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Page Four of a seven-page article:
How to persuade your neighbors to quiet their chronically barking dogs

The Typical Process and Sequence of Events

If you're thinking about pressing your recalcitrant neighbor to take responsibility for his dog, you need to know going in that there is a characteristic way in which those events almost always play-out.

You are likely to find that 95% of the time when you approach the owner of a chronically barking dog to negotiate the abatement of a barking problem, your first visit simply does not produce results. They do not quiet the animal, and the barking continues. You can explain the hardship you're suffering, ask the owner nicely to take responsibility for the animal, and provide him with all the information he needs to get the job done. However, regardless of what he may or may not say in that first meeting, 95% of the time, the barking will continue on as before.

So your first polite visit with the neighbor usually will not produce results. I'm sorry to say that if you are dealing with a hardcore specimen, neither will your second, or your third or your fourth or your fifth, because friendly, cooperative behavior is simply not in the nature of malicious and recalcitrant people.

Once it becomes apparent that you are dealing with that kind of person, then unless you have an effective, enforceable anti-barking law in place in your town, you have only two choices: Either you stop calling on the dog owner and accept the abuse, or you begin the process of wearing him down. If you decide to pursue the second option, you will be moving onto treacherous ground, and successfully negotiating that terrain will require some serious self-discipline and careful, strategic planning, if undesirable consequences are to be avoided.

Here's the first pitfall that you need to watch out for. If you repeatedly approach a malicious or recalcitrant dog owner, to ask him to take responsibility for his dog, you can absolutely count on him portraying you as the bad guy and himself as your innocent victim; that is something that, from his perspective, he must do.

That's because, almost always, when you encounter an intractably obstinate person keeping a chronically barking dog, you are either dealing with a substance abuser, or, you are dealing with a diagnosable personality disorder, (usually a Borderline, or a Narcissistic, or a Paranoid, or an Antisocial Personality Disorder) who is incapable of participating in mutually respectful relationships.

To the perception of such a person, everyone they encounter is either their superior or their inferior, which is very much the same phenomenon we find in the way dogs view themselves. However, unlike dogs who can be perfectly happy living their lives in the inferior position, predatory personality disorders can only feel worthwhile if they view themselves as dominant. To really grasp what those people are about, you have to understand that their joy in life comes not from joining with those around them in harmonious cooperation, but from conquering their acquaintances in conflict.

If indeed you are dealing with one of the predatory personality disorders then, more likely than not, your neighbor's decision to fill your home with the sound of his barking dog was an expression of his dominant one up-manship to begin with. So when you show up asking him to quiet the animal, he is going to view your request as an attempt to unseat him and assume the throne of dominance yourself. That means that, while for you the whole thing is about whether or not you are going to have a quiet place to live, from his point of view it is all part of a contest that will determine who is to be triumphant and who is to be humiliated.

To the perception of a person like that, the act of quieting his dog would amount to surrendering his control of your home to you, which is something they simply will not do because, to their perception, unless you dominate, you automatically move into the role of an inferior.

Therefore, with his perceived social position and sense of self-worth on the line, there is no possibility that such an owner will quickly and cheerfully comply with your request that he quiet his dog. Given the nature of his personality, he can't comply, and that leaves him with a serious problem, which is that he can't defend not complying.

Imagine that someone says to the recalcitrant dog owner: "I hear you're having trouble with your neighbor. What's that all about?"

If the owner comes out and describes what is really happening, he's going to have to say, "I keep an untrained dog a few yards from my neighbor's house and the constant barking has devastated the quality of his life and is causing him and his family to suffer terribly. He wants me to take responsibility for the animal and, thereby, bring their suffering to an end. But I refuse, and that's why we're feuding." He can't just come out and tell the truth like that, because it would leave him looking like the despicable bully that he is.

Therefore, at least to his way of thinking, the dog owner can't comply with your request that he quiet his dog, and he can't defend not complying. So always, such people respond to that situation by manufacturing a new scenario, one in which you are victimizing them, and they are merely standing up to your tyranny. You can count on the pathological dog owner trying to put that spin on things as he attempts to convince all concerned that the true essence of the problem is that you are an evil person who is out to get him. And if you're not very careful, he will succeed in that effort.

Here's the nature of your vulnerability: By repeatedly calling on your neighbor to discuss the problem he has created, you set yourself up to be portrayed as a villain, and you can see how it might appear that way to many outside observers. After all, people who don't know that the "anti-barking" laws are unenforceable are going to wonder why you continually raise the issue with the neighbor instead of just having the authorities handle it. And those who don't know that dogs can be easily bark trained or otherwise silenced are going to believe that by demanding that your neighbor quiet his dog, you are insisting that he accomplish the impossible. Then you also have to factor in all the people who honestly believe that a person has an inviolate right to keep a barking dog, even in a residential neighborhood. Not to mention all those fortunate souls who succeed in going through life oblivious to everything around them, who are not bothered by any type of noise and find it impossible to believe that anyone else would be vexed by it either. Those people will certainly view your behavior as totally outrageous.

So you see, with all of that already going against you, it's not hard for the intractable owner to convince all concerned that he is your victim, and that the only reason you keep raising the issue of the dog is because you are a belligerent person who is out on a vendetta, for reasons that supposedly have nothing to do with the fact that he placed a screaming animal a few yards from where your family is trying to carry on the essential activities of daily life.

That's the dilemma. If you turn to the authorities nothing will happen, and if all you do is make a polite request or two of the dog owner then, likewise, the noise will just roll on unabated. On the other hand, if you go back repeatedly to address the issue with the owner, you will be vilified as a combative aggressor who is out looking for trouble. It's a tough situation for sure, but there is a narrow crevice between the rock and the hard place, from which you may be able to find enough purchase to take effective action.

One thing you can do is to get the dog owner's telephone number in your first meeting and then, after that, as much as possible, deal with him over the telephone. Sometimes the situation is such that you just have to go over to visit with the neighbor in person, but to the extent possible, handle it over the phone. That will reduce the chances that the dog owner will do you harm and also makes it more difficult for him to portray you as being threateningly aggressive.

Something else you might want to try at that point is to offer to purchase an electronic collar for the dog owner. I can tell you from bitter experience that it is immeasurably easier to just cough up the money than it is to engage in a protracted struggle with a truly obstinate owner. If he will agree to accept the collar and place it on the dog, count yourself lucky -- very lucky.

If he refuses your offer, which is what most do, at that point you will in all probability be down to two choices, each of them even worse than the other. At that point you either have to accept the never-ending stress of the status quo, or you have to begin the process of making repeated contact with the dog owner.

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This page on Persuading Your Neighbors is part of Section Two:
the Your Neighbor's Dog section of