3 Steps for Dealing With Crazy Dog-Hating Neighbors

I call my dispute resolution plan CuReD, and it has worked to manage cranky neighbors -- or at least make dog owners feel better ignoring them.
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I have moved all over the place in four countries and stayed in various apartments and complexes, including semi-swanky and semi-slum. In the process, I have met a wide variety of virulently dog-hating neighbors, the kind of people who hate all dogs in general and your dog in particular regardless of training or behavior.

They piss me off. That’s only natural. But I don’t like confrontation and I do like to get on with people around me. So I have developed CuReD, the three-step approach to dog-hating neighbors.

Here is CuReD in action:

Step 1: Conciliation

No matter how doomed it might seem, start with the charm offensive. Even if they will never come around, you are better off knowing exactly what the neighbor’s problem is. This involves biting your tongue and asking, sincerely, what is making them unhappy. The ruder they get, the politer you should be. If you can find a way to do them a favor at this stage, all the better, whether they deserve it or not. This is your first chance to seize the moral high ground!

You might be surprised how often this actually pays off. I had one neighbor who said something I couldn’t even make out, but it was grumpy and involved the word “dog.” I was tempted to fire back and let her know what I thought about her real-fur jacket, but taking the high ground paid off a few days later when she apologized and explained that it annoyed her how the dogs ruined the lawn. I replied that I had to admit the lawns near the doorways looked like they had been hit by incendiary missiles rather than just dog pee, but a lot of dogs do live in the building. She said she realized we weren’t doing it on purpose, and we have been on good terms ever since.

Step 2: Remediation

I had one neighbor who was convinced that dogs smelled bad. She even went as far as opening her apartment door and spraying the corridor with air freshener just because I had walked by. Pretty offensive, right? Then she called the building administrator to complain. Well, my response was to say that the landlord or management company could come by any time. If they could detect any odor at all, I very much wanted them to come over, help find the source, and deal with it.

Not defensive, not upset, not even bothering to deny it beyond having to say I genuinely did not know what the compliant was about. This approach made it pretty obvious to the people involved that there wasn’t really a problem, and that was the end of the drama.

Sadly, some landlords are dog haters, and in many cases previous tenants have made them that way. My approach is to never deny that my dogs create extra wear and tear, and to never try and hide the damage they do.

Step 3: Disengagement

Sometimes those neighbors just be crazy. Like the one who thinks that because his apartment building is “no dogs,” I am not allowed to walk on the pavement, or even the road, outside it. Like the one who tries to surreptitiously kick my dog when I walk past.

For these people you have one clear, confident but polite disengaging conversation. Like: “I will walk on this sidewalk when I need to, and if you wish to call the police about that, you go ahead. I have nothing more to say to you.”

Or: “I will avoid coming near you with my dog as much as I can, but it is unacceptable for you to touch my dog. If you have a problem with my dog, you let me know and I will deal with it.”

Don’t wait for a response. Just deliver the message and move on.

In the end, be polite

You might think that for your dog-hating neighbor, the first two steps are a waste of time, but there is one reason this is not true. Even if the dog hater will not change his ways, you are demonstrating good faith and good intentions. You are showing that you are a calm, responsible person who cares about the opinions of the people in the neighborhood and wants to be a good neighbor.

It is natural to want to shout or argue to defend your dog, and you should never become a pushover. But believe me, excruciatingly polite disengagement pisses off histrionic dog haters far more than anything else you might come up with to “win” the argument. No matter what card they play, being the better person will trump it if you are consistent.

Make a reasonable accommodation to their feelings, but decide where to draw the line, and then don’t stress about it. Now if I walk by the woman who thinks she owns the sidewalk and she hisses some obscenity at me (which is quite disconcerting when coming from an elderly lady in a cutesy sweater set), I just wish her a good day and keep on walking, secure in the knowledge that I have not sunk to her level.

She is not going to ruin my day.

How do you deal with dog-hating neighbors? Do you take the moral high ground or do you get down on their level? Tell us your strategies in the comments!

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About the author: Emily Kane is a New Zealand-born animal behaviorist of the throw-back radical behaviorist type, albeit with a holistic-yuppie-feminist-slacker twist. She spent many years as an animal behavior researcher and is now more of an indoor paper-pushing researcher. Her early dog-related education came from Jess the Afghan Hound and Border Collies Bandit and Tam. It is now being continued by her own dogs and extended dog family and some cats (and her three aquatic snails Gala, Granny, and Pippin — they think of themselves as dog-esque).

18 thoughts on “3 Steps for Dealing With Crazy Dog-Hating Neighbors”

  1. "Unfortunately a lot of dog owners are not responsible enough …"

    I'd say that most are not responsible enough. Small dogs are merely noisy, larger ones can be something else.

    The thing is that really good obedience training takes about 1000x the trouble that people want to go to. It's real work, been there done that. It's easier just to spoil/ignore what is basically a feral animal combined with an ersatz baby. These people should get a cat.

  2. I love dogs. I dislike irresponsible pet owners. I hate pet owners who get nasty when asked nicely to be cool with their pet. There is a social contract that normal people abide by and understand that it is not cool to disturb the neighborhood. Loose dogs, dogs out barking, and poop left behind are not cool. Just be a cool pet owner and everyone will love you and your pets.

  3. Pet allergies is a serious one and I have it. I just wish the ADA would consider the athsma attacks we suffer as a result of living in the same apartment building with pets, and allow property manager to designate a few buildings within the apartment community for people who have pet allergies.

  4. Lol. All you seemingly “non dog friendly” internet users critiquing dog owners who are visiting this article in attempt to be more considerate of their neighbors…you are in fact on “dogster.com”

  5. Now I’m going thru this with my neighbors. Irresponsible pet owners. Don’t hate the dog even tho it growls at me. It’s the people. They now dislike me because they can’t control their dog and I’ve complained. Sweet. Go figure.

  6. Irresponsible pet owners make non pet owners dislike pets. Dealing with a neighbor now that lets their 3 dogs bark all day and sometimes all night, they are also digging under our fence causing damage to our yard. When notified of the digging they got irate and called me every name in the book. No concern about their dogs destroying my yard just childish insults and cursing. They even told me they would leave them out more now so they will bark even more. Talking with people like that never does any good, they told me they did not have to make their dogs stop barking and there is nothing I can do about it. Why people want 2 big dogs and a medium size dog only to be outside barking all the time in a neighborhood is beyond me. Have some respect and common decency for your neighbors right to peace and quiet in their own home. If you cannot control your dogs get rid of them. I have always thought that to be allowed to own a dog or dogs that you should have to take a test that proves you are smarter than a dog. Too many people buy dogs and never interact with them just put them outside to annoy their neighbors. Shame on you.

  7. If your pets are causing issues, you should be held responsible. My neighbors have 6 dogs (city only allows 2). The dogs are NEVER on leashes, and ALWAYS running across the street, and into our yard to bark at us. One of their big lab dogs even broke my foot (in my own yard). All 6 dogs bark the entire time the owners leave the apartment. When my elderly father went over there to let them know that the poor dogs melt down the second they drive off, the owners started making violent threats at him. I’m disappointed with irresponsible pet owners. And I’m done being polite with most of them. The police get called first. My other neighbor only has 2 dogs but they are on my back deck 3times a week. Dispute my sugary-sweet PLEADING to have them leash her pup up. If you are following EVERY dog law, I feel for you. If you are like my neighbors, then I hope yours are worse than me.

  8. Most complaints about dogs are well founded, Unfortunately a lot of dog owners are not responsible enough and allow the dogs to become a nuisance to others. It’s a shame.

  9. We live in SW Florida and have an older neighbor who bought a old spanish home and poured tons of money and time into renovation plus compulsively cultivates the yard. I think she forces her much younger husband to use cuticle sissors to trim the hedge to perfection. They are “not dog friendly” to use her words. We have two. It boiled over after she ORDERED me that I had to not walk on the sidewalk and the city easement was hers and my dog could not even step foot on it. We pick up any dog poop always and she has screamed at others for dogs stepping on her property. Finally I have had it and told her she had no right to order me off the sidewalk and she lost it. It ended with me telling her she had no problem having her habitial drug addict grandson who is a felon and also a theif move in next door to us but a 12 year old well mannered dog could not walk on her sidewalk? It went downhill from there. We are fine with it. She was a bore who pontificated endlessly on her creative genius so it works for us. Now we let the dog pee on the easement if it wants to. It was worth it!

  10. …Or just accept that neither you nor your dog run the world, your neighborhood included and also accept the fact that people have different likes, dislikes and personalities. Yes, that means that you might very well have neighbors who dislike dogs and their barking. Instead of b!tching about it on the internet, you can learn to live with it, accept it or keep moving until you find a dog crazy neighborhood. Alternatively, you might even take your neighbors’ complaints into consideration and stop letting your dog annoy them or damaging/messing up their property. Your choice.

    1. I don’t know about that. i own my house. I let my dog out to go potty, in MY back yard, and she barks for a few seconds when she sees him. I immediately stop her, and instead of him being accepting of me trying to help, he insists on cussing at my dog, and throwing things at her. He has gone so far as to spray her with his hose, and kick at the fence when she is near. Of course, she is going to bark at him NOW; he scares her. I let her go out, do her business, and I rush her inside now, never having her out more than a minute at a time. I can’t handle the abuse that he is giving my dog, and by extension, me. I usually do my best to hold it in, but the other day I lost it when he threw his water can at the fence where she was. I had to say something. He lied and said he didn’t do it, even when I stood there and watched him. Some times it isn’t your fault, but the grumpy neighbors!

  11. I’ve live in my hows with womderful neighbors for 10 years but one day they broight home a new box. I and another neoghrbor immediately identified a problem. If that dog was outside then it was letting off constant high pitch barks. We went over and offered to show them how to work with it to get a handle on it. After a couple visist and a few hours we all gave up. The famn thing is crazy. I can tell my neoghbors do what they can but the mut is a compulsove high potched barker and can tell its bouncing off the doors and walls of their house. I can’t understand why anyone would want such a thing on their property or in their house.

  12. i have a old owner , i think she doesn’t like dogs at all.i have a small pekingese dog which is very obedient and quite. but she complained to apartment manager, he said to us “leave the flat immediately “.. this is the situation quite ridiculous. how the people wont like even a kind small puppies .. i shifted my flat from that apartment .. i just fucked it..

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