Dog Behavior Issues: Questions & Answers 

Do I own a watchdog or a neighborhood nuisance?
Determine for yourself whether your dog is a good companion and watchdog or a neighborhood noise nuisance by asking yourself the following questions.
Does your dog bark excessively:
  • When someone rings your doorbell?
  • When garbage collectors, mail carriers, paper carriers, etc. come to or go by your house?
  • When children are playing outside?
  • When another animal comes into view?
  • When another dog barks?
  • When hearing a siren?
  • When wanting to get into the house?
  • When you leave or return home?
  • When left alone and lonely?
If your answer is "yes" to any of these questions, your dog could be a neighborhood nuisance. This disturbance of the peace is one of the quickest and most common ways to become a bad neighbor. Persistent barkers are more likely to be ignored if there is a real emergency, since they seem to bark all the time.
 
What is a noisy animal?
 
Section 14-5.1 of the Prince William County Code states:

It shall be unlawful for any person to allow within the County prolonged or intense barking or other harsh or excessive noises to be made by any animal under his ownership or control, at any time, so as to disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of one or more members of the community.
  
What is good about a barking dog?
  • Alerts owners of potential problems.
  • Warns owners of a stranger's presence.
  • Alerts neighbors of intruders when you're not home.
  • Indicates an animal in distress.
 
 What is bad about a barking dog?
  • One dog barking usually starts another dog barking.
  • Excessive barking is extremely annoying.
  • Barking that disturbs one's rest or sleep is aggravating.
  • Excessive noise disturbs those who are ill, shut-in, etc.
  • Noisy animals can create neighborhood arguments, resentment, etc.
  • Witnesses can obtain a warrant for this code violation.
  • It usually indicates a highly nervous or bored animal.
  • Excessive barking can be harmful to dogs.
  • Unless stopped, barking may develop into a type of hysteria.
 
What can I do about my barking dog?
  • Determine what causes the dog to bark.
  • Dogs are less inclined to bark if a barrier blocks their view.
  • Be alert and stop the barking as soon as it starts.
  • Train your dog to respond to a command to be quiet.
  • Reward your dog whenever it barks for a watchdog reason.
  • Don't leave an animal unattended for long periods of time.
  • Train your dog to stay quietly within its quarters when you are away.
 
 How do I stop my dog from being a barking nuisance?
  • The best cure for a barking habit is prevention early in a dog's life.
  • If a dog already has a barking habit, then you must make efforts to correct the situation.
  • Whatever training method you choose, be consistent and persistent with the animal.
  • Simple scolding and punishment may be sufficient.
  • When left alone in a house, help the loneliness by leaving a radio on.
  • To help either an indoor or outdoor dog with boredom, be sure to have some toys available for amusement.
  • Don't make a big thing out of leaving or returning home; an overly excited dog is more likely to bark and yelp.
  • You may consider taking the animal to an obedience training school if the dog is too neurotic for an inexperienced trainer.
  • Your dog will soon learn that his silence pleases you.
 
 What  can I do about a stray dog?
 
Contact the Prince William County Police Department at 703-792-6500 if the dog is running at large. This is in violation of County Ordinance Section 14-23. You must give your name and address when reporting the complaint, but this will be kept confidential. Be sure to give an accurate description of the animal so that the Animal Control officers can try to locate the animal and its owner.
 
Why should I take my dog to obedience training? Or, Someday, My Dog Will Come
 
Snow White whiled away 100 years waiting for her prince to come. A lot of dog owners who have twiddled their thumbs waiting for their own Prince, Rex or Fido to come can sympathize with the mythical heroine. The key to getting your dog to come when you call is to teach it to come when you call.
 
This sounds like simple, common sense, but it is often overlooked. An eight-week-old puppy will follow on the heels of just about any kind-hearted, warm-blooded animal that pays attention to it. When you own a puppy, you can easily be lulled into thinking it follows you because you want it to, and that it always will. The truth is, it follows you because it wants to. When it matures in six to nine months, and develops other interests, it will take off in the direction of any good scent or diversion, no matter what you say. It still loves you and plans to get back to you later, but it won't come reliably every time you call, unless you take the trouble to train it.
 
Just hollering the dog's name over and over again until it wanders your way is not training. This is where a good obedience training course comes in, and every dog and owner will benefit from taking one. Ask at the Animal Shelter for information on obedience training, and enroll yourself and your four-footed friend, so that someday, your dog will come.
 
What can I do about my neighbor's barking dog?
  • First, try to contact the owner and work out a solution.
  • If this doesn't work, you have the right to charge the person keeping the animal with a violation of County Ordinance Section 14-5.1. The Police Department can assist you in obtaining a warrant issued by the magistrate.
  • This warrant would be served by the Police Department upon the person named on the warrant, which would advise them to appear in General District Court on the date specified in the warrant. It is necessary that you also be present in Court at the same time. The Commonwealth's Attorney will be in Court to assist you in this matter.
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