Neighbour’s barking dog – what to do

When it is our own dog barking for hours on end, we can do something about it. But when it is the neighbour’s dog driving you up the wall, it may become a little trickier. Shouting over the fence to keep quiet or do something about it is definitely not how to handle the situation. Helene Vermaak is Director at The Human Edge and she explains how to handle the situation.

New lifestyles

Gone are the days of vast pieces of land between neighbours, where we couldn’t hear one another, and a barking dog was a distant noise. As suburbs have developed, we’ve found ourselves in closer proximity to one another and as a result our actions, or lack thereof, are impacting others more than ever before.

Below is an excerpt from a recent WhatsApp conversation on my community forum:

  • Resident A – Can anyone else hear that dog?
  • Resident B – That dog has been barking for hours!
  • Resident C – I am sure they are abusing that dog.
  • Resident A – If it doesn’t stop in the next five minutes I am calling the SPCA and reporting them!
  • Resident B – Yes, do it!
  • Resident C – Definitely!
  • Resident D – Don’t you dare! We aren’t even at home! I can’t believe this! We are meant to be neighbours!

If only the disgruntled neighbours had picked up the phone and called the owners (resident D), the matter would have been resolved a lot more amicably.

So, when you have eventually had enough of that noisy dog next door, how do you handle it? We need to build communities where we can speak to our neighbours in the right way, without anger that inevitably makes difficult situations worse. Here are a few tips to help you engage in a positive manner that will more likely lead to an acceptable outcome for both of you.

Set up to speak

Instead of being in a silent or violent pattern, create an opportunity to speak to your neighbour. Call and leave a message for them, asking them to pop in. The stakes are high and emotions will undoubtedly also be high, from both sides. This conversation will impact the quality of your life.

Before you meet, have all the facts ready. Don’t exaggerate the situation, and have possible solutions on hand. Make sure your heart and head are in the right place before starting. Remember, people don’t become defensive about what you’re saying. They become defensive because of why they think you are saying it.

The first few seconds will set the tone. Ensure that your emotions are in check. Conversations often go badly because of negative emotions – irritation, anger and so on. Your neighbour will react, so try to see them as reasonable, rational human beings. This will help to soften strong emotions and ensure you come across agreeably. When others feel respected and trust your motives, they feel safe, let their guard down and begin to listen.

Create an environment of safety by expressing your issue with their dog and then inviting dialogue. If the conversation starts to decline, own your part. Take responsibility. Stop and acknowledge if you’ve done something you don’t like, or pause and change the direction of the conversation. The effects of a conversation gone bad can be far-reaching. So, if your neighbourly confrontations or community forums look more like a Jerry Springer show than healthy communication, it may be time for healthy dialogue.

The Human Edge is an innovator in corporate training and organisational performance, providing solutions and skill sets for creating lasting sustainable behaviour change. For more information visit www.humanedge.co.za.

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