Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pro-barking propaganda and how to counter it

Anyone who's been the victim of a neighbor's yard barker is probably familiar with the various talking points dog owners and authorities deploy in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility and/or doing their jobs.

Here, I am going to offer some various talking points of OUR OWN.  Learn them well!

1)  Dogs bark, that's what they do.  You are sure to hear this universally absurd statement whenever you complain about a barking dog.  Their point being, since they have a loud dog it must be OK for not just their dog, but all dogs to be loud.  All the time.

Counterpoints:  First, the above suffers from a logical fail known as "weak induction", i.e. since this isolated example of something is true, anything similar must be true.  For example, I could say that since the bartender in my local pub is named "Pat", ALL bartenders must be named "Pat".   With dog owners, this can be used against them, since its a given that many dogs are quiet.  "Dogs are quiet, thats what dogs are" has the same weight.

Second, the underlying assumption of this statement is that, if a dog (or anything or anyone else for that matter), has the ability or tendency to do something (bark loudly, in this case) said action is, by definition, acceptable.   Again, this is a major logical fail as that could be said for anything.  For example, using that line of reasoning, any bad behavior could be excused, i.e. "Hitler was a genocidal maniac... thats what they do" is a poor rationalization for the holocaust.   The fact that Hitler was crazy and had access to the German war machine does not, by itself, excuse his behavior.  Likewise, loud barking or any other bad behavior exhibited by dogs or their owners is also not excusable.  Dogs bark at 105 decibels, and any reasonable person would agree that's too loud for the suburbs.   Note the same excuse is used for dogs that attack and kill people:  "dogs have teeth, what do you expect?"  was the glib statement made by a dog behaviorist after a german shepherd killed a 6 year old child.

2)  Its a watchdog.   The claim is, the dog is scaring away any potential burglars and/or warning about emergencies such as fires, accidents, etc...

Counterpoints:   Now, I don't necessarily have a problem with legitimate watchdog behavior.  However, its noteworthy that the amount of "legitimate" dog noises we are subject to is vanishingly small.  Most dog barking serves no useful purpose.

Furthermore, the typical "yard barker" is the proverbial "Boy who cried wolf" in that the incessant "false alarms" actually reduce the possibility that an actual crime or real emergency will be noted.  Victims of incessant, useless barking are often encouraged to NOT approach the owner (or they will be nailed for harrassment) and are ignored by authorities.   Therefore, even if by some remote chance the dog IS barking usefully, it is by definition rendered pointless.

3)  My dog has a right to express himself.  This implies a couple of things:  1) Dogs have equal protection under the first amendment of the US Constitution (or similar if in another country), and 2) This "right" supersedes the right of everyone else in the vicinity to peaceful use of their property.

Counterpoints:   Both of the above are fails.  My understanding is that right of expression is protected BY humans FOR humans, it is not extended to dogs or any other animals.  Now, the dog owner may side-step this by claiming that it is THEY that are using their dog to express THEIR self.  In other words, that endless, repetitive loud barking is their message to the world, or some such.   However, this still fails as a right "to" something also translates into a right "from" something.  I.E.  I should not be forced to listen to a barking dog inside my home any more than I should be forced to listen to rap music or anything else.  The noise level on my property is for ME to control, not them.  This is also a good counterpoint to items (1) and (2).

4)  I can do whatever I want on my property.  Their point being, they are the king of their castle and they can do anything they want in their space with no regard to anyone around them.

Counterpoints:  The above is an obvious fail because, if this claim is taken to its logical conclusion, I now have a "right" to set off an H-Bomb in my suburban 1/4 acre.  The hinky thing about property rights is that EVERYONE has them, including me.  When your activities affect me in any way, it becomes my business, and I can force you to stop doing what you are doing.   Your yard barker is lowering my property values, keeping me awake, preventing me from working, relaxing, and pursuing social activities.  You can bet that I am going to do whatever I have to to restore peace to my home.

5)  What about noise pollution from other sources?   This is a rhetorical question used to make the point that, its OK for them to manufacture a lot of useless noise since we are subject to noise pollution from other sources such as cars, railroads, airplanes, etc... even other barking dogs.

Counterpoints:  This fails on multiple levels.  The excuse "everyone is doing it" depends on circular reasoning... its OK for my dog to bark since that other dog is barking, and its OK for that dog to bark since mine is doing so.  However, both are nuisances that should be arrested immediately.   Its also noteworthy that "everyone" is most certainly NOT doing it as most people do NOT own dogs, and many dog owners have quiet dogs (see #1).

Comparing a yard barker to useful infrastructure such as railroads is also a major fail.  Railroads are a critical component to any modern economy.  We ALL derive benefits from rail transportation, even if we don't use it ourselves.  Comparing a uselessly barking dog to a train thats carrying millions of dollars in goods or hundreds of passengers to work is absurd.  One is clearly useful and the other is not.  Like most people, I am willing to tolerate some pollution, including noise pollution, in exchange for a high standard of living.  However, since the yard barker serves no useful purpose it needs to be silenced.  It benefits no one, least of all me.


  1. Thankyou Bill, for this excellent writing.

    I've copied your whole barking article and sent it to our Australian anti-barking colleagues.

    I've also let them know of your blog.

    Quiet Tasmania

  2. Yeah, Oh and barking complaints are usually "malicious, mischievious or vexaious" according to councils. Hey and what about the requirement for a second or even third complainant by authorities. In Victoria, Australia, local governments have local laws that are illegal, yet no one is prepared to make them legal and force councils to enforce dog laws..Great blog... Keep it up.

  3. Hello Homeless,

    You have crashed into the brick wall of dog-owner-favoritism that exists almost everywhere.

    Of course, some complaints about barking dogs, biting dogs, dog at large, etc... are fake, but so what? Does that mean they are ALL fake?

    Again, these fools rely on "weak induction": "Since some complaints are fake, they ALL must be fake!". The reality is, we do not stop prosecuting crimes because of lack of integrity in some complainants. Otherwise, NO crimes would be prosecuted!

    So, tell us more about your situation....

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