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Note: The article below has received the Barking Dogs Infamy in Media award for 2005.

Spats over yappy dogs can be resolved

East Valley Tribune - Mesa, Arizona (USA)
Written by Beth Lucas - November 20, 2005

A south Gilbert neighborhood has become a poster child for neighborhood barking dog wars. A resident in Gilbert Commons near Gilbert and Williams Field roads is the first in at least six years to be taken to Gilbert Municipal Court after neighbors complained that her four dogs bark too often. Related Links Today's Top Stories News Never mind that the animals have had their vocal cords cut to "debark" them. The resident, Barb Recker, is appealing the case - and a $75 fine that goes with it - in Maricopa County Superior Court.

"I agree that there's a time and place for dogs to bark," said neighbor Harry Koehnemann, who also has received notes about his dog barking. "We get dogs because they are protective. But there are some people that if the dog ever barks, it's too many times."

In e-mails he wrote to Gilbert's mayor and Town Council, Koehnemann said he agrees that barking dogs can get out of control, but he said his neighborhood is mostly quiet. He said a town ordinance that allows residents to be fined if two neighbors complain is open to misuse.

Koehnemann said he's received a few letters asking him to keep his own small dog quiet. He said he used a bark collar for a short period and has since had no problem with barking complaints.

The situation is not uncommon in East Valley neighborhoods. As the region grows, more people move in with dogs - and houses spring up closer together.

"I used to live on a horse property, and none of us worried about barking dogs," said Gilbert police Lt. Joe Ruet. "But you've got a different situation in neighborhoods where they've got their block walls and they can't see each other. The proximity of the bark to the window is a bigger problem."

During the past year, Gilbert police have received hundreds of calls from residents upset about barking dogs. The number of calls has ranged from 55 in August to a high of 109 in October.

Often, neighborhood fights over dog noise can be resolved through mediation services set up by municipalities through the Leadership Centre, said Gilbert senior code enforcer Stephen Wallace. He added that many violations stem from dogs being left alone while residents are at work.

Centre director and founder Cynthia Dunham said her organization is dealing with more dog barking arguments than ever. In extreme cases, feuding over dog noise can lead to violence.

In April 2003, for example, Alan McMahon of Scottsdale committed suicide on Camelback Mountain after shooting a neighbor's brother to death over a barking dog. Neighbors there said they were shocked to learn that Michael Morris, 45, had been killed after coming to the aid of his sister-inlaw, who felt threatened by the neighbor.

"It's definitely getting worse because we're getting more and more dogs crammed into smaller and smaller spaces," said Craig Mixon, who operates a national Web site,, which tracks barking dog problems that turn to violence.

More products come on the market every year to deal with barking dogs, from collars that zap a barking dog to products that screech from the neighbor's yard to stun a dog into silence.

Gilbert resident Ken Hodges sells devices out of his home in an Internet business to help neighbors who say barking dogs are ruining their lives, but who want to avoid confrontation. He began the business at http:// after he said a neighbor¹s dog would only stop barking if he shook a glass jar of pennies in his yard.

"Five years ago, there was only one (silencer) device available," he said. "But there are a lot more options now than there were five years ago. Generally, people, when they confront their neighbors, don't get too much cooperation most of the time. People are real protective of their pets."

Mesa veterinarian Kelly Moffat, only one of 39 vets nationwide certified in behavioral training, has seen neighborhood feuds turn ugly and has treated pets who've been poisoned by angry neighbors.

"People will leave threatening letters (that) if dogs don¹t stop barking, they're going to poison it," she said.

Moffat said many times dogs bark because they're lonely, and it's key for owners to investigate why their dog is barking.

"I feel for people who have to listen to the barking dogs," she said. "A lot more vets are getting training in behavioral medicine, which is exciting."

No-barking training (see the Webmaster's warning below)

  • Each time your dog barks, after two or three woofs, praise it for sounding the alarm. Then tell it, "Stop Barking."

  • Simultaneously, waggle an especially tasty food treat in front of its nose. Most dogs instantly stop barking because they can¹t sniff and lick the treat while barking.

  • During this quiet time praise it continuously. After three seconds of no barking, let it have the treat.

  • The next time it barks, require it to stop barking for five seconds before it gets the treat. Each time it is told to stop barking and succeeds, it will be rewarded.

SOURCE: Perfect Paws dog training

Need help? To receive Solve-It! community mediation services, contact The Leadership Centre at (480) 732-7296, send e-mail to, or visit www.theleadership Contact Beth Lucas by email, or phone (480) 898-6373

Webmaster's Warning:
Using this "anti-barking" intervention with your dog will dramatically increase the animal's frequency of barking.

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