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.
It's important to note there is a difference between a dog's normal barking and nuisance barking, as outlined in Domestic Animals Act 1994. We must rely on this definition 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 would be 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.
Steps to take before contacting Council
Talking to the dog owner or using mediation is recommended before making a complaint to Council. The chance of animosity between neighbours is greatly reduced and these steps often lead to a more successful outcome for both yourself and the dog owner.
- Talk to the dog’s owner. In our experience, most dog owners welcome a discussion as they aren't aware their dog is barking and causing distress. An open and honest discussion is often enough to solve the issue.
- Mediation. If talking hasn't resolved the issue, using a free mediation service is a faster and more harmonious way to solve the issue.
If you have tried talking to the dog owner and mediation and there is still an issue, we can help facilitate further action.
- Report a barking dog to Council. Document the problem in a barking dog diary and then inform us using our online form. An Animal Management Officer will then contact you and investigate the issue.
- Making a second or further complaint. If the same dog is still causing a nuisance, you can contact us again to discuss your options.
What to expect from a barking dog situation
We can only investigate barking nuisance complaints if you (and witnesses) are willing to actively participate in the process and keep a barking dog diary.
Complaints can take some time to resolve. If the problem persists, the matter may be brought before a Magistrate’s Court and you and witnesses will be required to give evidence.
Your evidence will be critical in convincing a Magistrate that the dog is causing a nuisance. At Court, a magistrate may impose a court order on the dog owner to act on the problem, which they must comply with.
It will be important you keep a comprehensive barking dog diary over the course of the investigation that shows the patterns, type and level of noise you are experiencing and how this impacts you. The evidence you give may be subjected to cross-examination.
If you are a dog owner, discuss the problem with your neighbour in a friendly manner and take action to control your dog when you are not around. Read the resources below to understand why your dog may be barking and see Agriculture Victoria's website for more information on barking.