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I’m not going to lie, I loved reading recent headlines about developments in the real estate buying habits of the group known as “millennials”. Why? Because, as one recent NBC News story said plainly: The Big Reason Millennials Are Buying Homes? For Their Dogs. Citing a 2018 survey, the article went on to explain that it is pets, dogs in particular, that “outranked wedding bells (25 percent cited marriage as their top motivator for buying a home) and kids, too (only 19 percent said birth of a child was their prime incentive).”
A surprising 33% surveyed said that their decision to buy or plan on buying a home was due to the fact that they had plans for buying a dog at some point in the near future, or because they owned one already. Of course, that doesn’t mean anyone who wants to own a dog or two must also buy a home, it is simply that there are two issues that homeowning addresses:
One home buyer surveyed said that it “felt inhumane having a dog live in a third-floor apartment without any space to run around.” Generally, millennials agreed that it is a sincere “desire to give one’s dog the best life possible” that led them to a call a realtor.
Now, as you might already know, I am the owner of two boxers – Janice and Leroy – and I cannot imagine trying to live with them in the confines of an apartment. Naturally, I would not adopt large and active dogs and keep them in a one or two-bedroom unit, but not everyone gets to make such choices.
So, good for you millennials! And bravo for your commitment to your dogs’ best lives! But what about those who are not in a position to buy? What about the millions upon millions of renters? Well, as another real estate article recently explained, “There’s good news and bad news when it comes to renting with pets.”
As you might already know, the bad news is that a lot of landlords are fine with “quieter” animals like turtles, fish and frogs, but drawn the line at the furrier family members like dogs and cats. However, the good news is that the growing demand for pet-friendly accommodations makes it easier and easier to find authentically pet-friendly rentals.
Yet, even the pet-friendliest locations will quickly turn a bit hostile if you arrive with one or more “yappers” in tow. Dogs bark, everyone knows that and accepts it, but what dogs are not supposed to do is bark for great stretches of time. First of all, it means they are distressed or something is wrong, and secondly, it can cause problems. When prolonged barking occurs, and it happens to be a higher pitched and more hysterical type of barking, fellow renters get, well…upset.
A friend recently asked me what her son should do about a neighbor with yapping pups, and I wasn’t exactly sure if there was anything that could be done. I hadn’t rented for many years and had no idea about the laws around rentals with pet-friendly scenarios.
Because I never like to answer questions or give comments without being well-informed, I opened up the laptop, snuggled on the couch with Janice and Leroy, and began to learn more.Though I had addressed the issue of Landlords, Dogs and the Law, I hadn’t delved into the barking issue exclusively.
Naturally, I turned to the AKC since they usually have a lot of useful information. They didn’t fail me this time either, but one of the first things I found in my general search, authentically warmed my heart. I feel I need to share it because it shows how renting with a barking or howling dog does not have to end up a difficult or sad situation.
Earlier in 2018, a Sharla Wilson and her pug Charleston Chew moved into their new downtown Pittsburgh apartment. Charleston Chew is a canine senior citizen and struggles with poor vision. Because of that, he becomes quite upset when he cannot locate his “mother” and is prone to howling to get her to locate him.
Because Wilson would have to leave for work each day, and the aging dog would have a brief period of upset, she decided to leave a note on her apartment door. This, she hoped, would keep her fellow tenants from getting too upset by the transitional period she and her dog were facing.
The note read as if Charleston himself had written it, apologizing and closing with “As I get used to my new place, I will start to settle down. Thanks for being patient with me. I don’t mean to be such a pain.”
A neighbor, investigating the howling found the sign, snapped a photo and put it on Twitter with a sweet comment, “You howl all you want, Charleston honey.” It went viral with hundreds of thousands of shares, and well…let me grab a tissue.
Now, if only all situations with howling or barking dogs and fellow tenants could end so sweetly! Unfortunately, not everyone is so understanding. So, let’s consider what experts advise if you face a renting situation and one or more of your pups is a bit more vocal than neighbors might appreciate.
Why is a dog barking excessively or enough to upset neighbors? If you have just moved and the dog is going through some difficulties with the change, it makes sense. However, if you have lived in the same place and a dog develops a barking habit, think of it first as a potential medical issue. A visit to the vet is the first order of events.
As one rental expert suggested about this matter, if you are in a pet friendly building but “have received noise complaints from neighbors, take it seriously and figure out what is causing your dog to bark. You may ask the vet or a dog trainer on ways to control the barking when you’re away from the apartment home.”
Typically, barking, howling or whining could be due to separation anxiety or upset over new surroundings. This can be addressed with some simple training tactics advocated by the American Humane Society and others. In brief, they suggest doing so in consistently timed and structured sessions and that whatever methods you use, everyone in the home also uses, i.e. “You can’t let your dog get away with inappropriate barking some times and not others.”
Instead, some good training can begin by placing the dog in a closed room or crate and turning your back to them. The moment the barking stops, face them and offer praise and a treat. This trains the dog that being quiet means attention and a nibble. As time passes and training kicks in, add a bit more time between the ending of the barking and the reward. This reinforces the idea that quiet for any length of time is rewarded.
You may not know it, but if you shout at a barking dog, that dog will likely view your raised voice as barking in unison with them. Instead, use a very quiet voice or no voice at all, opting for some sort of signal or visual command. Yelling at the dog to stop or be quiet is never going to tell the dog what you want them to do, though it might seem so to you. You can often convince them to be quiet by showing them something that cues the behavior.
This may sound peculiar, but makes perfect sense once you figure out what it means. I’ve used this myself to prevent Leroy from going bonkers over a small corner of the garden frequently overwhelmed by squirrels. Nuts from the tree in the neighbor’s yard pile up in this one little corner, and it becomes a feeding frenzy each autumn. Leroy sees the gathering of furry fiends and loses his mind barking and telling the squirrels his intentions. By dropping the blinds and closing the curtains over that one window, he still enjoys the rest of the scenery, but I’ve blocked the view that is his trigger.
As one expert said, “dogs don’t bark simply to make noise…[it] can be a response to perceived threats or exciting sights…many dog owners begin addressing barking by simply cutting off the sights and sounds from the outside world…. consider closing your curtains and turning on your television, radio or a white-noise machine.”
Quite often, barking has motivational rewards. The dog that barks at the squirrel, a la Leroy, draws your attention and does his or her job – alerting and protecting you from invaders or perceived threats. By ignoring their barking, until they stop, it eliminates some or all of the motivation. As the Humane Society explains, “Your attention only rewards him for being noisy. Don’t talk to him, don’t touch him, and don’t even look at him. When he finally quiets, even to take a breath, reward him with a treat.”
But, there is the rub, you must wait as long as it takes for the dog to cease barking. If the dog barks for ten minutes without stopping, and you finally shout for him or her to stop, they’ll just bark a bit longer each time, since dogs learn that if they bark long enough, you will eventually give them the attention.
In the section on training, I explained how to show them rewards for quiet. Do similar steps here, ignoring their barking (and them) until it stops. Most dogs will not bark for great lengths of time, but if you reward silence, you may find they cease most barking altogether.
This training, which I have used effectively with all of my dogs, seems counterintuitive because it starts by actually teaching them to bark on command. Training a dog to “speak” is simple and done by, giving a dog the command to “speak”. You may have to wave a toy to get an initial bark. Once they do, “stick a tasty treat in front of his nose. When he stops barking to sniff the treat, praise him and give him the treat. Repeat until he starts barking as soon as you say ‘speak.’”
To teach a quiet command, you just give the speak command and as soon as there is a bark, you put a treat in front of the dog’s nose and use the “quiet” command, making it a signal different from speak. If you repeat this, they soon have both commands mastered, whether visual or verbal and you should be able to get your barking dog to be quiet with just that one command. I covered this fully in an earlier article entitled, 5 Reasons Why You Need to Train Your Dog, and 7 Training Problems to Overcome, and you might want to revisit it if you face a few training issues.
If all else seems to fail and your apartment-dwelling dog is refusing to cease and desist with the barking, just demand “incompatible behavior”. Also called reverse psychology, it is asking the dog to do something entirely incompatible with the barking. For instance, I taught Janice to go and lay on her bed when thunderstorms trigger her barking behaviors.
If barking begins or the stimulus to barking begins, you can grab a treat and put it on their bed or in their crate and give a verbal command like “go sit”. Though it might seem like rewarding the behavior, it can improve their reactions to barking stimuli, and often ends the barking with just that verbal cue to go sit (and get a reward of course).
Of course, it takes ongoing training to acclimate any animal to a new home. Be patient with your dog and don’t panic too much if they have a few bouts of barking. As long as it is not excessive and you use a method like that of Charleston Chew’s mom, asking for a bit of patience, you’ll find most pet-friendly rental properties are just that – friendly to even a pet struggling with a move or new home.