have the comments or threats of a neighbor made you and your dogs prisoners in your own home?

If you have dogs, there may come a time when you have a problem with a neighbor. But don't keep your dog in the house out of fear or let your neighborhood turn into a feuding ground.
Is there something you can do to resolve these types of situations?

Yes there is, but part of the solution depends on you being a responsible dog owner. For starters, ask yourself if your dog is a problem in the neighborhood. Does your dog:
* Run the streets? Chase children? Get into the neighbors' trash or gardens?
* Relieve themselves in other people's yards?
* Roam your yard unattended?
* Greet visitors with growling, snapping or biting?
* Bark all night long while people are trying to sleep? Is your dog left alone, maybe tied out on a chain, howling out of loneliness?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, keeping peace with a non-dog owning neighbor may require that you take the appropriate steps to keep your dog from being a nuisance to others.

"Most everyone has a right to own a dog; that's their privilege," said Bill Greathouse, Dog Warden in Washington County, Ohio, "People that don't have dogs, also have the right not to have dogs on their property. If you want to be a good neighbor, keep your dog off of other people's property - keep your dog from running at large."

Check with your local humane officer or dog warden to determine what leash laws are in your area, then comply with them. Most states, counties or municipalities have ordinances against dogs running loose, so if your dog is a "prowler," keep him at home instead. Install a fence and let your dog play safely in your yard. Or take your dog for long walks - on leash. And when you're walking your dog, don't let him relieve himself in a neighbor's yard. In case he does, carry plastic bags with you and clean up after him.

Despite precautions, "I realize dogs can sometimes break free and run loose," said Greathouse. Should this happen, and a neighbor complains about a problem your dog may have caused while on their property, you can do the following to help smooth the situation.
* Pick up any stool your dog may have left in the neighbor's yard.
* Make minor repairs such as filling holes your dog dug, setting up plants he knocked over or picking up garbage he spilled while there.
* Offer to pay for any reasonable, material property damage if it is certain that your dog was the cause.
* Explain how your dog accidentally got loose and that it is your policy to keep your dog confined and supervised. Apologize for the inconvenience.

Greathouse also advised, "Don't let your dog be a menace. Don't let them jump on people." If your dog is not well socialized, take the time to introduce him to your neighbors and other visitors such as postal carriers or delivery personnel. When visiting neighbors don't want to pet or visit with your dog, crate him or put him in a nearby room behind a baby gate. Teach your dog that it is normal to accept some strangers on your property occasionally.

Barking or vocalizing is also a common behavior about which a neighbor may complain.
If left outdoors, unattended for long periods of time, then your dog's noise may be a problem. Dogs are social animals who require companionship. When left by themselves, they frequently make noise to get the human attention they need. Don't let your dog languish alone in your yard. Do the necessary work and train your dog to live in the house as part of the family.

While your dog is playing outdoors (in your fenced yard), stay with them or supervise them closely from the house. Avoid letting your dog out late at night or early in the morning if possible. Even though barking is normal behavior, stop your dog from excessive vocalization using the "no bark"or "enough" commands.

What may be music to a dog owner's ears, may be nerve-wracking noise to a neighbor. When a dog barks, they are communicating. "Oh look, there's a squirrel in the yard," "Wow those kids playing on the street in front of our house look like they're having fun," or "Hey, UPS is in our driveway," are all appropriate messages about which a dog may bark. If your neighbor doesn't want to hear what your dog is saying, then you may receive a complaint.

What can or should you do about your dog's barking?

First, ask your dog warden or local law enforcement office what local regulations are - if any - that relate to the noise of a barking dog. Although it is common for states and counties not to have any laws pertaining to barking, some cities may have regulations that need to be observed. These regulations as a rule, tend to define how many hours, during what times of the day or night and for how many days within a certain time period a dog must bark in order to be considered a legal issue.

A neighbor who complains about a dog's barking normally needs to show that there is a law that is being broken and that a dog's barking is inappropriate as well as a nuisance (for example, they work the night shift or have an invalid in their home and the barking keeps them from resting). If there is no law against barking, and your dog vocalizes only at appropriate times, then you are being a good neighbor.

But this doesn't mean a neighbor still won't complain. If a neighbor approaches you with a complaint about your dog's barking, be prepared to deal with the issue in order to maintain a friendly neighborhood atmosphere.
* Be pleasant and diplomatic. Try inviting the neighbor into your home to discuss the matter. Offer refreshments and be a considerate listener.
* Make sure your dog is not barking too much, and keep your dog quiet while you talk with the neighbor.
* Explain about canine behavior in a positive, non-patronizing manner. Offer to loan the neighbor some o books or magazine articles that talk about why dogs bark.
* Find out what your neighbor's expectations are: Is it possible to accommodate some of them? If not, then pleasantly explain how you are abiding by the law and terminate the discussion. Apologize for their inconvenience; tell them neither you nor your dog, had any intention of offending or disturbing them. Agree to disagree with one another.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a neighbor may not be accepting of the fact that you are a dog owner. They may complain without basis, harass you, even threaten your dogs. What can you do if you find yourself in this unpleasant and frightening situation?
* Be certain you are complying with the law. "Find out what your local dog-related laws are," W.B. Richardson, Jr., an attorney in Parkersburg, WV, said, "You can do this by contacting your city or county government, and, by checking your state code at the local library or on the Internet."
* Document any contact with the complaining or threatening neighbor. Record a description of the event, the date, time and witnesses present. Keep a short log too of your dog's normal activity: play times, reasons they barked, days they were inside because of bad weather, for instance. If there is ever a dispute, then you will have a good record to support your claims and statements.
* Consider posting "no trespassing" signs and installing a privacy fence as well as additional lighting or motion-detection-activated lights.
* Walk through your dog's play area to make certain it is safe before letting him out. Watch your dog closely while he's outdoors; don't let him out of your sight.
* Remain calm and don't let an unkind neighbor goad you into an argument. Ignore nasty comments or minor hassles. No one wins in a neighborhood war.

If the situation doesn't resolve itself and your neighbor continues to cause problems, don't let your dog be put in danger and don't let yourself be bullied into giving up your right to enjoy your personal property. "If you've done your investigation and you're not wrong," said Richardson, "be prepared to stand your ground and ride it out."
* Get help. Talk to your dog warden or humane officer. Contact your attorney for advice or have him write a polite letter to the neighbor. Call your local police or sheriff's department. Ask them to come to your home and fill out an "assistance report" or talk with the harrassing neighbor. If you, your dogs or your property are in serious danger or have been directly threatened, injured, damaged or vandalized, ask about filing charges. However, try to reserve legal action as a last resort.

The best method for not having a problem with a neighbor about your dog is prevention. Train your dog, obey the laws, scoop the poop. Be a good neighbor - be a responsible dog owner. Show your neighbors that your dog is a good neighbor too.


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