Saturday, April 28, 2012

(Non-running): The Dogs are Barking in Fort Collins

Fort Collins is a dog-friendly town. Correspondingly, most of the owners in town are highly-responsible, better-than-average folk, where the dogs are well-exercised and well-behaved.


I'm reposting a link to a cautionary tale that befell our good friends Neil and Diana after moving to Ft. Collins. It's a story that began with barking dogs, and never really ended, but took a hard financial and personal toll on pretty much everyone involved. Nobody imagined it would take the path that it did, and even though the emotions and stakes got higher and higher, the fundamental cause was a neighbor that did not take responsibility for their dogs. No good really came of this story, so it's Neil's hope that, by sharing his view of it publicly, something good eventually will.

Besides empathizing with Neil's plight due to physical illness and disability, it was, sadly, even easier to sympathize with it, as we've had a couple of neighbor-dog issues here. Briefly:

1. One neighbor in a house behind us had a Very Unintelligent Dog that would bark incessantly (loudly, sharply, repeatedly) for 10, 20, 30+ minutes at a time -- mostly at a specific squirrel that taunted the dog.

Yes, the squirrel would run along a fence, jump on a tree just out of reach, and flick his tail (I kid you not) as the dog would stare and bark.

This was obnoxious enough, but we put up with it, until our in-laws stayed with us for a few months in the bedroom that faced the house (still a good 50+ yards away) and were awakened most days before 7am.

Caleb and I went to the owner's house and talked to the guy. He was responsive and apologetic, clearly exasperated, reasonable story: hard-working guy, teenage daughter wanted dog, didn't really take time to train the dog. The dog was left outside between his leaving for work and his daughter leaving for school. They adjusted this to keep the dog in a kennel outside, plus we saw the girl play with/exercise the dog a bit more. It wasn't perfect, but it got much better, and has been since then.

2. At the same time, I could hear a high-frequency noise outside. It was intermittent and hard to ignore if any windows were open, going off for ~5 seconds of every 20-30 seconds, and I had no idea what it was. Somebody (Neil?) suggested it might be a bark-control device. Aha! But, the device actually wasn't responding to barking or anything, it was truly random.

By crazy coincidence, I met a guy who used to live in our neighborhood. Turns out he lived next to the barking dog, and I mentioned the high-frequency noise. His eyes lit up and he mentioned that he had installed a bark-control device! So I talked to that neighbor, the new owner, and mentioned this -- he was very responsive and said he knew about the device but didn't really hear anything (my hearing sucks, but high-frequency sensitivity declines with age), and he turned it off.

Awesome, responsive neighbors -- but funny how several people got wrapped up in stress and inconvenience because one person couldn't take care of their dog.

3. This year, our new neighbors downstairs moved in with a malamute mix that vocalizes/whines when left alone. We were treated to two nights of this when they first moved in, locked the dog in the bathroom while it whined all night, then left as they made trips to move everything. Understanding that the dog was in a new situation and hoping it would get better, we met them and they assured us that they had a bark control collar that was uncharged but would be able to take care of it in the future. Fair enough.

Next up, despite 2 people being home most of the day, and living next to a green belt with free (subsidized-by-HOA-fees) garbage bags, and very close to the dumpster, they left the dog chained on the patio, which was soon covered by a week's worth of feces and urine. Besides being gross, offensive, and irresponsible, it's against the law and HOA. I hate being a nag, but when it kept going, and other neighbors had mentioned it, I talked to them about it. No apology (just excuses), but they cleaned it up. Until they did it again. And I talked to them again. Ugh.

Meanwhile, working from home, I still get to hear the dog whine for 5-10 minutes every time the owners leave (even if it's briefly). I've dealt with this, but it went over the top one weekend when J heard the dog whining for 45 minutes straight. She knocked on their door, nobody home, as they were out of town. Keeping in mind that we've talked to them 3 times already and had no other recourse, she called Animal Control, which was responsive and gave a warning. When the owners returned, we were able to clear it up (mostly, the dog-sitter wasn't using the bark collar, which does seem to work), although they were far more concerned about getting a warning then they were about offending neighbors and breaking the law and HOA covenants. Again.


If I did learn anything from Neil's story, it's that you never make suggestions to dog owners -- it's like telling a parent how to take care of their kids. Unfortunately, in this analogy, the parent is smoking in the car with the kids and nobody is wearing a seatbelt. Everyone we're friends with that has dogs are such good caretakers, providing exercise and training, that it's frustrating to encounter, through no choice of your own, people who don't take responsibility.

So on behalf of everybody who wants to enjoy their peaceful home, and on behalf of the majority of responsible dog-owners in town, please take responsibility for your pets. If somebody has a complaint, listen to them, as you may be causing an innocent person to suffer (especially while you're away and do not have direct witness to the complaint), and by the time they first say something to you, it's likely they've been stressing and debating for weeks about how to approach the problem. Take responsibility and be nice to your neighbors!


  1. We have two dogs and I'll never understand how people put up with their dogs barking, especially at night. My dogs, one in particular, thinks she's a lot tougher than she is and will often bark at people as they walk past our fenced yard. Other people she lets pass without making a sound...not sure what her screening process is. Of course, if anyone, whether she was barking at them or not, actually enters our yard, she then becomes their new best friend....some guard dog she is. Regardless, one bark out of her results in a scolding from me or my wife (and as soon as we open the door, she knows she's in trouble). Our neighbors behind us (who no longer live there) had a dog that would bark for hours on end, in the middle of the night. Seriously? How can that not bug the shit out of you?

    Of course, the bigger issue for runners is unleashed/unfenced dogs. I've only been bitten once, a couple of years ago, but I had a close encounter just a couple of weeks ago. If I would've had my wife's mace with me, it would've been put to good use.

  2. I could not live with that. Awful.

    Ultimately all such problems come down to lack of responsibility, both with the owner and with regard to enforcement.

    Not sure what the latter should consist of, but having noise constantly from a neighbor (regardless of the type) is simply unacceptable. It's a remote invasion of property, if you will.

  3. I've lived in Fort Collins 14 years now and have nothing but similar experiences with barking dogs and self absorbed dog owners. I had an apartment on Ponderosa drive from 2005-2008 at the house directly behind me the dog was left alone and would bark from three o clock in the afternoon when I got home sometimes until midnight or later. Another frustrating element in having a barking dog to deal with is that "Animal Control" I use that term very lightly - Larimer Humane Society essential refused to do anything about it. If you call they tell you that "barking dogs are very low on their list of priorities and they may be out there if they don't have a skunk attack to deal with." Meaning they pretty much don't want to do anything. I think of the twenty-five times I called them they came out once. They gave me a piece of paper and said that I had to have another neighbors signature. I couldn't find a neighbor who was willing to sign it. Mostly I think because they all had dogs that barked too. It really makes me furious that not only do I have to deal with the barking dog I also have to take time out of my life to be the one to try and deal with it and go door to door asking people for help. i have a video camera recording of this dog barking for six hours straight. Now I live in a neighborhood on the other side of town on Hollyhock street and it's full of barking dogs. If I called animal control now all I'd have to say is "just drive down the street you'll find one." But I reported another dog barking in a house across the street from me just today and I can tell you exactly what's going to happen. They'll get a warning. The owners will be angry and blame me and the dog will continue barking everyday. Dog owners are almost worse to deal with than the barking dogs. They're just delusional. I really find it irresponsible that Larimer Humane Society's advice is for a person to confront their neighbor about their barking dog. You couldn't come up with a dumber and more noneffective and possibly dangerous potential solution if you sat down for a week and actually tried to. in my experience these barking dogs are usually owned by barking mad humans. College students who "want a dog" but that's as far as they think. Leaving dogs outside at all hours of the night in the freezing cold? no wonder he's barking. It's a horror show, the examples can go on and on. I lived in a college house for two years with a girl who decided to get a dog the last minute we moved into the house and pretty much for the next year left for days even weeks sometimes to her boyfriend's house and left the dog downstairs in her room like a lonely prisoner. The bottom line is you shouldn't get a dog for entertainment purposes and you shouldn't get one if you're not going to be be responsible and take care of it. I'd love to have a dog and I would take care of it but I live in an apartment and I'm gone all day, so I don't get one. Those are the breaks. I think selfishness and arrogance is the root cause of all this. Of course it's my fault.

    1. Sorry to hear about your experiences, Jake! I agree with your observations, many people are self-absorbed and the poor dog is the one that suffers. Then when you complain (which is hard), your neighbours don't like you AND think you hate their dog, when actually you probably care more about it than they do!
      The one time we called, the HS was actually responsive and gave a warning. But just in case, like you said, I wasted time (hours) recording barking/whining ahead of time, which ruins your day ahead of time just to get ready to call. I guess we got lucky when they moved out because they were terribly irresponsible and immature overall, but they did put a bark collar on the dog, and didn't want a second complaint in a year because they knew they'd get fined, and that mostly worked.
      Talking with another neighbour with a different barking dog helped out, you could tell that it was the daughter's dog, and the man/Dad was exasperated because she wasn't training the dog enough -- the next week, I saw the girl outside with the dog for the first time.
      While talking to people is stressful, and not even possible for everyone (imagine the sick, elderly, handicapped being "expected" to confront their neighbours) -- it does seem helpful if possible.

      Otherwise, I pointed my friend Neil to this thread. He had a terrible experience that lasted a few years, and it was terrible for everyone, dogs included. Much of what I learned (about talking and recording the dog ahead of time) was through his bad experiences. Maybe he'll have something to add to this, because we hope that Fort Collins does a better job understanding people's right to enjoy their private home, AND the health and happiness of dogs that might be stressed and anxious.