How should I deal with my problem neighbour?

When I read back the title of my article, one word comes to mind… Move! But I’m not ready to yet. I live in a lovely Brisbane suburb filled with families. All of my close friends live within a few streets of me and we’ve all raised our children together going to the local primary school and high schools, going to church together and spending time “house-hopping” from one person’s home to another depending on who had a pool or tennis court or air-conditioning!

I love where I live except for one thing… My neighbour.

I live next to an older couple who, when we first met, were quite sweet. The wife worked every day trading stocks and the husband stayed at home. They were unusual in their own little ways – he wouldn’t watch any sport live as it gave him anxiety so he would wait to read the score in the paper and then watch a recording. They collected newspapers and had a lovely pool but chose not to maintain it claiming that pool products were “gimmicks” and we’d almost believe it until it went green again.

We had a loud family with our three children but we did our best to teach them manners. They called our neighbours by name and would drop in to say hello and would wave when they walked past. The boys would help them around the garden and would take out the bins and our daughter would drop some muffins in if she was baking.

We always got along well, as different as we were, until we did one thing. We got a dog. Now, even though I’m full of bias, I can really say that our dog is beautiful. He greets people at the door, doesn’t jump up, waits for the magic word before eating his dinner, can shake, roll and play dead and the best thing about him is that he doesn’t bark – unless there are possums around.

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Living in Australia in our leafy family suburb beside a bush reserve means that in the warmer months we do have the occasional possum climbing a tree or running along the fence. And like every Labrador-Retriever, it is his instinct to bark.

Since getting our beautiful man three years ago, every summer we have received a council notice complaining about dog barking. The councilmen come out and conduct random assessments and find no barking at all, even with incentive. Our neighbour has also door-knocked around the street to ask people to sign a petition to “remove him” or for him to undergo “suitable treatment”. I must say that to my delight, none of our neighbours agreed nor signed it.

But last weekend I think I had my final straw. We had arrived at a family function for a Birthday at 6:45pm and the following text exchange happened:


Wife of neighbour (7:30pm):

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Toby has been unsettled barking on and off since 7:10pm. Our homes are too close and the barking is quite distressful. Can you please do something.

Me (7:40pm):

Hi (wife of neighbour’s name), we are currently at a special family dinner. One of us will go home and collect him as soon as possible. This is a special family event for a birthday so it might not be for a while I’m afraid. Toby is a dog and there are possums around which cause him to bark. John has just confirmed that his fence is up, that prevents him from running up beside your home so he is only in the central back garden not next to the fence.

Wife of neighbour (7:45pm):

Thank you. We have checked before letting you know. The issue is the loud bark which is especially distressing. It only appears to happen and bother us when no one is home. It is an anxiety bark. There are no possums, we cut our trees down to stop them. It would help if he had a dog collar.

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Me (7:50pm):

In the last year we did purchase a barking collar that cost in excess of $200 at the request of you and your husband. We also installed a camera outside to track his activity while we were out. The barking collar did not deter him when we saw possums – we watched this all on video footage. There were no other times that he barked while we filmed other than when we saw possums. We are at a family function and will leave when we can. Cheers.

Wife of neighbour (8:00pm):

Please do.


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Toby is a dog. He does things like bark. Our house is on a very large block too with about eight metres on either side of the house to the fence. I understand that barking isn’t pleasant, but no one else in the neighbourhood complains, our other neighbour is an 86-year-old woman who lives alone and she loves Toby and doesn’t mind his occasional barks.

I don’t know what we should do about our neighbour but right now if he caught me in the wrong mood I think I would say words I have never said before!

Tell me, have you had neighbour troubles before too? What happened? What do you think I should do?