How to be a Good Neighbor
Dr. Amy Wolff
Living with a pet might be a joy, but not everyone appreciates your pet as much as you do. The dog or cat that you cherish dearly may well be perceived as a nuisance by some visitors or neighbors. Whether you live in a house or apartment, there are some steps you should take to become a good pet-owning neighbor.
Confine Your Pet
For your pet's safety, it's best if our pet is confined to your property. Pets that roam free often encounter dangers from motor vehicles, toxins, other animals, or from unappreciative neighbors. Although you may think it is beneficial to let your pet out to wander, if he gets into your neighbor's garbage, dig up their garden, or eliminate in their yard, it doesn't do much to foster good neighborly relations. Your neighbor may try to have your pet picked up by a shelter (where the pet might be put asleep if there is no proper identification). A really angry neighbor may even try to harm your pet.
Teach your pet the boundaries of your yard, provide a fenced area, or let him out only under supervision. If your pet is neutered or spayed, he/she will be less likely to wander. When you walk your dog, be sure to pick up any feces he leaves behind.
Control Excessive Barking
Excessive barking is a common behavioral problem and a nuisance to your neighbors. You may not even be aware of the problem until someone tells you. Barking often signals that your pet is frightened, bored, or has separation anxiety. Chewing or other destructive behavior may also occur. Whatever the cause of the problem, even the most tolerant neighbors will have a low threshold for a pet that barks all day or all night, or one that breaks through the fence and digs up their yard.
If you suspect your pet is behaving in an anxious manner, try leaving the house for a few minutes as you would in the course of your normal routine. Then quietly come back to the house and see or hear if he is engaging in any anxious behaviors. If your pet is exhibiting any of the aforementioned behaviors, a visit to your veterinarian may help define the problem and he/she will likely be able to offer a solution to help modifying these behaviors. There are many training methods available to teach your dog not to bark once the problem has been identified.
Teach Your Dog Manners
It is a dog's nature to be social, but having a few basic manners in place will help friends, neighbors, and visitors to enjoy your pet's company. Discourage jumping and overly enthusiastic greetings. Dogs can inadvertently knock over children or elderly people, who can be frightened or injured as a result. Teaching your dog to sit, stay, come, and walk properly on a leash is as essential as teaching a child to read and write.
A dog that behaves well is more apt to be included in social activity. Dogs that behave badly or are hard to control are often excluded from social settings and this often worsens behavior problems. Dogs should never be allowed to engage in play-biting with people, beg from the table, or to dominate furniture or room space. Do not allow such behaviors to develop by firmly discouraging them from the start. In addition, it's well worth taking time to socialize your pet to people and other animals, so that he can learn to be comfortable and confident around them.
Give a Friendly Caution
If despite your best efforts you know your pet has a tendency to bite or guard, urinates submissively, or jumps up, calmly inform visitors before they approach your pet. Such cautions may circumvent injury or embarrassment. Many animals just need a few minutes to feel comfortable around people they don't know in order to calm down enough to accept petting and praise. Work with your dog for a few minutes every day to correct behaviors that are troublesome and destructive. It is a dog's natural tendency to please and be a part of the family "pack." Use that desire to your advantage when teaching your dog how to behave.