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by Lauren E. Masellas, Animal Control Officer

One of the most common complaints I receive is The Barking Dog. And having been on both sides of this complaint, I can sympathize equally! So, let’s start with the facts.

Sanford/Springvale, like most communities, has a noise ordinance that covers animals. It reads as follows:

“The following activities are specifically prohibited: Animals and birds. Owning, possessing or harboring any animal or bird which, frequently or for continued duration, makes sounds which create noise disturbance across a residential real property boundary. For the purpose of this chapter, a barking dog shall mean a dog that barks, bays, cries, howls, or makes any other noise continuously and/or incessantly for a period of 10 minutes or barks intermittently for 1/2 hour or more to the disturbance of any person at any time of day or night, regardless of whether the dog is physically situated in or upon private property; provided, however, that a dog shall not be deemed a barking dog for purposes of this chapter if, at the time the dog is barking, a person is trespassing or threatening to trespass upon private property in or upon which the dog is situated or for any other legitimate cause which teased or provoked the dog…”

Should you have a barking dog, or if you are being disturbed by one, it is important to note the duration of time. At 2:00 a.m., two minutes can certainly feel like ten minutes and a half hour can be an eternity. If you own the dog and are used to the noise, it may take you ten minutes just to realize the barking is going on and you’re sure it’s only been a minute. It is also important to try and determine whose dog it is. If you live in a big neighborhood, this can be a challenge. Sound travels surprising distances and can be bounced around by buildings.  If you own a barker, this is important too. You could be disturbing a neighbor a couple of streets over without even realizing it.

As a dog owner, you have a responsibility to both your dog, and your neighbors, to deal with this issue. Yes, dogs bark. But a dog that is barking to the point of disruption is trying to tell you something. Barking is a symptom of an underlying issue. It could be anxiety, fear, protectiveness, lack of socialization or just plain boredom. Many of these behavior issues develop because the dog spends most of its time alone. This is completely unnatural for a canine, which is a pack animal by nature. Unfortunately, with our busy lives, it can also be the most challenging issue to address.

The first thing to do is to determine when and how long your dog barks. This will help you determine the what and why of the behavior. You may have to talk to your neighbors if the dog only barks when you’re not home. Hopefully, they will appreciate that you are addressing the issue and be willing to help. If not, you may need to resort to a tape recorder or even a video camera if you believe there is an outside influence that may be aggravating your dog.

Once you’ve discovered what is triggering the barking, you can take steps to correct it. To find help with this, you may go online to the Humane Society ( or any of the many reputable groups that offer this information. Consider contacting the Kennebunk Animal Welfare Society in West Kennebunk ( /985-3244). They have a myriad of resources, including a wonderful variety of classes for you and your dog at the lowest cost possible.

Which ever route you choose to go, keep these tips from the Humane Society of the United States in mind:

  • Don’t yell at your dog to be quiet—it just sounds like you’re barking along with him.
  • Keep your training sessions positive and upbeat.
  • Be consistent so you don’t confuse your dog.
  • Everyone in your family must apply the training methods every time your dog barks inappropriately.
  • You can’t let your dog get away with inappropriate barking some times and not others.

Sanford Animal Control may be contacted through the Sanford Police Department at (207) 324-3644 X 223, or by email at

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