EDITOR'S NOTE: This week we offer the occasional installment of 20-40-60 Etiquette Extra: The Men Answer, in which a panel of men, selected based on their willingness to contribute to 20-40-60 etiquette, answer a question about a neighbor's barking dogs.
QUESTION: My new neighbors recently moved in. When we met them they said they had dogs and to let them know if their barking bothered us. A year has gone by and the dogs have continued to bark loudly. It has not bothered me, but it is really starting to bug my husband. Should I say something now, or is it too late to bring the subject up?
NICK TANKERSLEY, 30s, Web Editor, NewsOK: I am able to answer this question from the perspective of someone who owns a dog that barks — a lot. Since your neighbors have said that if the dog barking becomes a nuisance you should let them know, then you should let them know. If they didn't care whether or not their dog drove you slowly insane then they wouldn't have been so straightforward about you talking to them. I'd wager that calmly explaining that the barking has been excessive lately won't cause any ruffles in your relationship and will yield some sort of resolution that will be to your satisfaction.
With that in mind, it's also important to realize that there's not much someone can do when they have an obnoxious outside dog. Mine is a delight inside, calm and quiet. The minute she gets outside her brain melts into a frenzy of yapping. It's reasonable that your neighbors will regulate when the dog is outside. We don't let ours outside for extended periods late at night or early in the morning unless we are out there with them. During the day if we're home we attempt to calm the barking down while she's outside. We have a low percentage of success but it does work sometimes. I urge you to see if your neighbors are making an effort before going back with another complaint, if necessary. Check to see if the dog is out less often and/or for shorter durations of time. Listen for their voice to come echoing over the fence with a “will you shut up, already?” I tend to lace mine with a few more profanities because it's a dog and doesn't know the difference.
Outside of strapping a box to the dog's throat that shocks them each time they bark (doesn't sound very pleasant, does it?) minimizing their time outside may be the only option.
FORD SANGER, 30s, local businessman: Your neighbors knew this would be an issue or they would not have mentioned it when they moved next to you. I would take them up on their original offer and discuss the situation.
You also could discuss the barking at your local homeowners meeting and try and get direction from the board members on neighborhood guidelines regarding excessive noise. There is no reason for you or your husband to feel trapped in the situation, as communication can usually fix the issue.
BRAD MCNEILL, 40s, owner, A&B Paving: If dogs are constantly barking then you need to say something to the neighbors. If they bark whenever you go out in your backyard then you need to say something to the neighbors. If the dogs bark at your kids playing in the backyard then you need to say something to your neighbors.
You live in your house and shouldn't be a prisoner in it. Be cordial and “neighborly” when you discuss things with the neighbors. Don't be angry or you will create a problem that is far worse than a barking dog. It sounds like they are aware of the potential problem so they should understand. If the problem continues, then call the police. They can get cited for disturbing the peace and that will get their attention.
SCOTT KINNARD, 50s, chief executive officer of A La Mode Inc.: It's obvious from their comments the neighbors knew their dogs could be annoying when they moved in. So, they won't be surprised when they're told the barking has become a problem. If they ask about the delayed reaction, it's appropriate to let them know their dogs were tolerated as long as possible.
CLAY HEALEY, 50s, Owner, AIC Title Service, LLC: It is never too late to bring it up! Your neighbors went to the trouble of telling you to contact them, so by golly shoot 'em a friendly email or initiate a friendly lawn conversation and mention that lately the dogs have been barking an awful lot; is there anything you can do? They initiated the discussion in the first place, so it seems ultimately proper to bring up the issue if you do have a problem.
RON JAMES, 60s, independent oil producer: Your husband has every right to enjoy the comfort and tranquility of the home. If your neighbors are taking that away from him by not controlling their dogs, then something has to give. He should go next door and let the neighbors know that the dogs are a real problem. Hopefully, they are like the vast majority of neighbors here in Oklahoma and they will take the necessary steps to quiet the neighborhood.
Bad dogs have bad parents. This problem is their responsibility to correct.