Noisy Dogs

Residents who are upset by noise caused by continual barking of a neighbour's dog(s), either inside or outside their homes, have the right to take action in an attempt to resolve the problem.  Please remember that residential properties are seldom designed to be totally sound proof. You may from time to time be able to hear your neighbour's dog(s) barking.

It is normal and natural for dogs to bark and you cannot expect any neighbour's dog to be silent. However, if the noise is so loud, frequent and prolonged as to interfere with your normal activities as an occupier, it is reasonable to expect the dog owner to take steps to address the barking problem.  A dog that barks or howls a lot can be extremely annoying to neighbours.

Dog Owners

The constant barking or whining of a dog can be very disturbing or annoying for your neighbours. Often this problem occurs when you are out of the house so you do not realise it is a problem or how bad it is until someone complains. In law a barking dog can be a ‘statutory noise nuisance’.

Don’t blame the dog and think that you will solve the problem by replacing him with another. All dogs bark and unless you change at the same time, the problem could still be there.

Dogs are not by nature solitary animals, they need the security of a family group. Pet dogs regard their owners as a substitute family and can soon become distressed when left alone.  Your dog may bark because it is lonely, bored, frustrated.  It may be seeking attention or defending its territory or it may have a medical problem.

Training is important so that your dog does not bark at anything that moves. A well trained dog should be able to tell the visitors allowed into the house and the people who are intruders. Good training is essential at an early age, this combined with affection and companionship should mean that your dog will not develop these bad habits. Start as you mean to go on.

Some dogs just don’t want you to go out. Your dog may get used to the idea if you:-

  • Leave at different times of time the day and for different periods. That way he might not be so concerned each time you leave. Don’t make a fuss of your dog when you leave him.
  • Try putting the dog on his own in another room for a few minutes then gradually build up the time you leave your dog alone. Do not return to the dog until he is quiet for a period. When you return praise him.
  • Some dogs bark because they want to join in with what is going on outside. If this is the problem, try leaving your dog where he cannot see outside.
  • Some dogs will settle if they can hear a human voice, leaving the radio or television on at a low volume may help.
  • Try not to leave your dog for long periods. But if you have to, try and organise someone to look in during that time or possibly take the dog for a walk or let them out into the garden. If your garden is secure you may consider fitting a dog door but be mindful of other problems this may cause.

If you do have to leave your dog for long periods:

  • Feed and exercise him before you go out and leave fresh water to drink.
  • Make sure that the room is not hot or too cold and there is adequate ventilation.
  • Make sure his bed or basket is comfortable and not in a draught or direct sunlight.
  • Leave a large marrow bone to chew and some favourite toys to play with.
  • If you are not returning until after dark, either leave a light on or use a night light that comes on automatically when it gets dark.
  • If you leave your dog outside all day with access to a kennel:
  • Ensure the garden is completely secure to prevent your dog from straying and causing problems.
  • Try not to put the kennel near a neighbour’s fence where the dog may be tempted to bark.

Disturbed By a Barking Dog

We always recommend that you raise the problem with your neighbour in normal conversation. Explain how the barking affects you and ask your neighbour if he/she would solve the problem. Often dog owners will not realise that their dog is causing a disturbance. This way, it can be brought to their attention and addressed, without the dog owner feeling they have been complained about to the authorities.

We recognise that this is not always possible, because it may be difficult to approach the dog owner directly. We recommend that you put your concerns down in writing to your neighbour in polite terms; again pointing out that the barking is causing annoyance and requesting that he/she takes action to solve the problem.

You should allow adequate time for your neighbour to consider your request and take appropriate action. You should allow at least 2 weeks before starting to see an improvement. Copies of correspondence should be kept for future reference.

If the dog's owner is unable to resolve the problem and you wish to contact us for help, you will be asked for the following information:

  • Your name and address and contact number or email address. (Your details will not be given to the person complained about without your permission). Although we will record the complaint, we will not usually deal with complaints where the complainant will not give us these details. You should also be aware that if the complaint is either dealt with by formal notice or it ends in court action it is likely the offender will know who you are.
  • The address where noise is coming from (names and contact phone numbers are very helpful to us if they are available).
  • When and for how long noise occurs and the way the noise affects you (you will be asked to complete log sheets)
  • Anything you have done to try and deal with the problem (e.g. talking to the dog owner regarding the problem)

Please note that the law means we are unable to take into account particular sensitivities (e.g. light sleeper), or things which don't effect the majority of the public (e.g. shift worker). In order to judge whether barking is causing a problem we must take into account what is unacceptable to the average person. It is also worth noting that exaggeration of the frequency or duration of barking will undermine the credibility of your case at a later date.

It is also important that reporting a barking dog problem is not the result of hostility between two neighbours, a neighbourhood dispute or dislike of a neighbour. Barking nuisance should be considered in isolation from all other matters and making a request to the council should not be used as a form of retaliation against a neighbour.

Whilst we will undertake investigation of all cases reported to us, sufficient evidence needs to be gathered to demonstrate a statutory nuisance in relation to dog barking. This can be a long process and only a very small number of cases will present with enough evidence that an abatement notice can be served. We are also aware that the serving of an abatement notice will not immediately alter the behaviour of the dog and therefore wherever possible will offer training advice and help to dog owners in order to reduce problem barking.

The Law

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) it is an offence to cause a statutory nuisance.  Where officers have determined that a statutory nuisance exists, the owner of the dog would be served with an abatement notice requiring them to stop the dog causing the nuisance within a set time period. Failure to heed this notice could lead to prosecution.

It is important to understand that not all noises that cause annoyance will constitute a statutory nuisance and that some types of noise are not covered by the Act.  In deciding whether statutory nuisance exists, the nature, volume, frequency of occurrence and how often and when the noise occurs all need to be taken into account (occasional or sporadic barking is unlikely to be a statutory nuisance).

In some cases the investigating officer may be sympathetic to the effect the noise is having on you, but cannot take the matter forward as a statutory nuisance and formal action would not be appropriate.  In cases where the council does not view there to be a statutory nuisance, you have a right to take your own action through the courts.

Private Action

An individual, but not a local authority, can consider taking formal action under Section 49 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Opens in a new window or downloads a file). Which states:-

  1. A District Court may, if satisfied that any creature kept in the vicinity of any place where a person resides is giving that person, while in that place, reasonable cause for annoyance, make an Order requiring that person keeping the creature to take, within such period as may be specified in the Order, such steps (short of destruction of the creature) to prevent the continuance of the annoyance as may be so specified.
  2. An Application to a Justice of the Peace Court for an order under subsection (2) above may be made by any person.

There may be a fee associated with making these applications.  You must appear in Court on that day with any witness you may have.  It will be up to you to convince the Court that what you say is true.  Alternatively, you may employ the services of a solicitor to undertake this on your behalf. The nearest Justice of the Peace courts is in Inverness and for more information of if you wish to proceed you should contact them at:

Sheriff Court House, The Castle, Inverness, IV2 3EG, Tel: 01463 230782, email: inverness@scotcourts.gov.uk