Is owner responsible when his dog barks?

Dear Labby,

This morning I took my dogs for a leisurely walk down a street in our neighborhood. As we strolled, a German Shepherd in a yard across the street began barking loudly from behind a chain link fence. A moment or two later, a man stepped out the front door.

The man called to me: “Can you walk your dogs somewhere else?”

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

He replied, “Your dogs are waking up the whole neighborhood.”

I pointed out: “Uh… your dog is the one barking. My dogs are quiet as can be.”

He responded, “They’re distracting my dog and causing him to bark so walk somewhere else.”

I thought about that for a second and then asked, “So you’re saying no one is ever allowed to walk a dog past your house? This is my neighborhood too, and I’m quietly walking along a public street. If his barking bothers you, why don’t you keep him inside?”

This did not sit well with the man, and he fired back: “Why can’t you be considerate of my neighbors? It’s 7 am on Saturday! You woke me from a dead sleep! Walk your dogs at a decent hour!”

I considered that and then replied: “It’s 7:20 and it’s 70 degrees out. In a few hours, it’s going to be 95 degrees – too hot to walk my dogs. Besides, my dogs are quiet and well-behaved. They’re not even barking back at your dog. Since your dog is making all the noise, and we’re quietly taking advantage of a nice morning walk on a public street, isn’t this issue your responsibility?”

My neighbor disagreed, saying, “You’re a horse’s ass.”

Labby, am I a horse’s ass?

Signed:

Mulling Yard Dispute Over German Shepherd’s Woofing, Explanation Requested to Ever Quite Effectively Understand Individual’s Extreme Tirade

Dear Mulling Yard Dispute Over German Shepherd’s Woofing, Explanation Requested to Ever Quite Effectively Understand Individual’s Extreme Tirade,

You’re only an ass (and by that, I mean not the smartest creature of all time) if you set foot near this man’s house again. He’s either incredibly naïve about how living in a community is supposed to work, or he’s a pompous fool who doesn’t care. Either way, these types of people can be dangerous and are capable of much more than verbal insults.

Why in the world this guy thinks that anyone but him is responsible for his own dog’s behavior in that situation is beyond me. Even more puzzling, why would he simply not keep his dog in the house if he wants to sleep in? Better yet, spend some time with the dog. Train him not to bark – or to bark only when someone is actually on the property.

I’m wondering how this man would cope if his dog barked at cars — would he ask that no one ever drive past his house? Depending on his dog’s particular quirks, there’s no telling how absurd this could get. The dog doesn’t like the smell of soap? No one in a 3-mile radius should be allowed to bathe! (At least not before 11:00 a.m.)

In fact, M.Y. D.O.G.S. W.E.R.E. Q.U.I.E.T., there’s nothing more appropriate, polite, and downright delightful about a person walking well-behaved pups around the block first thing in the morning. You were well within the bounds of etiquette.

Got a petiquette question for Dear Labby? Email dearlabby@dogtime.com