Ask Abbie: Neighbor seeks help in dealing with barking dog, owner

Published 12:29 pm Saturday, May 25, 2013

by Abbie Long

Question: My neighbor’s dog is driving me crazy. He barks all day and keeps me awake at night. My neighbor spends a lot of time away from home but even when he’s there the dog barks. I’ve already tried talking to him twice. Should I try talking to him again or should I go ahead and call the authorities?

Disturbed neighbor

Answer: Mr. Smith couldn’t take his hot commute another day. His aggravation was fueled by the fact he was going to have to take time off from his new job to fix this inconvenience. When he finally took his car in he told the mechanic to add some coolant to his air conditioning system and to hurry it up. The mechanic’s attempt to speak was muted by Mr. Smith’s ringing phone. When the car was ready Mr. Smith was still on the phone, ignored the mechanic’s verbal report, quickly paid, and declined the receipt. Soon after, he noticed the system not blowing as cold as it did when first re-charged but attributed the cause to a hotter than normal summer.

One afternoon Mr. Smith cranked up his air to full blast but received only a blast of hot air. Now he was not only physically hot but also hot under the collar for wasting his already scarce time, money, and energy trying to fix a problem that still existed. Mr. Smith had allowed his aggravation to misdirect his focus onto getting instant results, making is commute bearable, rather than onto an honest evaluation of and in turn a long-term solution to the problem itself, fixing the leak in his system. By calling the authorities you, like Mr. Smith, are likely to receive only a temporary period of relief and not a lasting solution to your underlying problem. I suggest the following steps to repair your problem of dysfunctional relations with your neighbor before calling the authorities. If successful you stand to gain a neighbor upon whom you feel comfortable enough to call should a need or emergency arise. That’s what neighbors are for.

1. “Kill him with kindness.” It is said this idiom is 90 percent effective and based on my personal experience I agree. Execute this approach and believe in victory. Your attitude will carry you far.

2. Write down exactly what you are requesting of your neighbor. Even the slightest hint of ambiguity leaves room for interpretation and you are no longer open for interpretation you are now only to be clearly understood. Make sure to keep the tone kind while establishing definite boundaries such as the specific hours you require no barking. Be sure to add how much you appreciate his effort thus far but that nothing had changed and your health and productivity at work are starting to suffer from lack of sleep. Rehearse what you have written so you will be prepared to deliver your message verbally, not on a piece of paper.

3. Get some cookies for your neighbor and a treat for his dog. A big bone for the latter is perfect because he cannot simultaneously chew and bark. Time a visit to your neighbor’s house when you think it will require the most effort on his part to answer the door. Don’t catch him on the way in or the way out because that will not produce an annoying enough inconvenience. Deliver your rehearsed message with a gentle spirit yet firm stance. If this doesn’t work proceed to the next step.

4. Up your annoying nice neighbor approach a notch. Go over to his house everyday for the next two weeks unless the barking stops before. This takes a lot of effort on your part but look on the bright side, the more often you go the more you will probably grow to like the dog and he you. Once the two of you connect you will automatically find yourself not as bothered by his barking. Also, your neighbor will be so sick of having you come over every day he will be ready to do anything to have his own peace in quiet. Touché!

If your neighbor is still not willing to cooperate with you, even after you have tried your own approach plus the ideas listed above, you must accept the fact he is a person with whom you cannot reason. In this case, realize you may never be able to fix the source of your problem until one of you decides to move. At this point call the authorities who will come to the rescue with cans of coolant for short term relief. Do not allow your neighbor, or any other unreasonable person who may come into your life, the honor of exhausting your own spirit. It is your most valuable asset.

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to