You love your pets. But do the folks next door and across the street love your pets? Well, that largely depends on you. All too often, homeowners find themselves fighting with their neighbors like, well, cats and dogs due to disturbances caused by these creatures -- from nonstop noise to massacred marigolds, to egregious excrement.
So in the interest of helping you, your beloved animals, and your neighbors all live harmoniously, here's how to smooth over some of the most complained-about pain points.
The dossier on droppings
Is your neighbor all up in your business about your dog or cat doing their business? Well, if they're making a stink about it, they have plenty of company -- and quite possibly a valid complaint.
According to Kathleen Watson, who lives near Phoenix and has served on the board of her homeowners association for 20 years, pets relieving themselves in inappropriate places is the top complaint resident boards receive. Fortunately, this is an easy solve.
"When it's walk time, try to first have them do their 'duty' in their home yard," suggests Watson. "When that is not possible, keep a plastic bag in your pocket, but also try to limit their elimination to common areas, and always clean after your pet." Also, keep in mind that this isn't limited to just dog excrement -- pet urine can kill plants, too. "Too many owners allow their pets to pee in others' yards," says Watson. Consider keeping your pet on the sidewalk or walk it in the street to avoid murdering your neighbor's flower beds.
When your pet won't shut up
Bark, bark, bark, bark, bark
The second most common complaint facing homeowners is pet noise. There are a few ways to deal with this, but to start, be empathetic with your neighbors. It can be seriously annoying to others if you have an animal that doesn't know how to pipe down.
"When a neighbor approaches about barking dogs, it's tempting to get ticked off, because usually they have a negative attitude," says Kimberly Gauthier, pet expert at Keep the Tail Wagging. "Don't rise to the bait." Apologize and ask them to let you know if it continues.
Then check your local laws and noise ordinances, which you can do by visiting a local police precinct or searching online for rules in your city or county.
"In my area -- Marysville, WA -- we're allowed to start making noise at 6 a.m., so I'm less worried about threats from neighbors to call the police if our dogs are barking during 'noise hours,'" says Gauthier. "Knowing the ordinances removes a level of stress from my shoulders and prevents me from getting defensive."
Still, you should pinpoint your dog's triggers and then try to minimize them. "The only time our dogs bark like crazy is when there is roadwork happening, so on those days, we now make plans to keep the dogs in the house and we visit during the workday for potty breaks," says Gauthier.
Also keep in mind that dogs often bark when they're bored or restless.
"I'm always telling clients that a tired dog is a good dog," says Taylor Truitt, a veterinarian. "Before you leave pets for an extended period of time, make sure they get a good amount of exercise. You can also leave them with toys that offer distraction or mental stimulation while they are home alone."
If Fido acts like Cujo
Try to remember that not everyone is instantly animal-smitten. For example, having been attacked by a dog as a little girl, I still shy away from dogs I've never "met." Therefore, it's important to keep your pet from being aggressive or even too friendly with neighbors until you know their stance.
David Anderson of Local Puppy Breeders had such an issue with his current dog, Buddy.
"When we would take him for a walk outside and inevitably run into our neighbors, he would growl and nip at them," he says. "It was a big problem, and our neighbors would start to walk the other way as soon they saw us leave our front door." Anderson solved the issue by recruiting the neighbors to help. He provided them with dog treats, which they would give to Buddy if they ran into him during his walk. Instead of growling at the neighbors, Buddy would warm up to them because of the treats.
A roam away from home
Finally, this is your pet, not your neighbor's pet. Keep it close to home. Your home.
This may require some research on your part.
"Electronic fences don't work for all dogs, and many brands will provide a list of breeds that challenge their system," says Gauthier. It's also important to understand that other electronics like your home Wi-Fi might interrupt the signal. Before making the investment, read up on reviews.
If you're not keen on a fence or tether, consider investing in landscaping. Not only is it aesthetically nice, it can also keep pets from straying or getting worked up when a neighbor walks by.
"We buy fast-growing hedge plants every year that we plant in areas around our property to block our dogs' view of road activity," says Gauthier. This means less barking, car- and cat-chasing -- and some pretty greenery to boot.