I see posts like this on dog forums all the time. Consistently, when these posts happen, immediately there is a huge piling on about how much people suck... It’s an immediate rally call to how terrible people are... Yuck. No thanks.
While it is true that sometimes neighbors are jerks, it can also be true that our dogs can be a nuisance and lower the quality of our neighbors’ life and property. For example, I have a neighbor who I really like who leaves his dogs outside 90% of the time. They fence fight, bark and are a nuisance to anyone who dares to be outside. They tend to amp up my dogs and encourage high arousal, so I work on it with my dogs… how to keep their marbles in their heads when the other dogs are barking at them.
We have another neighbor, the only neighbor in the neighborhood, who allows their very nice dog to run free… and he eliminates in our yard and in my carport, gets into our trash, etc. I regularly catch this dog and return him to his home. I find the situation really ridiculous. I have observed this dog run deer (illegal in my area) and nearly be hit by cars. He is a nice dog, he doesn’t deserve to get killed or injured because his family isn’t following the law (we are a leash law community). I have been neighborly about taking him home for 4 years. The next time I catch him, I will secure him in the yard, call animal control and let AC know where he lives. Sadly, it will likely cost them some money to get him out of Animal Control… but I have been kind left notes etc. and they continue to create a nuisance with their dog.
In both cases, my neighbors are not being neighborly. They are allowing their dogs to do things, managing or not managing their dogs in ways that reduce our quality of life. I can’t run a lesson outside without crazy stressing the lesson dog because of the crazy dogs next door. I have to clean up urine and feces that aren’t my dog’s waste because the people won’t just keep their dog in their yard. In the big scheme of things, it’s not a big deal… but I do think that it bears mentioning that everyone needs to be neighborly.
When a neighbor is frustrated with our dogs, I think there are things we can and should adjust and that doing so is just neighborly. It’s not a big issue to bring our dogs in when our neighbor kids come home from school or when the neighbors are walking their dogs.
"Good fences make good neighbors."Robert Frost (Mending Wall) – This has long been one of my favorite poems… and not for the reasons that Frost shares… but because I understand the neighbor and his affinity for boundaries. Getting together to mend a fence, to maintain a polite barrier between one another does make good neighbors. The act, in my opinion, of maintaining appropriate boundaries between ourselves… checking to make sure that my life doesn’t crowd or diminish yours, is an important part of being a good citizen, including for our canine family.
Now clearly, I am not saying that we should bend over backward for our neighbors, but I do think we can be good neighbors? Absolutely. Can neighbors be jerks, of course… but in the end, good neighbors try to help accommodate one another.
So I put on one of my social media personal pages a question to pull out what do the responders think all dogs should know. Maybe it will serve us all on what we need to focus on for our dogs to help them be better neighbors to our neighbors… even if our neighbors are jerks.
36 people responded on what they think dogs need to know and I asked them their pet peeves too:
Jumping up/Sit for Greetings 12
Being safe/polite with food/No counter or table surfing 8
Coming When Called and being able to be handled/walked by a stranger/vet/groomer 4
Leave it/No/Dogs need to know how to chill out/Door manners 3
Going through the trash/Crate training/Stay 2
House training/Hand Signals/Humping/Jumping on the Door/Barking at animals on TVall scored 1 each
For me the list was insightful. Barking didn’t show up (which it would on my list) but we definitely got some insight into what our neighbors might think our dogs need to know to be good neighbors.
What will you work on with your furry family member to help them be more neighborly and to help your neighbors be friendly too?
Tina M. Spring
Tina M. Spring is the owner of Sit Happens Dog Training & Behavior, LLC in Athens, GA. She is the creator of the Hounds for the Holidays program to help prepare dogs for the stress of the holiday season and prevent dog bites. She is also the author of 90 Days to the Perfect Puppy which is available as an online course.