Dear New Neighbor:
I bet when you saw Beagles in my back yard, you thought, “Oh, good! She’s used to barking dogs and she won’t mind mine.”
Wrong. And wrong.
Contrary to common belief, a happy and fulfilled Beagle is not a habitual barker. (However, if you give them something to bark AT, you’re going to hear it very clearly!)
Also, my dogs live behind the house. There, they don’t come face-to-face with neighbors who are walking, jogging, or having a little peripatetic quality time with their own dogs. I very deliberately planned that location for their hangout even though the space is long and narrow and funky beside the Arroyo Minor drop-off, because…less stress for them. Less stress for the neighborhood.
Peace and quiet for all.
And, as it happens, my dogs do not in fact bark as a recreational activity. Oh, adolescent Dart flirted with that past-time when he first arrived; we managed, prevented, and otherwise stopped it from becoming a habit until he grew through that phase.
To move into your home, dump your huge dogs there unsupervised for a week where they’re in a yard that runs directly along our shared dirt road, and leave the neighborhood reeling under thunderous, relentless barking.
Then, when the first person mentions the problem, simply say that the dogs will settle in, especially now that you’re back. Then leave them out all day while you’re at work. And then, when the second person expresses distress, again say that the dogs just need time to settle in.
The weeks pass. The neighbor across from you, a pleasant retired person, must close her windows in spite of the need to regulate her household temperature. She can no longer putter amongst her flowers or keep up her yard without an unending chorus of barking.
The neighbors south of you deal with the impact on their own dogs, who are riled and easy to upset, and burst into barking much more readily. Their new rescue dog experiments with barking as habitual entertainment, taking his example from your dogs.
The neighbor southwest of you—that would be me—takes a single ride in her north pasture and comes back inside with ears ringing and eyes crossed and then her horse is trapped in the paddock for the next four weeks, longeing in a small space. She has to close up her house to get work done. Outdoor chores are no longer a restful time during which the muse wanders through stories. Her migraines do not thank you, either. Young Dart ponders, again, the value of recreational barking.
Attempts to make friends with the dogs are fruitless; the shy one never gets close, and the very nice one takes tidbits with gentle teeth and then barks at everyone anyway.
It isn’t their fault. They’re over-stimulated, thrust into an unfamiliar environment, unsupervised. They’re up against the road where the world is in their face instead of restricted to the many acres behind the house.
MANY ACRES. BEHIND THE HOUSE.
The weeks pass. And finally, you receive a letter clipped to your gate, from the one neighbor who hasn’t yet spoken to you. (That would be me.) It’s as kind as it can be, but it states in no uncertain terms: Your dogs’ barking, while you are gone, is relentless. It’s distressing. It’s affecting the quality of life of the entire rural neighborhood—where everyone loves dogs but everyone also loves their quiet life. It is time to do something.
Sympathy and I hope you and your neighbors can educate New Neighbor. Would moving the dogs away from the front of the house to the back help, do you think? Or would they simply bark relentlessly at any moving thing they could see? (It might help the neighbor across the road, as the barking would be farther away.) Would a neighborhood Intervention help–all the neighbors confronting New Neighbor together? I’m sure you’ve thought of all this and more.
It sounds as if New Neighbor sees no alternative but to let them bark until they “settle in” (if ever)–does not know training techniques, does not know why the dogs bark or what they could do instead or how to keep them happy when not at home. And it doesn’t bother New Neighbor because he’s not there to hear it (I’m guessing they bark less when he’s home?)
Miserable situation. So sorry.
The house is back far enough from the road that if the dogs were kept back there, they would be buffered from the neighborhood activity–and the neighbors would be buffered from them. The previous inhabitants did just that (with an invisible fence, very clever) and the dog was basically silent. These dogs, we’d hear…but there would be a lot less of it, and they’d be further away. It would help everyone, not just across-the-street neighbor.
(These are 3-10 acre lots in this neighborhood, with terrain dictating house placement, usually pushed toward the road due to the arroyos. The lots are a lot deeper than they are wide, so basically, the neighbors line the road with seriously generous lateral buffer zones, but we’re not directly across from one another. Thus the dogs are across from both me and my north neighbor, because they run the fenceline.)
I think it’s reaching the point where New Neighbor is going to realize that the entire neighborhood feels pretty strongly about this. I don’t know that we’ll do an intervention so much as a persistency of individual contacts.
Yes, they bark much much less when New Neighbor is home. I think basically that he has been using wanton blinders of “it’s okay because I don’t want to bother with it,” and they’ve kept him from being thoughtful about the situation. My note to him will be, I think, the first extremely direct communication that the dogs are totally unacceptable while he’s not home.
I don’t expect him to work on training or desensitization–if he was capable of that, this situation never would have occurred in the first place. But really, all he has to do is put the dogs in the back. If he can’t instantly build a fence and he wants them outside the house, he can pretty much instantly get a big chain kennel run, pre-made. At this point, I’m not concerned about his convenience when it comes to such things…
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