Dog barking can be a nuisance for your community, and when loud and excessive is a sound few people can tolerate. This is one of the most common dog complaints reported to councils.

Report a problem with a dog

If you are reporting a dog attack or an aggressive/rushing dog call us on 03 941 8999 (24/7) for immediate assistance.

Dogs bark naturally to communicate, so occasional barking may be expected. But when the barking is excessive, your dog may be bored or lacking stimulation, especially if left alone during the day.

Most people buy a dog for companionship, and sometimes a dog can be a good alert system that someone is on the property. For this reason, it is important to understand the differences between a good watchdog and a nuisance barker.

A dog that barks at anything is not a good watchdog. A watchdog should only bark if there is a danger such as a fire or if someone is entering your property.

Dogs often bark when the owners are not home so it can sometimes be difficult for them to know their dog barks excessively. Dog owners are seldom bothered by their own dog’s barking, however, it can be very disturbing for their neighbours.

People also have different tolerance levels, so because one neighbour doesn't mind the barking, doesn't mean another neighbour may be bothered a great deal by it.

Barking disturbs people by:

  • making it hard to talk to other people
  • making it hard to enjoy the radio or television
  • disturbing sleep
  • affecting concentration
  • affecting moods and relaxation
  • causing stress for individuals and families
  • affecting neighbour relations

If you are the neighbour of an excessively barking dog, the best option is initially for you to talk to the dog owner and explain the problem to them. You may find they are already aware of the problem and are taking steps to rectify it.

We understand that sometimes this isn't possible as dog owners aren't always receptive to discussing the issue.

There are many reasons why dogs bark. Before we can attempt to reduce or eliminate any nuisance barking need to understand what is causing our dog to bark so much.  

This information is designed to help you identify what may be causing your dog to bark and how it could be reduced or controlled.

Alert or warning barking

We generally encourage dogs to alert us of any danger, such as an intruder or a 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”.

If you notice your dog barking at a passerby you should correct the behaviour at the time.

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 issue as 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, we do this 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 noisemaker 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’s 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, we need to provide a much more stimulating environment. Exercising the dog(s) before leaving it 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 we must teach the dog simple obedience and how to relax as in alert or warning barking. Then we must spend time curing the dog’s underlying anxiety behaviour.

This can be done by leaving the dog for a short time, or acting like we are leaving and before the dog starts getting nervous and barking we return (this maybe 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. We then very gradually increase the time away from the dog ensuring we return before the dog becomes anxious.

We 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 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 give the dog an electric shock, others produce 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.


This is a surgical procedure that removes the vocal chords. De-barking will not result in a silent dog as the dog will still attempt to bark and the sound created may be more annoying than the bark itself. De-barking will not cure the cause be it, fear, boredom or anxiety.

The Council’s Animal Management Team does not favour this method.

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 will 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 puppy’s 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, hairdryers and other noises.

Puppy classes are a great place to socialise your young dog. For further advice on any aspect of dog behaviour, we suggest contacting your vet or a dog behaviourist.

Complaints received by the Christchurch City Council alleging a nuisance of persistent and loud barking or howling of any dog will be investigated by a Dog Control Officer.

If the officer is satisfied there are reasonable grounds to believe that a nuisance of barking exists they will advise the dog owner of the complaint and request that they take action to abate the nuisance. The officer will inspect the conditions in which the dog(s) are kept and recommend improvements and provide information to the dog owner to eliminate the barking nuisance.

If the officer is not satisfied that reasonable grounds exist they will advise the complainant and may request them to complete a timetable of the alleged barking nuisance over a period of 14 days.

Upon this information being completed and returned, the officer will consider the evidence provided and will make a decision as to what action will be taken. In situations where a nuisance of persistent and loud barking or howling continues and is substantiated the Council may issue a formal notice requiring the owner of the dog to undertake specified provisions on the property to eliminate the nuisance or if considered necessary to remove the dog.

Before the issue of any formal notice, the officer will ensure that complainant(s) will be prepared to attend a Council hearing if required to provide evidence in support of their claims. They must also accept that all evidence including names and addresses with respect to the complaint will be disclosed.

Any person on whom a formal notice is served on may object by writing to the Team Leader, Animal Management, Christchurch City Council PO Box 73037, Christchurch 8154, within seven days from the issue of the notice.

Upon the receipt of an objection, the formal notice will be suspended until a Hearing Panel appointed by the Council has heard the objection. The dog owner and complainants will be advised of the time, date and place for the hearing no less than seven days from the hearing date.

After hearing and considering all the evidence the Council will confirm, modify or cancel the original formal notice. Upon a decision being reached the parties involved will be informed of the outcome and the additional requirements if the notice has been modified.

A Dog Control Officer may remove a dog from land or premises if a substantiated complaint about the persistent and loud barking or howling of a dog has been received after a formal notice has been issued, and not complied with or cancelled.

No Dog Control Officer will enter a dwelling house to remove the dog unless authorised in writing by a Justice and accompanied by a Constable.

Where a dog has been removed a written notice will be given to the owner or left in a conspicuous place on the land or premises.

The owner of any dog that has been removed may apply to the Council at any time for the return of the dog.

  1. The Council has appointed a Hearings Panel, consisting of three elected members for the purpose of hearing all evidence, and deciding whether to confirm, modify or cancel the formal notice. The procedure which will be followed at the hearing is set out as follows:
  2. The Chairperson explains the purpose of the meeting and the Council's duties in terms of the Dog Control Act 1996.
  3. The Team Leader of Animal Control or his/her deputy gives a brief outline of the events leading to the objection.
  4. After the Team Leader, or his deputy, has reported, the panel members are given the opportunity to ask questions of the investigating officer or the Team Leader.
  5. The owner of the dog then gives evidence. This should include reasons for lodging the objection to the notice to remove the dog from the owner's premises, and any proposals the owner may have to reduce and abate further noise nuisance from the dog(s).
  6. Panel members will then ask questions of the dog owner.
  7. Witnesses for the dog owner are now invited to give evidence in support of the objection.
  8. The Panel members will then ask questions of the witnesses.
  9. The complainants are then requested to give their evidence in confirmation of their written complaint(s) and any other evidence they may have in respect of further noise nuisance that may have occurred since the issue of the notice.
  10. Panel members will then ask questions of the complainants.
  11. The Chairperson or Panel members may then seek clarification of any points raised by the parties present.
  12. The Chairperson will then thank those present for attending and advise that the Panel will announce its decision in writing within a few days in respect of whether it will confirm, modify or cancel the original notice issued.

Note: Cross-questioning between the objector and the complainants is not allowed during the hearing unless authorised by the Chairman.

Section 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-
    1. Enter at any reasonable time upon the land or premises, other than a dwellinghouse, on which the dog is kept, to inspect the conditions under which the dog is kept; and
    2. 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.
  2. Any person on whom notice is served under subsection (1) of this section may, within 7 days of the receipt of the notice, object in writing to the territorial authority against the requirements of that notice.
  3. The territorial authority shall consider the objection and may confirm, modify, or cancel the notice.
  4. No objection under this section shall be considered unless 7 days' notice of the date and time when and the place at which it is to be considered have been given to the objector, who shall be entitled to be represented and to be heard and may submit evidence and call witnesses in support of his or her objection.
  5. Upon the determination of the objection, the territorial authority shall give to the objector a further notice stating the decision of the authority, and, if the effect of the decision is to modify the requirements of the dog control officer or dog ranger, shall set out those requirements as so modified.
  6. As from the lodging of an objection with the territorial authority, and pending the receipt of a further notice upon the determination of the objection, the notice setting out the requirements that are the subject of the objection shall be deemed to be suspended.
  7. Every person commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,500 who, having been served with a notice under this section, 
    1. Fails or neglects to comply with that notice (not being a notice that as been suspended under subsection (6) of this section) within 7 days of its receipt by that person:
    2. Fails or neglects to comply with any notice as modified or confirmed by a territorial authority under subsection (3) of this section within the time specified by the territorial authority.

Section 56: Removal of the barking dog causing distress

  1. This section shall apply in any case where at any time after a notice under section 55 of this Act has been issued, 
    1. The notice has not been cancelled under subsection (3) of that section; and
    2. The notice has not been complied with; and
    3. A dog control officer or dog ranger has received a further complaint and has reasonable grounds for believing that the nuisance in respect of which the notice is issued is continuing and is causing distress to any person.
  2. In any case to which subsection (1) of this section applies, the dog control officer or dog ranger may enter upon the land or premises on which the dog is kept and remove the dog and the dog shall be kept in custody under section 70 of this Act.
  3. Nothing in this section shall authorise any dog control officer or dog ranger to enter any dwelling house unless –
    1. He or she is authorised in writing to do so by a Justice, who shall not grant such an authority unless the Justice is satisfied that the requirements of subsection (1) of this section have been met; and
    2. He or she is accompanied by a constable.
  4. Where a dog is removed pursuant to subsection (2) of this section, the dog control officer or dog ranger shall give written notice in the prescribed form to the owner of the dog or, if the owner is not present, the person for the time being appearing to be in charge of the land or premises and, if no person is present on the property, shall leave such notice in some conspicuous place on the land or premises.

For further information on any of the issues described in this information sheet please contact the Animal Management Section.