People who let their dogs bark continuously are a nuisance to neighbours and could face fines of up to £1,000 - but they could be unaware of their pets’ behaviour.

While barking isn’t unusual behaviour for dogs, owners are expected to keep it under control. When this fails to happen, they lay themselves open to significant fines and even, in extreme cases, their pet’s removal.

“For those of you leaving your dog out in this heat, barking day and night, please understand some of us are working from home and this is unbearable.” 

This was the appeal from a Spring View and Cuckoo Woods resident who posted on the Pembroke Dock and Pembroke Citizens Forum - a Facebook group with over 5,000 members.

Commenting, another resident said: “The poor dog is left outside 24/7, rain or shine. I feel awful for it, but it’s mentally draining listening to it. I can’t even open a window without it going nuts.”

Whether you love dogs or prefer to keep your distance, relentless, persistent barking causes distress to everyone, and in summer it becomes harder to avoid as people open windows to keep their houses cool.

That’s why in May, retrospective planning permission for a dog exercise field in Pembrokeshire, which had been up-and-running for roughly a year, was refused after a report for planners raised concerns from the council’s pollution control team, with 53 recordings of barking dogs from the site cited.

Interestingly, Wyn Harries, of Harries Planning Design Management, told the committee his own noise recording pointed to the barking coming from residents’ pets, not the site, acknowledging that “by having dogs and owners in the field, it may cause neighbouring dogs to bark.”

If you are being driven mad by a neighbour’s dog barking, you may consider reporting it as a noise nuisance.

Under Government guidance, local councils are obliged to investigate claims regarding noise. Once a report is made to the council about a dog, the owner is given a week to try and solve the problem. A Fixed Penalty Notice of up to £110 follows if they don’t comply. Failure to pay this can lead to prosecution, with a maximum fine of £1,000 for dwellings and an unlimited amount for licensed premises.

UK laws define the maximum acceptable amount of noise during ‘night hours’ which are between 11pm and 7am. Last month it was reported in the press that a woman in Derby had her dog taken from her after neighbours endured months of barking and howling well into the night.

The Derby pet-owner had been fined a ‘significant’ amount earlier in the year, and her dog was seized after she admitted she couldn’t control it.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 defines “any animal kept in such a place or manner as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance” as a ‘statutory nuisance’.

Pembrokeshire County Council says a ‘nuisance’ is “an unreasonable and unlawful interference with a person’s use and enjoyment of their property. A person can suffer a nuisance either in their home or garden.” For a matter to qualify as a nuisance it must be intolerable, not merely irritating or annoying. One-off events are rarely sufficient.” 

You may think it clinches the deal, but don’t waste your time emphasising that you suffer from anxiety or your child has ASD. The council makes it clear that “specific sensitivities of those complaining cannot be taken account of in deciding whether a matter is a nuisance.”

What follows is some sound advice for keeping the peace, in more ways than one:

“It is advisable to first try and resolve the matter by speaking to your neighbour. If you feel safe doing so, discuss the problem with the person responsible and let them know about your concerns. They may not realise that they are bothering you, or may be unaware the problem exists.”

One of the contributors to the Pembroke Dock and Pembroke Citizens Forum concurs:

“You may think ‘my dog doesn’t do this’. Dogs have very good hearing; some can even recognise the car of the owner when they are nearby. This happened to us a few years ago: the owner was out all day, dog barking constantly at the back of their house. However, around 11pm (yes all day in the summer) as soon as the owner drove down the street and parked out the front, the dog stopped barking. The owner was totally unaware this was happening.”

If you do not feel safe or able to speak to your neighbour, or if the problem persists even after you have spoken to them, you can request that the County Council investigates the matter.

If you need to make a noise complaint and you have a smartphone or similar device, you may be able to download The Noise App. The free app allows you to record evidence of noise and submit recordings to Council officers to review. Before submitting recordings using the app, contact the council by telephone on 01437 764551 or email: [email protected] to register the details of your noise complaint.

Perhaps it’s not so much about the nuisance than being worried about the dog’s welfare. The RSPCA receives a lot of calls every year from neighbours who are concerned about barking dogs. 

RSPCA dog welfare expert and dog behaviourist Esme Wheeler said: “If a dog is barking where you live and you’re concerned about it then we’d ask you not to call our emergency hotline. We receive a call every 30 seconds and our teams are incredibly busy trying to help animals in immediate need...

“We’d encourage anyone who is worried about a barking dog to approach the dog’s owner; they may not be aware that their dog is barking while they’re out and may appreciate the information so they can address any issues such as separation anxiety.”

Dogs communicate by barking; they bark for many reasons and are not always in distress. Dog experts Kennel Store advise: 

  • Only reward the dog when it’s being quiet, as it will associate treats with good behaviour.
  • Don’t raise your voice at your dog
  • Try and ensure your dog has regular exercise, set meal times and scheduled play times
  • Identify triggers that lead your dog to bark, and train them not to react to them unnecessarily.

Esme added: “One of the most common reasons that dogs bark at home is because they’re anxious about being left alone. If your pet isn’t used to being left then it’s important that you teach them gradually and in a positive way that it’s not scary.”

To combat separation anxiety, Kennel Store advises: 

  • Don’t make a big deal with your arrivals or departures. Remain calm when you arrive home and don’t give your dog any attention for the first few minutes. Following this, approach them calmly and give them some love. 
  • The most common cause of separation anxiety in dogs is the fear that their owner won’t return. Start with short departures and slowly work up to leaving for longer periods. 
  • Leave them with a piece of recently worn clothes or object that will have your scent, to provide comfort and ease any feelings of anxiety.

The RSPCA says: “If you’re worried that your dog is struggling at home when they’re alone then it’s important to speak to your vet and a clinical animal behaviourist.”