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Dog problems Ngā raruraru ā-kurī

Occasionally, dogs can become a problem with loud and prolonged barking, or aggressive and threatening behaviour. In this section we cover what to do if a dog is being noisy or a nuisance, along with treatments for problem barking.

Report Barking Dogs

A barking dog can cause great annoyance and distress to others. It is the dog owner's responsibility to ensure their dog does not cause a nuisance, ignoring justified complaints could lead to heavy fines and the removal of the dog but...

Dogs are permitted to bark and at times are required to do so. Tolerance is required where occasional barking occurs. It is always preferred that where a barking dog is causing a nuisance, the dog owner is visited to discuss the matter before involving the Council Dog Control Officer.

Dog Control Act 1996 Sec 55 Barking Dogs

  1. Where a dog control officer or dog ranger has received a complaint and has reasonable grounds for believing that a nuisance is being created by the persistent and loud barking or howling of any dog, the dog control officer or dog ranger may:
    • Enter at any reasonable time upon the land or premises, other than a dwelling house, on which the dog is kept, to inspect the conditions under which the dog is kept; and
    • Whether or not the dog control officer or dog ranger makes such entry, give the owner of the dog a written notice requiring that person to make such reasonable provision on the property to abate the nuisance as shall be specified in the notice or, if considered necessary, to remove the dog from the land or premises.

How we can help

Our experience in this area is extensive. Sometimes all that is required is for someone from our Dog Control unit to explain the problem to the dog owner and provide advice. Unfortunately in many cases the dog owner does not believe that there is a problem, especially if their neighbours have never approached them.


Your details are kept confidential and are not released to the dog owner. We require your details to both verify the complaint and to enable our Dog Control staff to liaise with you during the investigation. Your investigating Officer may need further information from you and will keep you informed on the progress of the complaint.


The Process

On receipt of a complaint regarding a barking dog at an address specified by the complainant and after checks on registration data, a standard barking dog letter is sent to the dog owner alerting them to the issue. Several days is allowed for compliance and Council will notify you if this period is likely to be extended. During this period we will continue to log complaints and ask that you also let us know if the barking ceases.

Continued barking after 14 days will result in a second letter being issued highlighting the legal responsibilities of a dog owner regarding a barking dog. Again several days must be allowed for compliance. If no action is taken, Council proceeds to the next stage in its process.

  • We will deliver survey notices to the surrounding neighbours. This is to confirm whether or not other people are being affected. We suggest that you do not discuss the matter with your neighbours so as not to influence their comments.
  • A Bark Diary will be sent to the complainant to complete and return and we also ask if you notice a pattern or trigger factor in the barking.As a result of the survey we may visit the dog owner and advise them about the problem.
  • The Dog Control Officer will try to ascertain why the dog is barking / howling.

If the dog owner cooperates

If the dog owner is willing to co-operate then your situation will become a little easier. Barking is often the symptom of an underlying problem. The key to resolving the barking is to identify and treat the problem. Depending on the nature or cause of the problem, it may take some time to correct a habit that the dog has developed.

During this period please feel free to contact us to pass on your comments or observations. Council has a desire to rectify the problem and to assist both you and the dog owner through the process.

If the dog owner is uncooperative

Should the dog owner refuse to co-operate the process will become quite formal.

Once the Dog Control Officer has ascertained why the dog is barking/howling (to the best of their ability given the lack of co-operation), the dog owner will be served with a notice pursuant to section 55 of the Dog Control Act 1996. The notice will provide direction on how the problem is to be solved. The notice will also advise the dog owner that if the problem persists a further notice requiring the removal of the dog may result.

Legal Action

Every person to whom a notice is served has the right of objection. If an objection is received, initially the matter will be heard by the Council's Hearings Committee and from there the matter may progress further to a Court Hearing. If no objection is received and the dog owner fails to comply with the notice the matter may go straight to Court. In any case you may be required to appear as a witness to the truth of the complaint and the information that you have supplied us.

Legal action is not automatic and will depend on our assessment of the case. If Council chooses not to proceed and you believe you have a strong case, you have the option to take a civil action. Our aim is to assist you and to resolve the situation in the most amicable way possible.

Not sure what to do?

We welcome you to contact us at your convenience to discuss your situation and to answer any other enquiry you may have.

Multiple Dog Property Licence

The Council requirement for a dog owner to have a Multiple Dog Property Licence applies where 3 or more dogs are being housed on a property which is located within a residential or rural residential zone as determined by the City of Napier District Plan.

The requirement for a Property Licence recognises the confined nature of most residential properties, the proximity of adjoining residential dwellings and the potential for disturbance to or concern by adjoining residents due to barking, smell and other nuisance caused by the dogs.

The following checklist is a "guide only" to the requirements for a Property Licence.

As the circumstances relating to each individual property and the behavioural characteristics of the different breeds of dogs varies, the final conditions as will be applied to the Property Licence will be determined following an on-site inspection by an Animal Control Officer.

A Property Licence relates only to the property to which it was originally issued.

The recommended maximum number of dogs to be held on a confined residential property is 4. The Property Licence will be subject to a further assessment and approval by Council.

The holding of a Property Licence does not in any way exempt the dogs or dog owner from the requirements for dog ownership as laid down under the Dog Control Act 1996 and Council's Dog Control Bylaws. Issues of barking, smell or other nuisance relating to the dogs will be handled in the normal manner by Animal Control and could result in a Property Licence being revoked at any time.

If you wish to apply for a Multiple Dog Property Licence, it is recommended that you use the following checklist to achieve the necessary level of compliance prior to making formal application to Animal Control for an inspection to be carried out.


  • Is the property on which the dogs will be housed located within a Residential or rural residential Zone?
  • Are all the dogs correctly registered?
  • Do all the dogs have suitable shelter and a secure exercise area?
    • Housed inside residence on property.
    • Kennels or motels.
    • Collar and chain.
    • Fully fenced property or enclosed run.
  • Are the kennels and exercise run located an appropriate distance from the adjoining property boundary?
    • The recommended minimum distance is 2 metres however the required distance will depend on the circumstance relating to each individual property.
  • Has adequate provision been made for the appropriate disposal of waste material and wash down effluent from on, or beneath the kennels runs?
    • Disposal direct to ground is not recommended and may not be approved in confined residential locations.
    • Solid waste must be collected daily and disposed of in an appropriate manner.
    • Liquid waste and wash down effluent should be collected and disposed of to an approved treatment system, eg; septic tank or sewer connection.
  • Do you have appropriate wash down and cleaning facilities on hand?
    • The daily wash down of kennel and run facilities is recommended to reduce the risk of smell nuisance to adjoining neighbours.
    • The use of detergent products, lime and neutralising agents may be appropriate however the smell of these chemicals may in themselves create a smell nuisance for neighbours so should be used with care.
  • Are you able to provide adequate daily exercise for your dogs?
    • Adequate daily exercise for dogs is essential to reduce the risk of barking nuisance caused due to boredom.
    • The exercise area must be adequately fenced to prevent the escape of your dogs.
  • Have your dogs been the subject of previous complaints?
    • If your dogs have been subject to previous barking, roaming or smell nuisance complaints, this will be taken into account in the Property Licence assessment.

Causes And Corrections

All dogs bark; it is part of their natural communication and behaviour and there are many reasons why dogs bark. Before we can attempt to reduce or eliminate any nuisance barking, we must first understand what is causing our dog to bark. This brochure is designed to help you identify what is causing your dog to bark and how we can reduce or control it.

Alert or Warning barking

We generally encourage this as we want our dog to warn us of any danger i.e. intruder or stranger. Dogs that bark at the postie, joggers or cyclists on the street will have their barking reinforced by the very action of these people leaving. The dog will think to himself “what a good job I have done making them go away” so the very action of these people leaving has reinforced the dog’s behaviour.

If we want the dog to act in this manner, we must be able to command the dog to stop as soon as we are aware of the threat. If we ignore the barking until it annoys us, the dog will learn that short barking will not gain attention but long extended barking will.


We need to teach the dog to respond to a command or signal to stop barking, by making a noise to distract the dog from barking. As soon as the dog stops you should give the command “enough” and immediately reward the dog either by praise or by giving a treat. Do not give the reward until the barking stops or the dog will think that it is being rewarded for barking and not for stopping the barking.

Important: This method will not work if you are away from home. If you are away either put the dog inside or prevent the dog from seeing the intruders.

Fear Barking

This can start with alert type barking and then progress to fear barking as the stranger approaches. If your dog is barking out of fear, you must stop it by making the dog focus on you, and when the barking stops give a command and reward the dog when it is relaxed.

Over a period of time (days or weeks), have people approach the dog to a point where it remains relaxed, and reward the dog. As people come closer, have them reward the dog by feeding tit-bits.

Attention Seeking Barking

Dogs soon learn that barking attracts our attention. A command of NO is still attention, even though negative. Stop the dog's barking by startling it, shaking a plastic soft drink bottle with a few stones in it or using any other noise maker is an excellent way of startling the dog. When startled the dog will stop barking, at that point give the dog a substitute, a toy, bone or a walk etc. Make sure you do not give the dog the substitute unless the barking has stopped or the dog will think it is being rewarded for barking.

Self-identification Barking

This type of barking is instinctive and difficult to control, especially where there are multiple dogs. Often one of the dogs will instigate the barking and the other dogs will join in to identify themselves. Control this barking by using similar methods used for alert or warning barking, for example obedience and reward or substitute with a toy etc.

Play or Excitement Barking

If your dog barks excessively during play, it is best to let it calm down by slowing the game down, or if the dog continues to bark, stop playing until the dog settles down.

Boredom Barking

Dogs who bark when bored can be similar to dogs seeking attention or those that are lonely. Bored dogs need something to do other than barking. Providing a more stimulating environment. Exercising the dog(s) before leaving is a must. A tired dog is far less likely to get bored. Toys such as Kongs that can be filled with treats or a large bone will get your dog's brain as well as his body working.

Lonely or Anxious Barking

Dogs who bark when they are left alone may be displaying a symptom known as separation anxiety. The more lonely the dog, the more upset it becomes and the more it barks. The more it barks the more upset it becomes and so on.

Firstly you must teach the dog simple obedience and how to relax as in alert or warning barking. Then you must spend time curing the dogs underlying anxiety behaviour. This can be done by leaving the dog for a short time. Act like you are leaving, and before the dog starts getting nervous and barking, you return (this may be just for a few seconds at first).

You must return before the dog starts to bark or we will reward the dog for barking instead of relaxation and silence. You then very gradually increase the time away from the dog ensuring you return before the dog becomes anxious.

You should consider changing our habits as these often indicate to the dog that we are leaving. For example picking up the car keys and putting on our shoes, vary this by not leaving, instead go and sit on the sofa. If you have the radio or lights on when you are home don't turn them off when you leave and don't make a fuss when you leave. Do not make a fuss when you return and don't punish the dog if it has caused damage, as you will only make it worse. Also if possible have a friend visit the dog during the day.

Startled Barking

Use similar methods as used for alert or warning barking. If there is a particular noise that upsets the dog, record it and play it back to the dog at a very low volume, if the dog remains quiet, reward it.

Over days or weeks gradually increase the volume until the dog is no longer startled into barking by the noise.

Abnormal Barking

The barking we have talked about up to now is mostly normal behaviour apart from separation anxiety. Dogs that bark at inappropriate things (a leaf falling), or barking in a very aggressive manner, could fit into the pathological category. They should be referred to an animal behaviourist or veterinarian.

Using Barking Correction Collars

These should be used only after discussions with your veterinarian. There are many types available, some giving the dog an electric shock, others producing a smell which is offensive to the dogs, and some collars produce an irritating ultrasonic sound. The use of these collars should only be used in conjunction with behaviour modification. These collars must not be used on dogs with anxiety problems as they may well increase the dog's anxiety.

Preventing Nuisance Barking in Puppies

Teaching your young dog appropriate behaviour is easier than changing bad behaviour that has become a habit.

Behaviour that we may consider as cute may not be cute when the dog is an adult.

When you bring the puppy home, consider keeping the puppy in a crate in a room in your house for the first few nights until it becomes secure. This will build the puppies trust in you, and will also build a strong bond.

After a few nights, slowly move the crate further away from you, until you can put the puppy outside. At this point the crate should be exchanged for a kennel.

Training your puppy in simple obedience and relaxation methods will greatly reduce the likelihood of it becoming a problem barker.

Introduce your puppy to situations that may cause anxiety later on. Get your puppy used to a busy street (on a lead of course) and expose it to noises produced by vacuum cleaners, hair dryers and other noises.

Puppy classes are a great place to socialise your young dog.

For further information on any of the issues described here, contact the Animal Control team.


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