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Barking is a normal behaviour for dogs. They bark for many reasons, it could be a warning or a sign of excitement, affection or unhappiness. However, when dogs bark excessively it can become a concern to others.
There is a difference between a dog's normal barking and nuisance barking, as described in the Domestic Animals Act 1994 on the Victorian Government Legislation website-external site.
We refer to this definition from the Domestic Animals Act 1994 when investigating a complaint:
"A dog... is to be regarded as a nuisance... if it creates a noise, by barking or otherwise, which persistently occurs or continues to such a degree or extent that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in any other premises."
Barking is one way dogs communicate and it is unreasonable to expect a dog to completely stop. Barking can be annoying at times, but this may not be enough to prove the dog is a nuisance.
A dog owner may not be aware their dog's barking is annoying to people in the area. It's possible that the barking only occurs when the owner is not at home.
In most cases, approaching the dog owner in a friendly manner and discussing your concerns with them can resolve the issue. We consistently get feedback from dog owners who tell us they would have welcomed talking about the problem with their neighbour and taken action to solve the issue to help both their neighbour and their dog.
Contacting a dog owner
- Identify the address where the dog lives
- Communicate your case clearly and politely with the dog owner.
- Help identify the reason for the excessive barking, such as activities happening in the area when the dog barks. Filling in the 7-day barking dog diary, available below, may help you and the owner to identify when the dog barks.
If you are unable to speak to the dog owner or feel uncomfortable approaching them directly, write to them. Use the sample note available below or write your own personalised letter with details about the days and times of the barking.
Remember that a dog’s barking behaviour can't always be solved overnight. The time frame to a solution is dependent on the circumstances and what triggers the dog's barking.
It is the responsibility of the dog owner to make sure their dog doesn't cause a nuisance to others, but it is important to keep an open dialogue with your neighbour about their progress. They may be trying to re-train their dog to help the issue.
If your neighbour won't discuss the matter with you, or if they have been responsive but the level of barking hasn't reduced, document the barking in the 7-day barking dog diary. Then either begin mediation or report the problem to us.
Download the barking dog diary and sample note
If attempts to resolve the problem through talking to the dog owner are unsuccessful, mediation is a good next step. It is an alternative to a long investigation and legal action, and helps create a good relationship between neighbours.
The Victorian Government’s Dispute Settlement Centre provides a free and confidential mediation service for people to deal with dispute or conflict. The address for this centre is Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria, 4th Floor, 465 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. You can also email the centre at [email protected] or call them on (03) 9603 8370.
If you haven't had success talking to the dog owner or in mediation, we can help facilitate more formal action against the dog owner.
Before you contact us, record 7 days of the dog's behaviour in the 7-day barking dog diary, which you will need to attach to our online form. We can't take any action until we receive a completed diary.
It is important to record the barking in detail before you contact us. We need evidence of the barking being a nuisance and how it affects you before we can become involved. The diary will help us understand the severity of the problem.
Lodging a complaint with us
- Identify the correct address of the offending dog(s).
- Fill in a 7-day barking dog diary for at least 7 days before contacting us.
- Fill in our Report a barking dog online form-external site and attach the completed barking dog diary.
Visit our Making a further complaint page if you'd like to report additional concerns with the same dog.
How we will investigate your report
We will appoint an Animal Management Officer to your case, who will contact you to:
- clarify or confirm the information you have provided in the barking dog form
- discuss the nuisance impact on you
- take a detailed account of the issue to assess if a nuisance exists, as defined in the Domestic Animals Act 1994.
You will receive a letter letting you know that we have written to the dog’s owner to advise of the complaint, and have given them 21 days to reduce the barking. We will also request you to complete a more detailed 14-day diary, available in the downloads section below.
If the issue does not resolve within this time, the officer will take a formal impact statement from you and assess whether a Notice to Comply can be issued. At this stage, you may be asked to continue to record barking events in the 14-day barking dog diary.
We may go out on location to verify that barking is consistent with your description and door knock, or survey the area to establish if anyone else is affected by the barking. Legal action may be taken to remedy the issue, and you may be required to continue to record barking events.
If we don't receive the required information or participation from witnesses, we may not be able to pursue the investigation.
Download the 14-day barking dog diary
Legal action through the Domestic Animals Act 1994 isn’t something to be entered into lightly and can be a long process. Legal action is not automatic and will depend on assessment of each case.
You will have to give evidence and be a willing witness in court.
The detail and accuracy of your sworn evidence, and that of your neighbours, is critical to help achieve a successful outcome in court.
You will be required to keep detailed diaries over a period of time as well as complete a detailed impact statement. The evidence you give may be subject to cross-examination in court.
We will not get involved in any unrelated domestic or civil disputes between you and your neighbour.
Possible court outcomes can include:
- Good behaviour bonds
- Criminal conviction in serious cases
- An Order requiring the owner to carry out certain actions or refrain from carrying out certain actions. For example, restricting the times of day the dog is allowed outside, requiring the dog to attend training and exercised regularly, and in serious cases the court can order that the dog be removed from the property.