DOG OWNERS whose pets bark too much could be fined up to £5,000 in the latest move by the Government to tackle ‘neighbours from hell’.
In extreme cases, if the barking problem is not rectified, owners could also be subject to Anti-social Behaviour Orders and council tenants could be evicted from their homes.
To help the owners of Britain's 6.8 million dogs avoid such draconian penalties, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is issuing a leaflet giving advice on how to keep canines quiet.
It suggests owners should use a web cam or a video camera to find out what their dog is doing when they are away from home.
Another suggestion is that owners could pretend to go out for the day and then wait outside the door to see what the dog does.
"If it starts barking and howling, go back in and tell it firmly to be quiet," the leaflet says. "Punishing your dog will only make things worse. Try to keep your dog calm. If it barks when it is excited, don't play with it at anti-social times, like very late at night."
Flat dwellers or people living in semi-detached houses are advised to keep their dog away from party walls. If it barks at people, it should be kept away from the front of the house, or the windows screened, although these measures are likely to be seen as far too dictatorial by most dog owners.
The leaflet gives tips on how to cope with a dog that is "clingy, and howls or whines when left alone".
Owners are advised to consult a vet, animal behaviourist or dog warden on how to help the animal to get used to being on its own.
"Be consistent," is the advice. "Every time your dog is quiet when it would normally have barked, praise it or give it a treat. When it barks, tell it firmly to be quiet."
Quite where DEFRA obtained its advice, whether it was from a dog trainer or cobbled together from dog training books or websites is unclear, but the penalties are quite clearly laid out if these ‘behavioural’ and ‘training’ methods do not work.
If dog owners do not take steps to stop barking, and complaints are made, a Noise Abatement Notice could be issued.
‘If you break the terms of the notice’, the leaflet goes on to warn, ‘you could face legal action and a fine of up to £5,000’ .