Because I've never lived anywhere that didn't have this issue at some point.
I recently noticed a discussion thread that my neighbors engaged in on the NextDoor app. (If you don't use this app, I'd recommend it, if only to occasionally find out what's happening in your area.) This particular thread started with one person asking if he was the only one that felt that allowing a dog to bark constantly while penned in the backyard was irresponsible. (Then I imagine that he sat back and waited for the fireworks to go off.)
55 responses later, with people commenting from all sides of the barking dogs debate, I've picked up some good pieces of advice about nuisance barking and a new respect for my neighbors' ability to have a rational online conversation. If only my Facebook feed were this polite during campaign season.
"Noise nuisance" is defined by Multnomah County as "repeated episodes of continuous noise lasting 10 minutes or episodes of intermittent noise lasting 30 minutes". Letting your dog out for a few minutes to chase that *#@!!&$#! squirrel doesn't count. Treeing squirrels should be every dog's fundamental right, privilege, and duty.
Here are my 7 tips for handling your neighbor's barking dog:
Sometimes the hardest thing is actually the easiest.
Before taking any action such as contacting Animal Services, try talking to your neighbor. I know how absolutely difficult this can be. We all want to keep the peace and many of us do so by maintaining a comfortable distance from our immediate neighbors. However, when the noise is interrupting our ability to work from home, sleep, walk down the road without fear, or even enjoy being in our own yard, then it's time to face our fear of confrontation and have that difficult (but hopefully friendly and productive) conversation.
This might seem very hard but it's a lot easier than ending up testifying in court or being responsible for tearing a dog away from a family that was just going through a hard time.
Be aware that there may be more going on than meets the eye.
Every now and then, it's a situation where the neighbor is either unaware or uncaring of the effect their barking dog has on the people (and other animals) living nearby. However, in many cases, there's more to the story. The neighbor may be caring for a "special needs" dog or it may be a foster situation. There might be a medical situation with the person who usually cares for the dog and someone else is doing the best they can to cope. Whatever the case, if and when you approach your neighbor, please be kind, courteous, calm, and open-minded.
Make a friend.
Get to know the dog (and the neighbor). You could offer to take the dog for a walk sometimes so it gets to know you or you could periodically provide it with dog biscuits. Dogs don't (incessantly) bark at people they identify as "their" people unless something is wrong. But make sure to get your neighbor's approval first!
Arrange a dog meetup. These can be fun!
Especially if "cascade" barking is the issue (a noise sets off a whole cacophony of barking from many dogs around the area) then it might be worth setting up a neighborhood dog meetup. Dogs that are well socialized tend to bark a lot less!
Send a letter.
If for any reason you feel that talking with your neighbor isn't a good option, then you can start with a letter. Multcopets.org offers a Barking Dog Letter and Advice Guide that you can download and send anonymously.
Try neighborhood mediation.
Still not having any success? Before going to Animal Services, try neighborhood mediation. Resolutions Northwest is a good place to start for Portlanders. This option might work well when several neighbors want to work together to find a reasonable solution.
If all else fails...
Most counties/cities have specific laws regarding barking dogs and other "noise nuisances". In Multnomah County you can fill out an Animal Nuisance Complaint Form. You must have the owner's information and you must be willing to appear at a hearing or it can be dismissed. Sending this form can result in a variety of actions against the dog owner depending on their response to the infraction. These actions can include: warnings (notice of infraction), fines, impoundment, and even death for the animal. One owner reported that because his special needs dog was considered "potentially dangerous", two noise complaints would result in Animal Control taking the dog and putting it to sleep. So, please, use this as a last resort.
Working together can help us overcome these types of situations and ultimately lead to a better community. Maybe a less noisy one, too. Except when noise is necessary. Those squirrels aren't going to tree themselves!