Q: I live in a quiet suburb of Metuchen, New Jersey. Neighbors whose back yard is adjacent to ours have two very large dogs that they leave outside all day, and the dogs bark continuously and loudly. Six months after this pandemic, my other neighbors and I have reached their limits as we work from home and the noise affects our quality of life. What recourse do we have?
ONE: Dogs that stay outside all day may bark to communicate with any passing dog because of fear, or to protect their territory from squirrels and chipmunks. Whatever the reason, incessant barking is the main complaint to animal control centers, according to Mary R. Burch, an animal behaviorist with the American Kennel Club.
Dog owners must train and supervise their pets. And you have to convince them to do it. First, talk to them. Start in a neutral place, provided they don't notice the disturbance the dogs are causing.
"Give the neighbor a chance to fix it," said Dr. Burch. "The neighbor may not know that her dog barks all day when she's gone."
Explain that barking affects your ability to work. Also, ask other neighbors to speak to the owner so it's clear this is a neighborhood issue.
The owners can fix this by possibly getting the help of a professional trainer. You can bring the dogs inside when they bark. You can train them in boxes and leave toys to occupy them while they are alone instead of leaving them outside. You can teach them to bark on cue.
If the owners reject you and the barking continues, report the behavior to your community. The Metuchen Sound Code deals directly with barking and defines an inappropriate disturbance as a dog that barks for five minutes continuously or intermittently for 20 minutes. Record or videotape the barking on your phone to reinforce your complaint to the city.
Even cities that don't specifically address barking still enforce noise pollution. "Almost all codes contain a stipulation that no one should allow noise that disturbs the comfort or tranquility of a neighbor," said Alan Fierstein, owner of Acoustilog, a noise consultancy.
If inspectors found the barking was against city rules, owners would likely receive a warning first, followed by a violation, Fierstein said. However, in the long run, you will be better off solving the problem without involving the authorities and maintaining your relationship with your neighbor.
Sign up here for weekly email updates on residential property news. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.