Understanding dogs’ bark



The shrill sound of the phone ringing abruptly jolted me awake. Glancing at the clock, I contemplated who could possibly be calling me at 2 a.m.

Groggily answering the call, my neighbor’s exasperated voice commanded, “your dog is barking! She has been barking for an hour and I can’t sleep.”

Fumbling for the light switch, I could barely discern the “woof” coming from the backyard.

It was midsummer many years ago, and I lived in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood. My old dog was a black lab that enjoyed lying in the cool grass at night, a respite from the scorching daytime temperatures.

I never discovered what she was barking at in the dark hours, perhaps the moon or some other celestial body. And it wasn’t a constant bark alarming me of an intruder. It was just a single “woof” every couple of minutes.

She was 10 years old that year, so it could have been some senility. I recall being awakened many nights that summer by my insomniac neighbor and dog.

Dogs bark. It is their means of communication. Often they vocalize a happy greeting when you walk in the door. Some breeds bark more than others. For example, beagles and hounds “talk” a lot.

Often, dogs bark if they are bored or left alone for long periods of time. They may experience separation anxiety, but their barking their displeasure is often unknown by the owner.

Fears and phobias such as loud noises can induce unwanted barking. Quite often, though, your dog’s vocalization is a warning that someone is near. Typically, a dog will bark to convey its emotions. 

There are many people who choose not to have a dog in their lives. They tend to be more sensitive to the persistent sound coming from a four-legged animal next door. Even avid canine lovers become frustrated with the neighbor’s dog that incessantly barks while he or she works in the yard.

Nuisance barking even can develop into legal issues ultimately involving Mesa County Animal Services.

According to the animal services website, “no owner of a dog shall fail to prevent it from disturbing the peace and quiet of any other person by loud and persistent barking, baying, howling, yipping, crying, yelping or whining, whether the dog is on or off the owner’s premises. In Mesa County and the City of Grand Junction, excessive barking is generally considered to be at least 30 minutes of unprovoked barking within a 24-hour period. Mesa County Animal Services wants to assist if there is nuisance barking in our community that is negatively impacting a citizen’s or neighborhood’s quality of life.”

If you are experiencing nuisance barking from your neighbor’s dog, consider talking to the pet’s owner, explaining your observations of the animal’s behavior. It is hoped that by divulging your information, the owner will be persuaded to rectify the situation.

However, if a dispute is inevitable, animal services requires video or audio evidence of at least 30 minutes of unprovoked barking within a 24-hour period to issue a citation. An investigation will be forthcoming with proper documentation.

Please be aware that the reporting party and any witnesses will be required to appear in court if the dog’s owner disputes the citation. If the dog’s owner pays the citation, he or she is admitting guilt.

I recently read the article “Why is your Dog Laughing” by Lee Dye, a columnist from ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The piece described recent developments in animal communication. Ultimately, the final conclusion determined that people do not speak the same language as animals. We presume to understand the complex behavior of how species interact, however, our judgment lies with human perception, not that of the animal.

Nobody asked the dog what it was feeling and why it was barking. That is not in our scope of rationalization. Perhaps if the barking dog could communicate with a neighbor in the same “language,” the court system wouldn’t have such a burgeoning schedule.

Charlé Thibodeau has been passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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