Whether it’s the high-pitched yelping and yapping of an anxiety-addled chihuahua or the terror-inducing snarl of a pit bull or rottweiler, living near a household with a dog that incessantly barks can be audibly torturous and a source of constant stress.

If your neighbour’s dog is keeping you up at night or waking you up in the morning, or just being a noisy nuisance at all hours of the day, it’s reasonable to wonder how you can legally put an end to the cacophonous barking. But what are your options if you don’t want to move or deal with bad neighbours and their annoying pets? You’ve probably asked yourself more than once, what can I do about a neighbour’s barking dogs?

When it comes to disputes between neighbours, problematic pets rank among the top causes of such strife. Indeed, there are few things quite as annoying and maddening as an irresponsible dog owner that allows their pet to run wild or bark constantly, putting the tranquillity of serene silence and quietude out of reach for everyone within hearing distance. But it’s hard to blame the dog itself because all dogs bark, but it’s their owners who have likely failed to train them properly and allowed them to become a problem not only for themselves but also for the entire neighbourhood.

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Dog owners and animal control

Obviously, the first option for people with noisy dogs next door is to talk with their neighbours face-to-face about the problem. While it may be awkward or uncomfortable to confront them about their cherished pet, making them aware of the issue is a necessary first step in addressing it even if the meeting goes nowhere and the problem persists.

Short of convincing them to hire a dog trainer or take the animal to an obedience training course, convincing your neighbour to correct their dog’s behaviour is likely easier said than done. If all else fails, making a noise complaint to the city or reporting the dog to animal control might seem drastic, but if your neighbour can’t keep their pet under control, there’s little else that can be done other than involving municipal animal control or bylaw authorities.

Depending on the local laws of your city or town, problems with a neighbour’s dog or dogs can be solved or at least dealt with by finding out how your particular city deals with noisy animals. In British Columbia, for example, most if not all municipalities have their own noise control bylaws that apply to both humans and animals. In Vancouver, the city government has both an animal control bylaw and a noise control bylaw.

Noise complaints about my neighbour’s dog

According to the city government’s website, barking dogs that cause a nuisance can be reported to the city, although it suggests talking with the dog’s owner before making a formal complaint. It also suggests that when talking about the problem, mentioning that you’ll make a complaint to the city might “motivate” your neighbour into fixing the problem. If confrontation isn’t something you’re willing to get into with your neighbour, the city advises people to leave an anonymous note.

Noise complaint about my neighbour’s dog

To report a problem, you can use the city of Vancouver’s VanConnect app, which requires you to give your name, address, and phone number and the address or unit number of where the problem animal lives. For the city to investigate, it also needs a description of the dog and specific times and dates of when the barking was causing you trouble. The city needs your information to follow up on the complaint and warns that complaints about barking dogs made anonymously are only recorded and not investigated. The city’s investigation keeps your information private, but it’s possible to find out the identity of a complainant through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Animal control authorities

As part of its investigation, it will visit the owner of the animal at issue and tell them that a complaint has been filed while suggesting methods to halt the “nuisance barking.” But in case that doesn’t work, the city advises people to record the barking in a log to be used as evidence in potential legal action. Its animal control officer, meanwhile, can request that you record or log the barking instances for two weeks, which can be used in a legal case against the owner of the dog.

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The barking log or “barking package” should include information about when the noise occurs, how long it goes on, and what kind of problems it causes you. Once you’ve sent a finished barking package to animal control, they conduct a review and a city prosecutor decides whether to approve and pursue charges against a problematic dog owner.

Should the city prosecutor move forward with the legal action, a court date will be scheduled and requires you as a complainant to attend for the purpose of verifying the information you provided in your barking package. But attending court will mean the end of any anonymity you may have enjoyed during the complaint process, and the dog’s owner will find out it was you who initiated the investigation.

Animal control authorities

Call animal control

Should the case go to court, a judge can issue a fine against the dog’s owner and hand down a court order requiring the owner to stop the dog from barking. The court actions, though, fall under Vancouver’s Animal Control Bylaw, while its Noise Control Bylaw states that noise from animals must not cause an “unreasonable disturbance” to neighbours.

When city bylaws or animal control efforts fall short, however, some people may end up taking a dog’s owner to court, or even a building’s homeowners’ association or strata council for failure to enforce noise and nuisance bylaws. For instance, in 2020, British Columbia’s Civil Resolution Tribunal heard a case involving a woman and the Owners of Strata Plan NW 902. The woman, Colleen Ruttan, took the strata corporation to court, claiming her downstairs neighbour’s dog was barking so much that it interrupted her work.

In the Civil Resolution Tribunal case, Ruttan complained about how the strata council had not properly used the complex’s bylaws against “Ms. X,” her downstairs neighbour, who had a dog that had been bothering Ruttan, even reducing her to tears in one instance, since at least 2017.

Get a dog trainer involved

Ruttan wanted the dog removed from the strata complex, but the strata corporation wanted the tribunal to dismiss the complaint, claiming it looked into all of the complaints about the dog, had issued letters and fines and held a meeting about it. By the time the matter made it to court, the strata claimed, removal of the dog had become “unnecessary” because the noise had been “significantly reduced.”

Ruttan’s unit was directly above Ms. X’s ground-floor suite, and Ruttan’s office where she worked as a writer was directly above what she called the dog’s “barking room.” The strata’s bylaws allowed residents up to two dogs as pets but prohibited the use of a unit as a “nuisance or hazard” to other residents, and the owners of any nuisance pets could be ordered to “eliminate” the nuisance under the strata’s rules.

An animal that is the subject of a complaint, according to the building’s bylaws, had to be removed within a week after being notified by the building’s strata council following an investigation. However, the strata were required to give an owner “suitable time” to “rectify the difficulties,” according to the CRT’s ruling.

You can hire a lawyer to send a legal letter or cease and desist.

A Neighbour’s dog barks all night

Ruttan’s evidence included emails and texts to the owner and strata council, documenting years of complaints about the dog’s barking. The tribunal found that the dog had indeed interfered with Ruttan’s use and enjoyment of her strata unit, causing her “great stress.” But that wasn’t enough for the tribunal to order the strata corporation to enforce its bylaw to remove the problem animal.

That bylaw required the strata council to give Ms. X “suitable time” to fix the problem, which included her buying a “bark control device” and taking the animal to doggy daycare during the day. The tribunal member, in turn, found that “some barking is to be expected” in a building that allowed owners to have up to two dogs in their suites.

In dismissing Ruttan’s complaint against the strata corporation, the tribunal found that strata councils are bound to rule the complex in the best interests of every owner as a group, even though that often may “conflict with the interests of individual owners.” With that in mind, it was reasonable for the strata council to allow Ms. X to keep her dog, though the tribunal’s ruling notes that it was open to the council to enforce the bylaw should Ms. X violate the building’s noise and nuisance bylaw “in the same manner in the future.”

Neighbour’s barking dogs’ conclusion

You might be wondering ”what can I do about my neighbour’s dog?” If your neighbour’s dog is causing a problem, you should speak to your neighbour. Don’t start off by tormenting the dog with a dog whistle, or by calling the animal control authorities.

If things continue to get out of control, you might try the following:

  • Call the Humane Society
  • Call animal control about the dog’s behaviour
  • Introduce your own dog to the other dog
  • File a claim in small claims court
  • Speak to animal services
  • Ask your neighbour to hire a dog training service
  • Sometimes the police department might get involved if things are getting violent

Dog behaviour can affect your real estate value. Sometimes there are trending stories in the news about cases that get out of control.

There’s little doubt that disputes with neighbours can be bitter and drawn out, and when they involve beloved family pets, emotions can easily run high and spiral out of control.

If talking to your neighbour about the problem doesn’t work, the city government may step in and help, or you can always take them to court if you think you have a strong case. The process may not be cheap or fast, but a court order to stop a barking dog from bothering you is likely more effective than a simple conversation.

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