Dealing with barking dogs

Barking is one way dogs communicate but excessive barking can disturb neighbours and cause annoyance. Here are some actions you can take to make life better for dogs, dog owners and neighbours.

Why dogs bark 

Barking can signify anything from playfulness to danger. However, dogs can bark excessively when they are

  • chained to a fixed point without enough room to move, or kept in a space which is too small
  • provoked, deliberately or unintentionally, by people or roaming dogs
  • under exercised or not exercised at all
  • untrained
  • lonely or bored
  • sick
  • hungry, thirsty, on the wrong diet or generally neglected
  • kept in circumstances that are unsuitable for their particular breed
  • victims of abuse.

If you suspect a dog is being mistreated, contact an RSPCA inspector on (02) 9770 7555 or 1300 278 3589, or visit the RSPCA website.

Caring for dogs

Compassion and common sense can eliminate many causes of excessive barking. A well cared for dog will generally not bark unreasonably and disturb neighbours. Dogs need enough space to move freely in an enclosed backyard. A dog should not be left on a fixed chain for long periods. If a dog has to be chained, it should be on a running chain.

  • Dogs need a place of their own. This can be a ventilated and waterproof kennel outside or an indoor area. Under section 8 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, a dog must be provided with adequate shelter, that is, a structure that protects them from wind, rain and sunshine.
  • Dogs need regular and adequate exercise according to their breed and size.
  • To prevent dogs from getting bored, give them toys to play with or a puzzle to solve such as a puzzle feeder.

Curing the barking habit 

If your dog is well cared for but continues to bark excessively, try

  • removing the direct line of sight between the dog and children or animals, as looking at other animals or children may provoke barking
  • take the dog to a recognised animal trainer to discourage bad habits
  • provide noise insulation for the kennel
  • take the dog to the vet - they may be sick

The RSPCA website provides more information about caring for dogs.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries NSW Animal Welfare Code of Practice No 5 - Dogs and Cats in Animal Boarding Establishments provides information for everyone involved in caring for dogs in boarding kennels.

Noisy dogs and the law

If you are annoyed by the noise from your neighbour's dog, there are several things you can do.

Talk to the dog's owner

The dog's owner may not have realised that their dog is bothering you, and will often be happy to work with you to solve the problem.

Contact a Community Justice Centre

If the problem persists, you may contact a Community Justice Centre (CJC).

These government-funded but independent centres specialise in settling differences between neighbours through mediation, where you meet with the dog's owner and a CJC representative to try and solve the problem. This process will not cost you any money and has a high success rate.

Contact your local council

If mediation is unsuccessful and the noise problem persists, contact your local council. They may ask you to provide evidence substantiating your complaint such as

  • obtaining written statements from neighbours explaining ways in which the dog is disturbing them
  • keeping a diary of when the noise occurs

Check with your council to find out what evidence they need.

If, after examining the evidence, the council officer believes your complaint requires investigating, they will visit the property where the dog is kept. If their investigation proves the complaint is justified, they can warn the dog owner that they intend to issue a nuisance order under the Companion Animals Act 1988. The dog owner may object to the proposed order but must submit their objection in writing within 7 days.

The council officer will consider the objection and decide whether to issue the order.

If they do so, the order must specify

  • what aspects of the dog’s behaviour need to change to prevent the disturbance from continuing
  • that it remains in force for six months and cannot be appealed against

If the owner does not comply with the order, they are liable for a fine of up to $880 for the first offence and $1650 for the second and each subsequent offence.

Seek a prevention notice

Under section 96 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act), a council officer can issue the owner of a noisy dog with a prevention notice. The notice may direct the owner to

  • provide the dog with regular food and water
  • give the dog sufficient space and freedom
  • provide the dog with adequate shelter
  • take action to prevent the dog from barking excessively

The notice can also apply where there are several dogs and a specific noisy dog cannot be identified.

The prevention notice has a 21-day appeal period.

Council officers can issue on-the-spot fines of $750 to individuals ($1500 to corporations) who breach a notice.

If proceedings are taken to a local court, and the offender is prosecuted, they may be liable for a maximum penalty of $250,000 and a further $60,000 for each day the offence continues.

See a noise abatement order

If you want to take action independently of the council, you can seek a noise abatement order under section 268 of the POEO Act from the local court.

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