Barking (Labrador Retriever)

John, we have two tickets for barking, one a conviction the other pending. Our problem is that it’s not our dogs that are the problem. They do not go outside unattended and if one of them barks once, they are brought back inside. There are many dogs in our neighborhood and in particular a black Labrador Retriever. This dog is allowed outside whenever he wants, and barks a lot. Their property backs onto a main street and he barks at people passing by, he barks as he runs back and forth, and he barks out the front window when people pass by. I am not saying that my dogs don’t bark, on occasion they do, but they are quickly stopped. It seems to me that we are being blamed for everybody else’s dogs barking – we had many warnings before the actual ticket and they wouldn’t listen when we said it wasn’t our dogs. Our dogs wear bark collars.

The last time we went to court the judge practically told us to get their larynx cut – “They are dogs not human so it isn’t cruelty.” (his words not mine). Just the thought though makes me feel like a terrible human being. Is getting their larynx cut inhumane?

L.C.

Dear L.C.

Let me get this straight. Your dogs wear bark collars, are accompanied each and every time they’re outside and are brought in if they bark even once and yet you’ve got two tickets and are expecting more because someone nearby has a barking dog. I think my Judge Judy watching grandmother would have been able to create enough reasonable doubt to at least get you off with a warning.

I believe that people have the right to the quiet enjoyment of their own homes and nuisance barking during the day or night is an unfair imposition on those around barking dog(s). It has been my experience that tickets are only issued as a last resort and even then only after the enforcement officer has heard the dogs themselves or has someone willing to testify so this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either. The enforcement officer knows that in a neighborhood dispute situation, giving a ticket as a deterrent to the wrong person isn’t going to produce a lasting solution and as a result they generally do their best to ascertain the facts.

I can tell you that in 20 years I’ve never recommended surgery as a barking solution and when I’ve encountered it, believed it to have been unnecessary. Cutting a dog to solve a barking problem is to me on par with amputating legs to keep them from running away. Dogs bark for a reason. They’re bored, frustrated, under exercised, over stimulated by their environment, untrained or been subjected to unsound training principles like the current, “all positive-all the time-ignore bad behaviour-reward good behaviour” fad, and have owners that are unaware that one or more of these things are the real problem or are aware and won’t or can’t do anything about them.

If I were you I’d get a little handheld audio recorder or even better a time stamped video recorder and keep a log as to when the real culprit is barking and produce it the next time you’re faced with a ticket and if that doesn’t work then when you go into court. Board your dogs for a couple of the days you keep the log and keep the receipts. Spend the money you save on the surgery on a lawyer that owns dogs and doesn’t believe that the definition of cruelty hinges on whether one has two or four legs.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

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