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snowberry's avatar

What to do about my neighbor's aggressive dog? (Long, please read first)

Asked by snowberry (18495 points ) June 18th, 2014

My neighbor’s Labrador is extremely aggressive toward me when I’m in my backyard. The dog keeps barking aggressively, snarling, and charging the fence trying to get at me whenever I’m outside. A slat has fallen down and she tries to get through it whenever she sees me. So far she has managed to get her head and shoulders through. The owners insist their dog is “friendly” and they refuse to fix their fence. So far we have done all these things with no good results:

*Repeatedly asked the owner to fix their fence. The county makes no requirements regarding the condition of fences between yards.

*Purchased or invented two dog “whistles” intended to curb barking and aggressive behavior. The louder one is from Sound Bible and is so loud it hurts your ears.

* Put up a mesh privacy screen (in an attempt to reduce visibility of our yard and increase safety). The dog has chewed a hole in it.

*Soaked rags with ammonia and pinned them to the privacy screen where she chews (dogs hate the smell of ammonia).

*Called Animal Control when their dog got loose while they were walking it, and it cornered me in my front yard, barking and snarling aggressively.

Animal control came out and told the owner they had to “control” their dog, meaning it had to stay inside their yard, and couldn’t get off the leash while on a walk. Big deal.

Animal Control also told me that they couldn’t do anything unless I actually find the dog in my own yard. Based on how things are going, it’s only a matter of time before that happens. I’m concerned that I could step out there one day and get bit before I have a chance to call Animal Control.

My last option is to call my landlord and force replacement of the fence The county says that property owners must share the cost of fence replacement, meaning that both my rent and my neighbor’s will go up. I’d like to avoid this if I can. Regardless, this will be a time consuming process, and may irritate both my neighbor as well as my landlord.

I’m also seriously thinking of creating a weapons belt for whenever I’m outside, to carry pepper spray, a retractable hiking stick (which can be used as a weapon) and a place for my cell phone in case I need to call for help. I don’t want to hurt the dog, but at this point I’m starting to dream of shooting it!

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73 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Is it legal where you live to put poisoned meat in your garden?

snowberry's avatar

@ragingloli LOL, no, and we also have a dog. Poison is out (but it’s crossed my mind)!

dappled_leaves's avatar

Not ideal, but can you replace the fallen slat yourself? At least it wouldn’t affect your rent.

snowberry's avatar

Every once in a while they go on vacation and take the dogs. The last time they did, Hubby said in a “sad” voice? “What did they do with their dog? Shoot it?” I about fell over laughing!

@dappled_leaves The fence is rotten. Every time we have a storm I expect to find it blown down. Replacing the slats would become a fairly expensive process because there isn’t a lot of good wood to work with, but you have a good point.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@snowberry I think fence repair is really your only option, whether you do a temporary DIY or have the landlord replace it. Clearly, your neighbours are not going to modify their or their dog’s behaviour.

thorninmud's avatar

It might be interesting to see what would happen if you arranged with your neighbor to meet the dog out in neutral territory. Maybe she could walk the dog over to a local park where you would already be. Dogs behave differently when they aren’t defending their turf, so you might actually be able to stage a charm offensive out in no-man’s-land—maybe giving the dog some treats while you and the owner have a friendly conversation—that would get the dog to stop seeing you as a threat.

snowberry's avatar

@thorninmud I suggested exactly that. They want me to “just come over”. The problem is, this dog has boundary issues with the backyard fence in particular, and when it got off the leash, went for me in my front yard. It’s not aggressive at all when it’s at its owner’s side. They seem to be anthropomorphizing their dog (insisting that I call it a “she”, as if that matters), and I feel very little confidence in their ability to control their dog in any situation.

Our dog is currently going through a tricky medical treatment and it’s keeping me busy. I’ll push the “meet and greet” idea in a month when I’m past the heavy duty stuff with our dog.

LornaLove's avatar

The only way I see out of this, is either contact your landlord, or put up a fence yourself. A brick wall would be nice. Cesar Milan might have an answer!

snowberry's avatar

@LornaLove Yes, Cesar, where are you when I need you?

Dutchess_III's avatar

OMG…and they’re saying their doggy is friendly? People like that shouldn’t be allowed to own pets. Do you have children @snowberry?

Dutchess_III's avatar

You know, I’d get some video of it, take it to small claims court…..

FlyingWolf's avatar

Could you put chicken wire or something over the spots where the slats have fallen down? It might be less expensive than replacing the slots and have the same effect.

snowberry's avatar

Dutchess_III They have a large family and the youngest is a mentally retarded 4 year old. The kids love the dog, and it’s another reason I’m concerned. The dog obviously is “protecting” its property and family. It considers my yard its property. If I were bitten, at the very least, the kids would lose their beloved pet.

@FlyingWolf Thank you! Chicken wire is an excellent option. I’ll look into putting it between the screen and the fence. At the very least the dog won’t be able to chew holes in the screen like is happening now.

snowberry's avatar

@Dutchess_III Oh, and excellent point about the video. Thanks! No kids at home for me.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Glad you’re considering the video. Take it to the police and if they won’t do anything take it to small claims court.

Coloma's avatar

Have you tried maybe giving it treats through the fence, talking to it in a happy voice?
While it’s not your responsibility to befriend the dog, ya never know, you might establish a relationship based on positive reward.
Maybe try to offer it some irresistible treats like cheese or a rawhide chewy thing. If you gave it a chew it would shut up perhaps. haha

Otherwise, looks like there are some other good suggestions.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

^^^ Agreeing with Coloma. Have you tried helping the dog learn to like and trust you? Soft words, some treats, and a chew toy might work.

Please, no poisoned meat, pepper spray, or other harmful substances. It isn’t the dog’s fault that your neighbors neglect the poor animal and leave it outside, all alone, for so many hours. Your neighbors have also failed to train or socialize this dog. You’re a dog lover, yourself, so you certainly don’t want to hurt an innocent, albeit frightening, creature.

By the way, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of an aggressive, snarling Labrador retriever. Labs are usually goofily sweet and friendly. But, I guess anything can turn mean if it’s ignored and made lonesome.

snowberry's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul @Coloma Absolutely I’ll use pepper spray or a stick or even a tazer if the dog gets in my yard and corners me again, and I’ll have the backing of the law on my side. I’d use it on a human attacker, and I’d certainly use it on a dog! The belt I described above might become a reality, but I hope not.

Although I’d rather use these items on my neighbor, who is allowing the behavior to continue.

Edit: The owners told me not to “make friends” with their dog from my side of the fence. I’m not going there.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What a nightmare. I’m so sorry @snowberry. Let us know what measures you take.

snowberry's avatar

Life here is interesting, that’s for sure! I will say that I was having nightmares until I started coming up with ways to defend myself and my property.

I’ll come back here and post developments, or post another question if appropriate.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Too bad you can’t electrify your fence.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I talked to Rick about it. He said one word: “Antifreeze.” And that’s from a serious dog lover!

Coloma's avatar

I suggested what I did based on my OWN dog years ago. He was a large hound and had a very loud howl. We had neighbors behind us and he would get up by the far back fence and peer through the slats that had a little gap between the boards then howl at them when they were in their pool and diving off their diving board. haha
I was home a lot and he was inside a lot of the time and slept indoors at night, but, the neighbors got in the habit of tossing him a treat or 5 over the fence and between their giving him goodies and me disciplining him for ” No bad barking!” he quit his stealth maneuvers and it was all good for all of us.

Actually we all agreed that we though he was freaked out by the kids screaming and splashing, maybe he thought people were drowning in the pool. lol

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

“Although I’d rather use these items on my neighbor, who is allowing the behavior to continue…The owners told me not to “make friends” with their dog from my side of the fence.”

Yes, your neighbors are the guilty parties in this scenario. Why would anybody adopt an animal companion (although this sounds more like “animal possession”), only to be so irresponsible and uncaring? (Rhetorical question, of course)

Why, oh why, did your neighbors forbid you from being friendly to this neglected dog? Are they fearful that the creature might become less vicious and, thus, fail as a watchdog? Do they bristle at the idea of this dog actually liking you?

dappled_leaves's avatar

I can understand why the owners wouldn’t want to train their dog to be “tamed” by someone offering treats from over a fence. This would make her vulnerable to anyone who wanted to gain entry to the house, especially by giving her poisoned food. Not good for the dog or the owners. I’m reminded of the bit in Lassie Come Home about training a dog never to eat food not given in a bowl, in case of poisoning.

However, it does make sense for them to encourage a friendly relationship between you and the dog, because you are neighbours. You say that they are open to this on their own property; this is at least something. I would continue to push for a meeting between all of you and the dogs in a neutral space.

snowberry's avatar

@Dutchess_III The electric fence was suggested to me by PM, and I think it’s an awesome idea, but since they have a mentally retarded 4 year old, it’s not an option. I can’t run the risk of him getting a shock.

Yes @dappled_leaves I plan on it.

canidmajor's avatar

Animal control gave you some stock answers about what they themselves could or could not do, but there may be statutes in your community related to the concept of a credible threat from the activities of a neighbor, for example! unmonitored pools, untended outside fires, etc. As much as you don’t want to escalate landlord involvement, if the dog presents a credible threat, you may be able to compel the neighbor’s landlord to secure the fence. There may be a tenants rights group in your community that could help with this.

I don’t think you can really do anything about the dog itself before exhausting other options unless the neighbors are on board with it, beyond having defenses at the ready.

I couldn’t find where you said that the owners of the lab were neglectful or uncaring of their dog, was there a post I missed?

janbb's avatar

When I was working with Frodo, I would have friends meet him outside the house and give him treats or give him treats when they came in. He still went for them when they were on “his” turf. i wouldn’t waste much energy on trying to befriend the dog. I would dogproof your yard – whether it is reinforcing the slats or chicken wire.

snowberry's avatar

@canidmajor They aren’t neglectful other than they don’t control the behavior of the dog in their own backyard. They don’t prevent it charging the fence, knocking boards off, chewing the net I put up, or trying to get through to me. They did put up a few new boards at the request of our landlord when we first moved in, and twice hammered in old boards which fell off a few weeks later. Several times a day they’ll let the dog out and it will bark for an hour or so before they let it in, but they were much more vigilant about the barking for a month or so after the chat with animal control. Not so much now.

After the chat with animal control, they did put a head halter on it for the daily walks, which has made a difference in that it doesn’t try to charge me when I’m sitting on my front porch. They have told me about the animal’s sweet disposition, which I’m sure is true, with them, and I know the kids like the dog.

I’ve checked with every governing body there is, including the HOA. The HOA said they can help me push to have the fence replaced, but that certainly would set the tone for our standing in the neighborhood! :P

So far there is no ordinance they are breaking (there isn’t even a noise ordinance), but that may change if our area is incorporated into the nearby town. I will check with the “tenants rights” association, but I doubt there’s anything helpful.

snowberry's avatar

@janbb What you described with Frodo is exactly the scenario I envision with this dog. It might become friendly with me on neutral ground, but not when I’m in my own yard. Even if that happens, I still don’t see the owners trying to curb its behavior in any way.

canidmajor's avatar

Every place is different like that, I often wish there was some sort of standard.
This is such such a pain in the ass for you, I’m sorry you have to deal with it. :-( I do understand about not wanting to be that neighbor, nobody wants a border war.
Good luck with this! I hope you can resolve it somehow.

I was confused about the neglect issue because of some other posts, I guess.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Did you try befriending the mutt? I mean really going out of your way with cheap cuts of meat? Feed it right at that hole in the fence. Treat it like you love it. See what happens.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@snowberry ” The HOA said they can help me push to have the fence replaced, but that certainly would set the tone for our standing in the neighborhood!”

Ugh. I hate that there should be a penalty simply for ensuring that people live up to their commitments.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Dan_Lyons Above she said the neighbors specifically asked her not to befriend the dog.

Would it be possible to move?

longgone's avatar

Scary. If I were you, there is no way I would approach that dog without the safety net of a muzzle or something similar.

It would be incredibly helpful to know why this dog doesn’t like you. Is she really showing territorial aggression, or could she be afraid? How’s her body language? A good trainer may well be all your neighbours need. Filming is an excellent idea!

To be honest, however, if the owners show no interest in training, you’re screwed. I’m sorry you’re in this situation.

How about discreetly manipulating the fence so that the dog does get in your yard? You being safely inside at that point, of course…you’d be able to call animal control and hopefully get things sped along?

Cesar Milan, by the way, is being criticised severely in most of the relevant sources…except for his own books. I doubt he could help you.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My husband, the massive dog lover, hates Cesar Milan.

longgone's avatar

^ Good boy, Rick! That guy is horrible.

Coloma's avatar

Personally, I say screw the neighbors, obviously they are negligent anyway so they would probably never even know if you were “befriending” the dog. Hey, what do you have to lose?
If a few ” hey there buddy, good boy, wanna treat!? doesn’t work, then oh well, but most dogs are extremely food motivated and sticking a beggin’ strip through the fence might just work.
I’d go for the killing it with kindness approach first and if the neighbors give you a hard time I’d simply tell them ” LOOK…unless you really want some kind of WAR here, just let it be!”

Dan_Lyons's avatar

I agree with @Coloma

As I said @Dutchess_III, try feeding the mutt cheap cuts of steak and befriending the dog Regardless of what the idiot neighbors say.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Regarding Cesar Millan, yes he’s terrible. There are some good critiques of his methods here and here.

snowberry's avatar

@longgone Whenever the dog barks, its tail is usually wagging, but if I step near the fence (within 12 feet), it growls visciously and charges the fence. For a couple of weeks I was digging in that area of the yard and my shovel would hit the fence occasionally. It drove the dog ballistic, but I refuse to be bullied from using my own property. I have an extremely small yard, and I am out in it a lot while gardening. Avoiding that area of the yard is about impossible.

It’s a good thing we don’t have a deck because we sure wouldn’t be able to enjoy it! It might be worthwhile for me to hire a dog trainer to come to my home to observe. In fact, one lives down the street. Nothing like having an expert to tell the neighbors what’s what.

chyna's avatar

@Dan_Lyons I do not allow others to feed my dog and definitely not meat. That will teach the dog to eat anything anyone gives it and the food could be poisoned.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@chyna Do you allow your dog to bark maniacally at the neighbors? Or to act in a vicious and threatening manner?

janbb's avatar

@Dan_Lyons The OP has already rejected that as an approach.

ibstubro's avatar

Regarding the hole in the fence:
**“Fix” it by pounding lengths of re-bar (or other firm material) into the ground, both sides and in the center, then wrapping them in weatherproof material.
**‘Pepper spray’ or pour ammonia on the wood around both sides and in front of the opening.
**Repair it using long lengths of a light material (like paneling) and short screws. Even a piece of ‘black-out’ curtain, waterproof side up.
**If you have an outdoor plastic storage cupboard, move it over the hole.
**If the fence is that rotten, wait until a dark and stormy night and throw your weight against it. If it doesn’t give, it won’t for the dog, either. Wear a winter coat for padding…if it gives, problem solved.
**If it’s strictly a matter of the dog not being able to see you when you’re in your yard, you could simply cover the fence with mylar wrapping paper and a staple gun.

I understand exactly where you’re coming from. I have a booth in an antique mall and the owner has a neurotic dog. Apparently “hats” can set it off. At least twice it has tried to bite me. Seriously tried to bite me. The owner laughs it off as “playing”. Bullspit. If a dog’s bared teeth are within an inch of my as butt, it’s serious!

Would it damage your relationship with your neighbors irrevocably if you told them that if bitten, you will press charges? Is it worth damaging the relationship to you?

Good luck!

snowberry's avatar

@ibstubro I may be over estimating their intelligence, but they should know already that I would press charges if bitten! Heck, the police would press charges! But you see, the dog is really friendly! LOL

Thanks for suggesting testing the fence. That’s a great idea. The biggest problem right now is that the slats are constantly coming out or are about to come out. All we need is for two slats to fall together and it’s an open door. The privacy screen is resolving that for the time being, and I’m glad about that, but this is obviously an ongoing problem. If we don’t figure out a way to fix the fence from our side (the back side) it’s not going to get fixed.

Edit: I’ll mention that the privacy screen was the most affordable option which is why we went with that. Other forms of fencing were far more expensive.

Coloma's avatar

@snowberry Can you afford to go halves with the neighbors and replace the fence?
You could also go get those bamboo mat privacy screens and hang them on the fence to obscure the weak spots. Tack them down at the bottom in the secure slats at ground level.

kritiper's avatar

Get an electric fencer and cover the missing section of fence with a wire mesh, hooked to the fencer. Or spray the dog with water when it tries to get through the fence. Or use pepper spray.
The dog is not friendly! He will try to kill you if he/she gets through! I have had a dog as you mention and the dog even came into my yard stalking me. If the dog does get through the fence, the law may allow you to kill it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Coloma Why would the neighbors shell out any money for a new fence? They don’t need one. Their dog is friendly.

@dappled_leaves I read your links (well at least half of each one.) From your second link, ” In one of the outtakes included in the four-DVD set of the first season of “Dog Whisperer,” Mr. Millan explains that a woman is “the only species that is wired different from the rest.” Um, dude. Women are not a species unto themselves.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ha ha! Make a recording of it and play it full blast, in the middle of the night, right next to their window!

ibstubro's avatar

You can buy animal repellent that works. You could spray it on the privacy screen, but careful what you wish for – humans are animals, after all. Blech!

Where it’s chewing on the privacy screen, simply dampening and sprinkling with ground red pepper ($1 at the Dollar Store) should solve that harmlessly. There are a lot of outdoor places that ground red pepper will keep animals away.

I’d also consider getting one of those hose attachments that meter out liquid (detergent, fertilizer, etc) and use it to give the fence/privacy screen a good ‘scrubbing’ with ammonia.

Coloma's avatar

@Dutchess_III @snowberry said the fence had some loose boards and was not in good shape, soo, when a fence needs replacing or repair neighbors split the cost.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yabutt these don’t sound like the kind of neighbors you can work with. :(

RocketGuy's avatar

If you already closed the gap with chicken wire, you can add a wire to this: http://www.amazon.com/Fi-Shock-SS-725CS-Powered-Light-Duty-Electric/dp/B000HHO9EE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403203296&sr=8-1&keywords=electrified+fence

My step-father used something like this when my dog kept sleeping on the jacuzzi cover.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh @RocketGuy! I thought you said the dog was peeing on the jacuzzi cover and I was feeling damn sorry for that dog!

The problem is, they have a handicapped 4 year old and some other children. She doesn’t want the children to get shocked.

dappled_leaves's avatar

So many people making suggestions that have already been shot down with good reason. This would be a great question for people to read the details, as was requested.

longgone's avatar

@snowberry Well, a wagging tail only tells us the dog is excited, so that could still mean fear. Come to think of it… if your neighbours are not that up-to-date on canine communication, that may well be one of the reasons for why they believe their dog to be friendly. Most people still think a wagging tail is a sure sign of a dog’s friendly attitude, simply because this myth has been around for ages.

Here’s some signs to watch out for, if you’d like to “know your enemy”:

Are the dog’s ears folded back along the head?
-> Fear/insecurity.

Does she tongue-flick, yawn or pant upon seeing you? Does she duck her head?
-> All signs of stress/calming signals.

Is her tail stiff, very upright or only wagging at the tip?
-> Not usually a friendly wag.

Is her body weight on the hind legs?
-> Insecurity – a dog that doesn’t want to attack.

Is she retracting her commissure (corners of the mouth)?
-> Fear again.

Hiring a trainer would be ideal, of course. A professional could objectively evaluate all the details. May be an idea.

Before you know why the dog is acting as she is, treats would be a nice gesture, but probably not much use. A severely aggressive dog can’t be turned around by a little kibble without adressing underlying causes – much less a fear-reactive one.

(Imagine you’ve just been mugged. You are terrified, trying to think of a way to escape. The mugger hands you a chocolate bar. Are you going to go home with that guy now?)

@dappled_leaves Thanks for posting those links. I was too lazy to do any research yesterday.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@longgone Come on, man! It’s not her dog! It’s her neighbor’s dog so a “trainer” is completely out of the question. Plus the neighbor is not being cooperative or friendly! @snowberry said the neighbors have specifically forbidden her to give the dog treats or try to make friends with the dog.

Not only that, the signs the dog is displaying are NOT subtle. He’s growling and snarling and barking and throwing himself at the fence trying to get to her.

longgone's avatar

^ Um… @snowberry herself mentioned the trainer; I just advised against handing out treats, and where there are obvious signs, there are most definitely subtle signs worthy of attention if you’re interested in solving the problem. @snowberry will be looking at that snarling dog anyway, won’t she? Might as well notice what exactly it’s reacting to.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What did she say about a trainer? I found it. She mentioned having a trainer come look at it. I see now.

It’s a tough situation, especially since the neighbors are so resistant to helping.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, you should get video so we can see it too…..

longgone's avatar

^That I agree with!

snowberry's avatar

Thanks folks, I’ll keep you posted. This may be a very long summer! :D

Coloma's avatar

@snowberry I know! Get a few geese that honk and hiss or, better yet, a mini-donkey that will bray them to death and kick the dog through the fence. Bring on the farm animals, this is WAR! ;-) haha

Dutchess_III's avatar

And get a video of THAT!

ibstubro's avatar

I think the video is a great idea. Post it to Facebook, then link to your landlord, friends, mutual friends of the neighbor’s, city officials and here on Fluther. Show it to the neighbors first, and just tell them that is the story from your perspective.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Only problem is….you really don’t want to create hostility with your neighbors. I feel for you @snowberry. :(

ibstubro's avatar

I’d show it to the neighbors, first, @Dutchess_III, and then safety trumps neighborliness. “Strong fences make good neighbors.”
At least if they brush off the video and others find it menacing, then @snowberry is on the side of right, and has proven it. The neighbors might see the video and be like, “OMG! We gotta do something.” Best case.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah. We wish. More than likely they’ll do their best to make @snowberry very unhappy. They sound like they’re missing half their brain.

snowberry's avatar

I just talked to my friend who’s a dog trainer. She says I’ll literally have to get bitten before they’ll do anything. In the meantime, I’m to be sure to document every time there’s an incident, and harass animal control with multiple calls. What’s an incident? Every time I go out my back door? Or every time the dog corners me somewhere? Does anyone know? The good news is I’ve already started the paper trail with that first call to the authorities.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Some laws are so damn stupid….but, it’s understandable. It protects people with perfectly good dogs from getting in trouble by some rabid dog hater. Can’t wait to see the videos.

longgone's avatar

I’d send that video to animal control.

ibstubro's avatar

You are going to do videos? @snowberry ?

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