Friday, February 12, 2010

How to Handle Noisy Neighbors & Their Barking Dogs

I have a formula for silencing noisy neighbors that works almost every time. I say almost every time because there are usual circumstances that make it very difficult to solve the problem. In most cases, however, it's rather easy.

This method also works well for getting your neighbors to take action to quiet their barking dogs. When it comes to dogs, many cases are easily handled, while others are more difficult. Some are impossible.

There is nothing more infuriating than to constantly have noise created by your neighbor or their dog(s) invade your home. It completely ruins a person's ability to listen to music, watch a movie, read a book, meditate, study for a class, work on a speech, take a nap, and countless other things. If you are reading this because you are experiencing a noise problem right now, you know exactly what I am talking about.

I am not going to bore you with all my stories about noisy neighbors and their barking dogs. Just let me assure you that I've experienced just about every noise problem that you can imagine. If there is any one area that I might be considered a guru it would be this one because of the incredible number of unbelievable noise problems that I've dealt with.

I've tried every method I could find to deal with my noisy neighbors or their barking dogs. I am going to pass along to you the most successful techniques I've discovered or developed on my own. Here they are.

Inform Your Neighbor about the Noise Problem Anonymously

I can't over emphasis the importance of remaining anonymous. There's always a natural tendency to want to "do the right thing" and talk to your neighbor in person. Unless you are close friends or it's a very small issue I would strongly advise against it and here's why.

When a neighbor knows that it's you who is complaining about a noise problem it becomes a personal matter. This is especially true when the problem isn't solved to your satisfaction and you are forced to talk with them again in order to get the noise problem fixed. If that doesn't work you'll need to go even further and contact the authorities. Then things get really personal!

Another benefit to remaining anonymous is that your neighbor will not know if one person is complaining or the entire neighborhood -- if you write your letter carefully. I'll talk more about how to write letters later. They also will not know if it's the little old lady in the house to the right of them or the heavyweight mixed martial arts champion on the other side.

If you do have to escalate things by calling the police or other authorities, whom you can remain anonymous with as well, your noisy neighbor won't have anywhere to direct their retaliation. Their only recourse will be to comply or move.

The biggest advantage to remaining anonymous is the peace of mind that it will give you in knowing that you will not have to deal with angry looks, stares, or confrontations. You also won't destroy the possibility of having a positive relationship with them in the future.

There are rare situations where remaining anonymous is impossible. For example, if you live in a duplex on an isolated piece of property your neighbor will know where any complaints came from. Even so, I would still advise against direct contact unless you have a close relationship.

I have tried it both ways in dealing with noisy neighbors and their barking dogs. Direct face-to-face contact rarely worked and it usually got personal, whereas anonymous communication with a letter or other means has proven to be the most successful.

Methods for Communicating & Solving the Noise Problem

There are five ways to communicate and solve a noise problem: (1) write a letter, (2) contact the property or association management, (3) contact your city's noise abatement or animal control department (if available), (4) contact the police, and/or (5) file a claim with small claims court.

You should start with the least aggressive action and only advance to the next level if necessary. In other words, don't use a double barreled shotgun when you can get the job done with a peashooter. Your goal is to solve the problem in the easiest way possible.

Writing a letter is the best and most effective method. A letter gives you full control, the ability to describe the problem in your own way, and as much time as you need to devise your communication in a tactful manner. A face-to-face confrontation doesn't allow these opportunities. I'll give you some dos and don'ts on writing the letter later.

The alternative to a letter is to contact your property or association management by phone or in writing. I would tell them up front that you wish to remain anonymous. There are two advantages to sending a letter to management: (1) it creates a record and (2) letters tend to get more attention. I'd suggest that you start with a phone call. If you don't get any response, send them a letter.

Many cities have a noise abatement and/or animal control department. The individuals who staff these departments have heard it all, so they can be very helpful. They can provide you with suggestions on how to deal with your noisy neighbors or their barking dogs. They will usually contact your neighbor in writing. Animal control officers will typically send a letter and then follow up with an in person visit to counsel your neighbor on ways to control the barking. The disadvantage here is that the process can take a considerable amount of time because they must follow a strict set of guidelines and they usually have limited resources.

I've been amazed at how easily some barking problems can be fixed. I had a neighbor who put her German Sheppard on her front porch every afternoon. Because this breed is territorial, it barked at every person and car that passed by all afternoon. After I wrote her an anonymous letter about the problem, she stopped putting the dog on her front porch and I never heard it bark again.

If none of your letters or other efforts has worked or the noise is so ridiculously loud that immediate action is necessary, call the police. And call them repeatedly if the noise continues. The police will ask you for your name. Just tell them that you wish to remain anonymous. I've always been pleasantly surprised at how understanding and supportive the officers that I spoke to were. If your neighbor still doesn't stop the noise after repeated visits by the police, they may ask you to declare a citizens arrest. This empowers the officers to take further action, but it really complicates things. Once you do this your neighbor will, of course, become aware that the complaints are coming from you. I'd recommend that you only do this as a last resort.

By just sending a letter advising your neighbor that you intend to file a claim in small claims court may do the trick. Tell them in the letter that you will be filing the claim on X date if the problem isn't fixed. Be sure to select a date out in the future that will give them enough time to take action and think about it. State your intent in a factual manner. Do not use threatening undertones.

I had a noisy neighbor that I tried everything on to get her to keep her music down. When I sent a letter informing her that I was going to file a claim in small claims court, she let me know through a third party that she was going to move. I was delighted, as you can imagine.

If after you've tried every means possible and the noise problem still hasn't improved, you might go ahead and file a claim. It doesn't cost much to file, the court proceedings are informal, and you may win a cash settlement. Collecting it can be tricky, however. Nevertheless, wining the case may persuade your neighbor to take action to fix the noise problem or move!

Sometimes it takes considerable effort to silence noisy neighbors. But once you're successful, your appreciation of the quiet will have grown 10 fold.

Find the Noise Ordinances (Codes/Laws) for Your City

You'll feel a lot better once you find that there are many laws supporting you in your quest for peace and quiet. You can find these by visiting your city's website.

Look under headings like "City Services" and "City Departments." Then look for links to "Municipal Codes," "City Ordinates," "Noise Abatement," and "Animal Control." Or just try a search from the home page with these keywords: noise, noise complaint, barking dog, or loud music.

These ordinances may also provide you with information on which departments and agencies handle noisy neighbors or their barking dogs in your city. They may even include phone numbers, FAQ's, and how-to guides.

I'd recommend that you make a few copies of the ordinances that specifically addresses the noise problem that you are having. A copy of this ordinance will not only be useful for future reference, but it will strengthen any letters you write if you include it as an attachment.

Once you arm yourself with this information, you can proceed with a lot more confidence and assurance that the problems with your noisy neighbors can and will be solved.

Write a Letter & Clearly Explain the Problem & How to Fix It

As I mentioned before, writing a letter is the best way to solve a problem with noisy neighbors. Whether a letter fixes the problem, avoids a war, and keeps you anonymous is dependant on how carefully you write it.

Although it may be hard to imagine, sometimes there are neighbors who are simply unaware that the noise they or their dogs are creating is bothering anyone. In these cases, the problem can often be easily fixed with a carefully worded letter. With other neighbors, it may take a second or third letter.

Here are some letter writing dos and don'ts.

  • Include the date.

  • Include the noisy neighbor's name and/or address.

  • Use a generic return address e.g. Sleepless Silent Valley Neighbors.

  • Reference the problem on the envelop e.g. Party Hardy Neighbors.

  • Reference the problem in the letter greeting e.g. Barking Dog Owner.

  • Clearly explain the problem.

  • Describe how it is affecting your life.

  • Suggest a solution.

  • Ask for their help and cooperation.

  • Be as concise as possible.

  • Be firm but polite.

  • Be neighborly.

  • Be respectful.

  • Be humorous where appropriate.

  • Use first person plural pronoun "we."

  • Thank them in advance.

  • Attach a copy of your city's noisy neighbors ordinance.

  • Don't use threats.

  • Don't use profanity.

  • Don't use the words "noisy neighbors."

  • Don't use first person singular pronoun "I".

  • Don't include your name.

  • Don't include your address.

  • Don't include your phone number.

  • Don't reference other people by name or location.

  • Don't include your return address on the envelop.

  • Don't sign the letter.
Many of the above suggestions align with the anonymous approach, which I highly recommend. If your situation doesn't allow you to follow this approach, include as little personal information as possible. I would also suggest that you do not sign the letter. Signing it makes it a legal document. You don't want to give your noisy neighbors anything that might help them file a complaint against you. Although it's rare, you may come across a neighbor who will take some sort of groundless action against you out of spite. Don't worry about this. The authorities can see these actions for what they are right a way.

Do to Them as They Have Done to You

The desire to turn up your stereo or television 10 times louder than your neighbor's, so that they know what it's like, is normal. Revenge can be sweet, but it can also back fire.

You may rationalize that if they could hear it as I do they would stop. It took me awhile to realize several issues in this regard. (1) Although it's rare, some people are not sensitive to noise. (2) Some people are hard of hearing. (3) Some people are so self centered that they are oblivious to how their activities may be disturbing others.

Turning up the volume on your stereo or television so that your neighbor gets the "hint" works sometimes. Here are two things that you need to consider. (1) If they do not comply and turn down the volume, they will know the source of any future complaints. (2) Your actions could make matters worst and provoke your neighbor into turning the volume up even higher!

Whether you try this approach or not is a judgment call based on how you think your noisy neighbor might respond. It you suspect that there could be any kind of negative response, I advise against this action.

Although I have to admit that I've tried this approach with various degrees of aggressiveness, I am not proud it. It worked a couple of times, but usually it just aggravated the situation. I feel that it's better to treat your neighbors in the same manner in which you want them to treat you. Unfortunately, there are individuals in the world who are not receptive to positive vibes.

There is nothing more aggravating than having to deal with noisy neighbors or their barking dogs. This is especially true when you've discovered the problem soon after you moved into your new home. If you are dealing with this issue right now, let me assure you that the laws, police, and other agencies are on your side.

I hope that this information is helpful in solving or improving your noise problem.

Brad Paul

Copyright © Brad Paul

To download a FREE copy of my noisy neighbor letters, just click on the link (near the bottom) in the original article here:

Brad Paul is the founder of Guru, which provides FREE self improvement and lifestyle enhancement resources.

Brad left home at 15, lived in a boy's home, graduated college with honors, headed a marketing group responsible for $400 million in annual sales, started a non-profit social services organization, wrote 3 books, and now works on projects that improve people's lives.


  1. This is some good advice. In addition, get lots of video evidence to prove that you're not crazy.

  2. Also think there is good advice here about being anonymous. I have to say about the authorities though, depending on where you live, they are not on your side and will treat you as the criminal because you complained. In L.A., they just want YOU to go away, not the dog owner.

  3. Brad Paul has put a lot of caring thought into his suggestions.

    Information on noise and barking problems, and what to do about them, is available on two Quiet Tasmania websites, namely Quiet Tasmania (it's Australia's only island state) at and Quiet Tasmania News at

    Both sites are comprehensive and well worth exploring.