Spike models a citronella anti-bark collar that is fitted with a small plastic sensor that emits a mist of the scent when barking is detected. Dogs learn that the nontoxic odor is eliminated when they are quiet.

Dog’s undue barking
could cost its owner

Understanding barking helps dog owners prevent their pets from becoming a neighborhood nuisance.

Barking is as natural for dogs as it is for humans to speak. And not all barking is bad. Just as we can communicate a variety of important needs, so can dogs. Barking can be a cry for attention, an alert that a stranger is on your property, or a signal of boredom or hunger.

Barking and the law

Section 7.2 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu addresses barking as a violation of the animal nuisance law. This city law includes dogs that make noise continuously and/or incessantly for a period of 10 minutes or intermittently for 30 minutes or more to the disturbance of any person at any time of day or night.

How does the humane society respond to a barking complaint?

First complaint: A letter, along with educational material, will be sent to the owner informing them that a complaint has been received about the dog.

Second complaint: A humane society investigator will meet with the dog owner to try to resolve the problem.

Further complaints: Can result in fines up to $1,000.

The humane society will not respond to anonymous barking-dog complaints.

To report barking as a nuisance, call the Hawaiian Humane Society at 946-2187, ext. 280.

To inquire about the availability of a citronella anti-bark collar, call 947-2187, ext. 228.

Honolulu police handle nuisance complaints about crowing roosters. Call 911.

Excessive barking can be a source of friction between neighbors and, if it becomes a neighborhood nuisance, can result in fines of up to $1,000 and a court appearance.

Beginning this month, the Hawaiian Humane Society will be able to respond to barking dog complaints in the community (see sidebar), but before your dog becomes the subject of a complaint, consider some of these tips from the society.

"It's important to realize that there are very good reasons for your dog to bark such as a trespasser in your home, a child in danger, a joyful greeting," said Marty Hutchins, animal behavior program coordinator for the humane society. The program works with dogs and cats awaiting adoption, teaching them basic obedience using positive reinforcement.

However, dog owners need to determine what's appropriate and what's excessive.

"I discourage owners from punishing their dogs every time they bark," Hutchins says. "Instead, teach them that a certain number of barks are OK or that a minute of barking is acceptable.

"Train with positive rewards and take the time to teach what 'quiet' means," says Hutchins. "Yelling 'Stop it!' or 'No!' when your dog barks is not as effective in the long run as praising your dog when he is quiet. After a few barks, distract him and calmly tell him, 'Good dog, quiet,' when he is quiet. Reward him with a treat occasionally and always say, 'Good dog.' The goal is to have him understand that being 'quiet' is good."

If your dog barks when alone, reconsider where you leave him. Leaving your dog in a closed-door room can create anxiety. A better choice might be a room with a see-through pet gate. A radio will help to mask noises that might incite him to bark. Dogs tied up outside might bark at pedestrians, noises, cats and other dogs.

"This barking can annoy your neighbors, so we recommend keeping your dog indoors whenever possible, especially at night," said Hutchins. "A tired dog will rarely bark without good reason.

"Dogs that aren't exercised enough often bark to release tension or boredom," said Hutchins. "Take your dog for a long walk before you leave him alone, or make it part of your daily routine to visit a community dog park."

THE EASIEST WAY to be a good neighbor is to prevent a problem. Ask your neighbors if they ever hear your dog barking. In most cases, pet owners are unaware that their animals are creating a nuisance, and are willing to correct the situation. If education or neighbor-to-neighbor communication does not resolve the problem, there are other community resources available such as the Mediation Center of the Pacific.

The Hawaiian Humane Society also loans out citronella anti-bark collars for two weeks based upon availability. Some dogs learn not to bark within this time frame, and others might need more time.

The collar sprays a fine mist of citronella fragrance when the dog barks. Most dogs stop barking to eliminate that odor. The anti-bark collars are sold at the society's adoption counter.

"We recommend the citronella collars, not shock collars. ... Shock collars cause pain and can create other behavior problems," said Hutchins.

Visit the humane society or check online at www.hawaiianhumane.org for more information about barking.

"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month. The Hawaiian Humane Society is a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals. It is at 2700 Waialae Ave. Call 946-2187.

E-mail to Features Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com