How Do You Handle Neighbors with Barking Dogs? Palo Alto Issues, posted by Member, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2006 at 6:10 pm
Problem Duration: For least ten years!
The Problem: Neighbor allows their dog to bark by
leaving it in driveway starting at 7 a.m.
Dog barks at passing dogs on way to dog
run in park. Other dogs passing by are mostly trained not to bark, but not my neighbor's. They let him bark for a while, then
bring him inside, only to release him later and
start the cycle all over -- up to 10 times a day!
Owner was contacted several times, with dimishing results,
over the years (very selfish). Short, dismissive replies, as if she does not condescend to discuss the matter. Animal Control called and they say no citation unless the dog barks ten continuous
minutes! Nothing about how many times a day, just this duration test, otherwise, no dice!
This dog has a visceral, deep, throaty
bark that pierces even double pane windows.
I involuntarily wake up every morning a little after
seven a.m. when the barking starts. I would like to sleep in.
I'm retired. After this, I'm in a foul mood
the next few hours, because I know soon enought the dog willbreak out barking again, because it has been returned to the place in the driveway where it sees everything the passes by. The barking lasts about a minute, sometimes (rarely) with one or two passing dogs arguing back. The barking recommences at about 9 a.m.
Again at about 2. Again, and more duration around 4-5.
Again around 8. And if visitors come, the dog goes into paroxyms when they approachthe neighbor's house.
My heart starts pounding and my blood pressure goes up. I get upset at my helplessness. I feel trapped without a solution.
I called this neighbor on the phone to ask her to please consider keeping the dog in the back yard instead of the side, so it wouldn't be set off by passing dog walkers. "I most ceratainly will not"
was the haughty reply. A letter I sent received a reply that, what do I expect, "dogs bark. (XX Dog's name) is a part of our family.
I wish you would be more tolerant."
So if appeals to consideration don't work, and animal control services
needs a ten minute calamity to do anything, what am I
supposed to do, let this neighbor run all over me?
I have put up with this for at least ten years, and
how long is patience supposed to last? Mediation with this neighbor,
with this problem of a decade, is not going to work. Too intractable.
The Bar Association Referral Service suggested going to small claims court to sue for nuisance, maximum of $5000. Why do neighbors act this way in Palo Alto????? Is it so hard to respect others? It's not the dog's problem, it's the owners who haven't a clue.
Posted by Suggester, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2006 at 10:19 pm
Based on your description, you are in a hopeless situation vis-a-vis the neighbor's dog.
Given that you are retired, have you thought about selling your house and moving to a place that is quieter? Not only will you feel more at peace, you should have plenty of money leftover after exchanging your Palo Alto home for a less expensive but better, newer house.
It's not necessarily the best solution but sure beats losing sleep and happiness over a dog.
Posted by random person, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 18, 2006 at 10:12 am
I can empathize; I've lived through it and it can really wear on you. And it's unfortunate since with some effort a responsible owner can teach the dog to not bark. Moreover, a lot of barking is caused by neglectful owners leaving their dog in isolation for the day. Pity the poor dog that sits by itself for an entire day with no social interaction. Like humans, dogs are social creatures and will do what they can to avoid feeling isolated and bored. From their perspective, any kind of attention is better than no attention at all.
I don't think there is an easy answer. In my case, I moved (but not really because of the barking, though I was happy to leave it behind).
You might consider trying a ultrasonic bark deterrent such as below:
Another choice would be to befriend the dog and train it yourself. I can't find it now, but when I googled around at the time, I found a story about an individual who did an amazing job of patiently teaching his rude and ignorant neighbor's dog not to bark. It was a great story of using positive feedback, perfectly timed positive reinforcement that worked beautifully.
Best of luck, so sorry to hear that you have to suffer through it. Still, if it's been going on 10 years now, the dog has at most a few years left. Unfortunately, you can't really get your hope up because the owner will doubtless replace it shortly and the problem will persist due to the owners ignorance and disregard.
Posted by Siona, a resident of Mountain View, on Aug 19, 2006 at 2:23 pm
I love the recommendation about befriending the dog. After all, the poor thing has to LIVE with the un-neighborly creature next door! If you're retired, you might even have time to walk him occassionally, or even take him to a park, and training him from that point would be much easier. Too, once you've established the trust and and comraderie of your neighbor, she might be more willing to work with you in keeping the dog from barking.
Good luck, in any case. I can only imagine how difficult your situation much feel.
Posted by Ann Lafargue Balin and Fred Balin, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2006 at 8:33 pm
We empathize with your situation.
You have been treated very, very badly for far too long, and it is clearly understandable why you are so upset. Here are some thoughts:
1. Continue to Call the Police
It is important to continue to create a record of the problem, in case you go to court. You may also get lucky and have the police arrive at a time when the dogs bark for 10 minutes and a violation can be recorded.
2. Call Animal Control
Ask them to determine if the dogs are being neglected and to talk with your neighbor.
3. Contact Other Immediate Neighbors
If you have not done so, contact other immediate neighbors and see if they are also impacted and are willing to participate in a joint letter to the dog owner.
4. Go Through Mediation
If Numbers 1-3 have not worked, you need to go through the City of Palo Alto Mediation program. If you handle this process in a calm, collected, and professional way, you will learn with absolute certainly if your neighbors are reasonable, and you will have the best short-term possibility of positively resolving the situation.
A good neighbor recognizes that if a situation under their control is a problem for their neighbor, it is a problem for them as well. If that is the case, a mutually acceptable solution can be found. If that is not case, you will know it definitively via mediation and can latter proceed with legal action armed with the evidence that you have gone through mediation in good faith.
5. Seek Legal Help
If mediation does not work, pursue legal action if you plan to stay.
6. Take Additional Self-Preservation Steps
By installing double-paned glass, you have already taken pro-active steps to help yourself. Look at additional steps, such as increasing sound-proofing material or moving your sleeping area to another part of the house. Yes, some of these solutions will take more out of your wallet and are disruptive and that is unfair, but we're talking about self-preservation here.
7. Maintain Your Integrity
This is the hardest part. Whatever "provocative" thoughts arise or whatever "interesting" suggestions others bring, use them for internal release, and do everything you can to continue to maintain a professional external demeanor in your dealings with your neighbor directly, via mediation, or otherwise. The worst thing would be for the actions of uncaring, disrespectful people to change you into anything like them, even (or especially) for this one situation.
8. Help Change the System
The stipulation in the Palo Alto Municipal Code that out-of-compliant noise levels (such as intermittent barking) is a violation only if it continues for 10 minutes is grossly unfair. Start a movement, or band together with noise-reform advocates, to work on changing this and other unfortunate provisions of the Palo Alto Noise Ordinance.
Posted by Similarly Imposedupon, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2006 at 4:58 pm
When the dog is barking, you may, coincidently, be in the front of your house watering the fence area. You know how hard it is to completely control where water goes. During hot weather you might water six to ten times a day. Sometimes, at night. If the barking dog happens to get in the way, getting wet will cool it.
Posted by dog hater, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2006 at 6:20 pm
What you describe seems to be representative of many people in this day and age and that is some people are disrespectful of their neighbors. I live near someone who on occasion has left for the weekend and left their dog in the backyard barking all night. I called the police and they came out and said the would let animal control know. I also live near someone that believes its OK to have loud blaring music as the drive home at 2:30AM. I, like you, am sick of it, Palo Alto was full of people that knew their neighbors and respected them; but through the years things have changed. I guess people feel like its their right to do what they want , when they want and that behavior can ruin a community.
I like the idea of getting one of those devices that you plug in and it emits a sound that drives dog crazy....give that one a try and good luck.
Posted by agree with OP, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2006 at 9:03 am
i am going through a similiar situation with my neighbors, who have a junkyard dog they leave outside and she barks at NOTHING. we've called the police/animal control with no results (they told us to contact the neighbors), which also had no results as they are unresponsive and clueless. this dog barks for hours on end when the neighbors are not home or out of town.
on the times we've called the police, i am pretty sure they never showed up.
i see no reason for anyone to have to install double paned glass to fix a problem that someone else is causing. (unless the dog's owners want to pay for it)
Posted by Mary L, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2006 at 9:27 am
We have two dogs and they are our life. We are huge animal advocates, BUT our little dog (a Beagle) barks at nothing! It is MY responsibility as the dog owner to keep my dog quiet and when she barks too much, I squirt her with a hose. Your neighbor needs to take responsibility for her dog and until she does, squirt it with a hose. Is harmless, the dog hates it, and it's better than strangling it. Excessive barking is irritating, even for the greatest dog lover :-)
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2006 at 1:19 pm
Perhaps other neighbors are bothered too. I'm not sure whether it can be a small claims issue, as in nuisance, noise pollution, etc, but the limit in small claims court is pretty high--$7500? If the dog owner is sued by several neighbors, INDIVIDUALLY, at $7500 each, he may decide to change that dog's habits. Just bring in your evidence of your failed efforts at working with the dog owners to solve the problem. Hope it works...
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2006 at 5:01 pm
I sympathize! Here are some thoughts that I hope will be helpful.
--Don't move! You are the one who is in the right. If your neighbor can't live within the bounds of common consideration required in the urban environment, then your neighbor is the one who should move.
--I have just read through the Palo Alto noise ordinance. I cannot see any reference to the fact that a dog would have to bark for 10 minutes before being considered in violation of the ordinance. I believe that is just an interpretation made up by the animal control folks and the police, but it is not the law. Check with a lawyer, but I believe you could sue the city for failure to enforce the ordinance. It is easy to think up situations that show that a time requirement doesn't work. Suppose your neighbor has a race car that he fires up for one minute, several times a day, creating a deafening roar. Would they say that doesn't violate the noise ordinance? I don't think so. If you come up with a series of similar scenarios, each one little closer to your situation, then sit down with someone at the police department, you might be able to convince them that they should apply the law.
--I think you should try mediation, even though you don't expect a good outcome. The presence of a third-party may change your neighbor's outlook. You should do your homework and go prepared. Record the barking dog and measure the sound level (get a meter at RadioShack). Take a boombox to the hearing, along with your meter, so that you can play the sound at its original level. I would record several segments spaced out on an otherwise blank tape, and leave the tape playing. When the barking interrupts the hearing intermittently, the mediator will get the idea of what you're going through. You should do some research and bring information that shows that there are ordinances against barking dogs all across the country. You are not in any way out of line in complaining. A good resource is www.nonoise.org. You should also look for some scientific papers on the detrimental effects of noise pollution (try Google Scholar), and check out the legal concept of the "quiet enjoyment of property".
--If mediation doesn't work out, I think you should repeat all of this in small claims court. I am not a lawyer, but as a concerned citizen, I certainly hope you would win.
--It is sad that situations like this occur. Some people seem to think that the world was put here just for them. I think using scnarios to expose this point of view might be helpful. For example, your neighbor has the right to drive down the street, but not at 100 mph, because that infringes on the rights of others. Your neighbor can do what he wants to in his own back yard, but he can't keep a herd of cows there, because the odor and noise would deny others their rights to enjoy their property. So the argument that "it's a free country, I can do whatever I want" just doesn't hold water. Everyone has to respect the rights of other people.
Good luck! If you are successful, I hope you will post something here to let everyone know.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2006 at 3:10 pm
The link given in the previous message provides the following: "An animal violates the noise ordinance when it whines, cries, or barks continuously for 10 minutes, regardless of the time of day." But read the ordinance--it doesn't say that. There is no mention of 10 minutes--someone just made that up as near as I can tell.
Posted by regainyourPeace, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Sep 20, 2006 at 5:06 pm
I agree 100% you should not be the one to move out!!!!!
It is highly likely that other neighbors are as inconvenienced as you are. Get to know as many neighbors as possible, and find 3 or 4 that are each willing to simultaneously sue the bratty woman. Share a lawyer. Sue her for the maximum that you can. Document all possible damages you all are suffering from the woman's barking dog.
My neighbors and I did that, and we prevailed in court. We only recovered a total of $9,000 (after lawyer fees) as damages to our peace and quiet, but it was better than $0. The noisy dog owner moved out soon thereafter.
Best wishes to you. You should not be a victim. Take action, you are in the right!
Posted by R Wray, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2007 at 4:31 pm
The Palo Alto Municipal Code, Section 6.20.140, Barking Dogs, includes in the definition of "barking dog" as "...continuously and incessantly for a period of 10 minutes within a 15-minute period".
We've had a lot of trouble with neighbors' dogs and it's very hard to time an enforcement officer's arrival so that the above is meant. Even if you're timing is good, very little is done. Unless it is very gross, you pretty much have to live with it--self hypnosis might help.
Palo Alto is very much a dog city. San Jose has a much more reasonable code, at least on paper--I don't know how it's enforced. Their code does not include a time period. It states that no owner shall permit an animal to "obstruct the reasonable and comfortable use of property in the neighborhood".
Also the San Jose code states that no owner shall permit an animal to "defecate on urinate on private property other than the private property of the owner...". In Palo Alto dog owners apparently have a right to bring their dogs to your lawn to defecate and urinate as long as they make an effort to pickup the feces. Never mind that urine kills the grass, that dogs sometimes have diarrhea, and you may not want the owners trampling on your flowers and lawn.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2007 at 4:46 pm
I am with the people who say you should pursue small claims action. I would not put up with this one minute longer. Forget mediation. Send your neighbor a certified letter saying that if the barking does not stop immediately that you are prepared to start legal action. If (as is likely) the barking does not stop, then file a suit in small claims. It's very easy to do and they'll help you with the details at the courthouse. Others in this thread have offered great advice about how to document the problem. I like the idea of recording the barking so that you could play it. Your neighbors might make good witnesses if they agree to help you...but most people will just want to stay out of it even if they are bothered by the dog too.
If you have the money - a few grand minimum - you could hire a lawyer to file a superior court case. More expensive for you, but also for your neighbor since he/she will have to hire a lawyer too. BUt it shows you're serious.
Posted by R Wray, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Aug 24, 2007 at 10:33 pm
I am not a lawyer, but I understand that small claims courts primarily resolve small monetary disputes. How would you assign a monetary value to a dog barking case? I'd be interested in knowing if anyone has ever filed such a case in this area.
Posted by Mischievous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2007 at 12:41 am
"We've had a lot of trouble with neighbors' dogs and it's very hard to time an enforcement officer's arrival so that the above is met."
The original poster said that the dog barks when people pass by. Couldn't you 'arrange' for that to happen through the help of a few friends? They could stroll past the neighbor's house then pause & linger a bit while the dog does its thing. Under the circumstances, an arranged demonstration doesn't seem overly harsh.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2007 at 4:45 am
Interesting thread. I wonder which is we would prefer as a town - inconsiderate neighbors who don't manage to keep their dog quiet, or legally aggressive neighbors who take their neighbors to court over it. It seem like a downward spiral.
Posted by Mischievous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2007 at 4:55 am
Most 'legally aggressive neighbors' took into consideration the 10 years of frustration that Member has had to endure. I don't see how this leads to a 'downward spiral' - it's not as if they're suggesting that one 10-minute peep out of a dog would lead to such drastic legal action, after all.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2007 at 8:33 am
That's a fair point, Mischievous, I agree.
Also, for anyone who has successfully sued, I also wonder how the claim works, since the person with the dog does not seem to be in violation of city ordinance (assuming the dog doesn't meet the 10 minute standard). Can you successfully sue someone for anything you don't like, even if it is within their legal rights?
I'm sure others recall the article a few months ago about two fueding families, complaining about things like where one family's basketball hoop was placed. Was there cause for a lawsuit there?
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2007 at 10:22 am
Dear member - video tape the dog barking, assuming you can from the sidewalk or your yard. You can use it in court or post it on YouTube! Good luck, I can sympathize. Our neighbor has a friend who stays at their house when they are out of town, their little dog can bark for hours, literally. Luckily its only a few days a year.
Posted by Too many dogs, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Oct 28, 2007 at 10:28 pm
I agree with Draco. Some dog owners expect you to love their dog no matter how obnoxious the animal is. A former friend said to me Love me Love my dog, when I suggested she not take the dog along with us when we went out to dinner.
Another friend loves to show me her dog's injuries, he runs loose where they live and he often gets injured. I recoil and she enjoys showing me his cuts and scars etc.
People sometimes use their dogs as a form of aggression on people. The dog people are getting out of control and demanding rights that take away from the community. (like more dog parks). Dogs are not people. Need to remind them of that.
Posted by Frustrated neighbor, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 7, 2009 at 1:33 pm
We live on a beautiful cul de sac and enjoy wonderful neighbors.
However, we have one neighbor that refuses to maintain their house or their yard. We recently tried to nicely approach them to suggest that we help clean up their yard. We were met with sarcasm and that their property was their's to do what ever they wanted with it.
They proceeded to cut off all leave bearing branches on any trees bordering our property line leaving ugle stubs. They took the branches which will soon whither and placed them on their front grass claiming they wanted to prevent cats from urinating on their non existent front lawn.
They place is disgusting, harming the value of our neighborhood and creating an environment that will create plant disease and harbor bad insects etc.
Please help me with constructive ways to deal with this terrible neighbor. I have tried many times to talk them professionally and they always try to turn it into a racial or its their right kind of thing. We now have found out that they have termites as well in their house. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Posted by Experienced, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 7, 2009 at 3:36 pm
Start a new posting instead by pressing Post a New Topic. This thread is for the barking dog issue which was posted over two years ago. You will have less readership if you leave your new question on this thread.
Posted by Dog lover, but I control mine, a member of the Terman Middle School community, on Nov 8, 2009 at 10:34 am
My neighbor's dog barked NON STOP at me every time it saw me in my kitchen window, or going up to my mailbox, or trying to work in my yard, or even just sit in it and enjoy it, or saw me in my baby' room out her window..in other words..all the time. I talked to her, fed her treats, offered to bring her to dog behavior class WITH ME so that she would respond to m ( neighbor refused), started calling the neighbor the moment the dog barked ( soon refused my calls)..Animal control and police laughed me off.
We didn't have that nice looking "bark control" device through the link in those days. Would like to know if it works for future use though so let us know.
I DO know I had gotten to the point of desperation, willing to literally do anything ( in a kind and quick way) to get my rightful peace and quiet back, but fortunately they moved before I was pushed to my breaking point out of self-defense. Not only was that dog destroying all my joy in my home, but was constanty waking up my baby from her nap or me from my sleep.
Dog owners, take note. Nobody else is obliged to listen to your dog. It is your job to control your dog.
Posted by like dogs but not noisy ones, a resident of another community, on Oct 17, 2010 at 10:28 pm
Bless the lady on the other side of the neighbors with the dog that barks all day. She filed a letter with the district attorney and tomorrow it's going to court.
All the neighbors have been asked to witness to the fact the dog barks, as the dog owner is pleading 'not guilty', maintains the dog does not bark and that he needs the dog to 'protect' him. It's all nonsense and lies, as the police officers who've responded to at least five calls about excessive dog barking/violation of noise ordinance can testify. (Pray why would the dog owner be in court if his dog is compliant with the law?!)
This is a message to all who are suffering from a bad neighbor: Persist in calling the police. Call every time the dog barks for more than a few minutes, especially if the dog owners are home. Leave anonymous notes objecting to the noise (do not stray from that topic) and when the dog owner persists in having the dog out barking just for spite, call the cops.
My sincere sympathies to anyone who has to suffer the daily intrusion and trespass of barking.
Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community, on Oct 17, 2010 at 11:06 pm
If you're not up the the permanent solution of a "quiet burger", here's a technique I used a couple of years ago when I had a neighbour in a rental that had 5 rat terriers.
I parked a car in front of the neighbours house. It was close enough so that the car's remote would work. Whenever the dogs barked, I'd hit the panic button on the remote, and I would leave the car horn going until the dogs stopped or were called inside.
I thought this might train the dogs to stop barking.
I was wrong.
It trained the neighbours, and in 2 months they moved out.
Posted by joe the plumber, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2012 at 9:45 pm
Honestly reading what you wrote I believe you are the problem. I make leaving working on the area and some residents are really hypocrites I hope you are not one of them. Palo Alto is a place where most of the houses have upper income consequently residents wants always something but they do no want noise. come on you selfish people if you want Palo Alto beautiful you must give some chance to work without involving the police or suing. you see what I am talking about. First solution give as present to your neighbors dog a collar that prevents bar if that does not work put more insulation on your walls and replace the windows you are talking about the right will reduce the sound on ratio from 100db to 10db. do your research before going on war with your neighbor.