What Is Considered Excessive Dog Barking In Australia?
We all have a level of tolerance for how much our dogs can bark. I would hasten to bet that your tolerance has raised dramatically since becoming a dog owner. Before adopting my first dog, any neighbour’s pup yapping for more than a minute would’ve been an affront to my peaceful evening. Now, having adopted three dogs, the chorus of my pack barking and howling away often seems like white noise. You just become immune to it.
Now, that is not to say that I let my dogs bark as much as they like, whenever they like. We have strict rules in our household and so should you. In Australia, there are barking dog laws that specifically dictate what is considered excessive dog barking. It varies from state to state so that’s what we will dive into today.
To provide you with the most up-to-date information, we teamed up with veterinarians, canine behavioural experts, and local legal experts to form a team of independent experts. We then did a deep dive to consider the science behind your dog's barking as well as examine governing laws across the country. Here's what you need to know about excessive dog barking in Australia.
What Is Considered Excessive Dog Barking?
As our team of independent experts quickly learnt, each state within Australia handles the issue of noise nuisance from barking dogs differently but there is not a huge variation. Most of the differences lie in the government bodies available to help mediate the problem between the dog owner and neighbours.
Related: How To Stop A Dog From Barking.
There also may be differences in the cost of the fines imposed by the local council, should a nuisance order be issued by them.
According to our expert team, here is an overview of how most local councils deal with dog barking.
How is a nuisance dog defined in Australia?
The definition of an excessively barking dog is usually purposefully vague in Australia.
In certain council districts, they have imposed specific guidelines. For example, in Darwin City, the council stipulates that a dog is considered a nuisance if:
“barking exceeds three (3) minutes in any 30 minute period between 10pm and 7am the following morning barking exceeds six (6) minutes in any 30 minute period between 7am and 10pm that day.” (1)
But these timed limitations are quite rare to see. Your local council website may have parameters like these but most will follow the Dog Act 1976, Companion Animals Act 1998, Domestic Animals Act 2000 and so on. This statewide legislature is much more… forgiving, let’s say.
The Dog Act 1976 defines nuisance created by dogs as “it creates a noise, by barking or otherwise, which persistently occurs or continues to a degree or extent not normally habitual in dogs and has a disturbing effect on the state of reasonable physical, mental, or social wellbeing of a person”. (2)
This is quite subjective, but the council legislation of other regions is also just as vague. The enforcement of that definition lies with the council officer that a neighbour would employ to investigate. We’ll explain later how they make their judgement as fair as possible. But the key thing to remember is “to a degree or extent not normally habitual in dogs”.
A neighbour cannot enforce that your dog stops barking entirely. Dogs bark. That’s what they do and they should be allowed to express themselves within reason. There are safeguards in place to make sure that a sensitive neighbour is not unreasonably sanctioning you for barking that is not out of the ordinary.
Meditation services in Australia around excessive barking
If your neighbour is bothered by the noise your dog is making and they have attempted to speak to you about it, they may move forward with different legal bodies depending on the state.
In New South Wales, mediation is the first port of call and they have robust services to help you with this.
The Community Justice Centre (CJC) is a government-funded mediation body to help settle community disputes.
The CJC will review the complaint and speak to you and the neighbour in question. There are no fines imposed if the CJC gets involved and is usually the best course of action to resolve the dispute.
Though this is only offered in NSW, the other States have various resources on their websites to give advice regarding a noise complaint or dispute before involving them more seriously.
Can you be fined for excessive dog barking in Australia?
Let’s say that your neighbour speaks to you about your dog’s barking and you have used a mediation service provided by the council. If both of these efforts fail, your neighbour can look into more robust noise protection orders.
Yes, unfortunately, you can be fined for excessive barking. Each local state and individual council have different amounts that they set for fines. Our panel of experts share that the general process of emitting a nuisance order is as follows:
- Involving the council
Your neighbour can contact the council with the intention to impose a nuisance order.
- First contact
In most cases, the council ranger will inform you as a dog owner that a neighbour has complained about the noise. This is somewhat of a warning. If the neighbour continues to complain after you have been given this warning, the council ranger then moves to investigate the issue further to see if there is a true noise issue.
- Gathering evidence
Generally, this is done in two ways:
a) The neighbour who complained is asked to keep a journal of the number of times your dog barks throughout the day including details like the duration of barking and time of day or night it occurs.
b) The council ranger may interview other neighbours regarding whether they are frequently bothered by a dog barking or if they deem it to be normal dog behaviour.
The council ranger will make the final judgement call after gathering the evidence as to whether the barking is excessive and prosecutable under a nuisance order.
- Issuing the order
If they deem the barking to be excessive, they may issue the nuisance order that will be in place for 6 months.
If you don’t comply with the order and reduce the amount your dog is barking, you could be fined. The rates of these fines vary widely from state to state, council to council. The first fine could be between $200 - $800. The second offence and every fine thereafter could be $1,000 - $2,500.
If you want to see how your state handles excessive dog barking specifically, here is a glossary with links to each government website for the latest information:
Why Is My Dog Barking So Much?
Dogs bark for many reasons both internal and external. We consulted the veterinarians and dog behaviour experts on our team to discuss why. (3) The main ones are:
They are territorial
Your home is your dog’s castle, and they must protect it at all costs! This is why barking by the fence or at the door are common traits in dogs. Sometimes this is welcomed. I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty thankful for my dog’s warning alarms if an intruder were to approach the house without me knowing. There is a use for this kind of barking. But if you live in a neighbourhood with a lot of footfalls, like near a school or busy street, these warning beacons become a nuisance quite quickly.
One course of action is to use gentle training techniques such as citronella anti-barking collars to deter your dog from barking excessively. You can also make sure that your dog isn’t exposed to the stimulus as much. For example, if you live by a school and your dog is barking incessantly at the kids they see passing the garden fence, get a higher fence that blocks your dog’s view, or ensure your dog remains inside during peak school traffic times.
They are scared
If your dog is anxious or fearful of something or someone, they may bark excessively at them to show their distress. Again, sometimes this is warranted, like the aforementioned intruder. Often it is an emotional response to something that could be completely benign - like the postman.
Our panel of experts recommend that removing the source of the fear or blocking the view like with the first point tends to be quite effective if fear is the issue.
They are getting older
As dog’s age, they can begin to lose their mental capabilities just as humans do. The official term for it is Canine Cognitive Dysfunctional Syndrome or CCDS, which is more commonly referred to as canine dementia. (4). Dogs with this condition tend to be more vocal, particularly at night. They get confused and worried more often which leads to night howling and barking.
I have a dog with this condition and unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to train this away. From my personal experience, the best thing to do is to soothe their worries when they are pacing or yelping at night. Speak to them calmly and reassure them that everything is okay. They will normally stop barking and go to sleep after they have calmed down.
Is your dog panicking and barking excessively whilst you are at work? This could be why. Separation anxiety is very common in dogs of all ages.
“Dogs with separation anxiety vocalize, become destructive or eliminate, beginning either as the owners prepare to leave or shortly after departure... The vocalisation is due to distress and may therefore consist of howling or whining.” (5)
If you have identified loneliness and separation anxiety as the causes of your dog’s excessive barking, our team of independent experts say it is going to take some time to train them into being comfortable on their own. Desensitisation techniques are usually the most effective. This is like the beginning of crate training.
My Final Thoughts
The takeaway is that what is considered excessive barking varies from person to person, council to council, and state to state in Australia. While some local councils have very defined guidelines, this is not the norm, so every member of our panel of independent experts suggest you check your local council for the most up to date information.
Being in the know of your rights and allowances as a dog owner, but also being responsible for your dog’s actions, will ensure that you don’t get into trouble for noise complaints in the future.
Yes, you can. It is best to contact the council representative that issued the order to seek an appeal. To effectively combat a nuisance order, you’ll want to gather as much evidence against it as possible. If you have a dog camera that records your dog during the day or accounts from neighbours that go against the nuisance order, this will help your case.
- “Nuisance Dogs”. Darwin City Council. Retrieved July 29, 2023. https://www.darwin.nt.gov.au/live/pets-wildlife/dog-cat-management/nuisance-barking
- "Dog Act 1976". State of Western Australia. Retrieved July 29, 2023. https://www.legislation.wa.gov.au/legislation/former/swans.nsf/(DownloadFiles)/Dog+Act+1976.pdf/$file/Dog+Act+1976.pdf
- Stregowski, J. April 3, 2021. “How to Stop Your Dog From Barking Excessively”. The Spruce Pets. Retrieved July 29, 2023. https://www.thesprucepets.com/stop-your-dog-from-barking-3877988
- Grzyb, K. November 22, 2019. “7 Signs of Dog Dementia”. PetMD. Retrieved July 29, 2023. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/neurological/5-signs-dog-dementia
- Horwitz, D., Landsberg, G. “Separation Anxiety in Dogs”. VCA Animal Hospitals. Retrieved July 29, 2023. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/separation-anxiety-in-dogs