Hypothetically speaking, if someone complained that your dog barked too much, by dropping an anonymous, standard letter you can download off a website, in your mailbox, how would you handle that? The letter might have some obvious and lazily thought-up tips on how to reduce the allegedly annoying noise. It’s somewhat condescending (I imagine), because you have a dog and they probably don’t, so you most likely know some tricks they aren’t aware of. Whether they work is another story. Hypothetically speaking, of course. You don’t really want to door-knock the neighbourhood for fear of stirring up a hornets nest. Imagine: “I wouldn’t normally complain about a barking dog but now that you mention it…” No.
Or worse. The first communication you receive about your allegedly noisy pet is from the local council in the form of a letter to the effect of, “please shut your dog up or you could lose your dog”. Pretty scary stuff, especially if you have kids who really love their dog. But this is all hypothetical, right?
In either case how would you defend yourself? Apparently an official complaint about barking dogs around here must include approximately two weeks worth of log book entries of times when the dog was allegedly barking and a statement describing how it affects quality of life.
If you didn’t know anyone was taking note of your dog’s barking behaviour you could be left without any rebuttal, so I guess, hypothetically, in the case of receiving an anonymous letter you would owe the complainer a thank you (if you knew who they were) for at least providing the opportunity to gather your own evidence.
Okay, back to how you could mount a defence. Most likely the alleged barking is occurring when you’re not home because when you are home you can keep a lid on it, one would assume. So, how to determine when the mongrel barks while you’re out? Easy.
All you need is a laptop with a spreadsheet program and a free sound analysis program like Audacity. Use the Windows (operating system) Sound Recorder (or even Audacity itself) near an open window (glass pane) where you can hear the dog barking outside while you’re out. When you get back, save the sound file and note the start and end time of the recording in the spreadsheet. Use Audacity to find all the sounds automatically (read the manual), export the labels, import to Excel and you have a spreadsheet full of times various backyard sounds were detected. You can offset these times against the start time of the recording to get the real time-of-day for each sound detected.
The laborious part might be to go through the detected samples to verify that the sound is actually that of your dog barking. Or not. Discard any entries of birds twittering, aeroplanes flying overhead, phones and doorbells ringing, neighbours chatting, burglars farting… Link to the original sound file in your spreadsheet and you’re left with compelling evidence to counter any note-taking dog-hater prone to exaggerating their reports in order to justify their complaints.
You may also be gathering nails for your dog’s coffin. That’s why Audacity is also a good editor. But we wouldn’t go round doctoring evidence. That would be morally and legally dodgy and I won’t condone it. But if you don’t tell, I won’t. ;)
After a few weeks, I guess you will get sick of going through sound file after sound file. It will eat into your hobby time. It will eat into your family time. You might lose sleep. And not just from listening to random backyard sounds. Will there be a trigger that sends the complainer over the edge and take the next step? Will the next sound file you check contain nothing but constant barking for four hours? You will cringe, hoping the complainer was also out for the day. You check your mail for another anonymous letter upping the ante on your uncontrollable noisy beast.
But you will also breathe great sighs of relief when you come home to find a sound file five hours long with no barking whatsoever. Look forward to these. They are the key to your sanity. Hypothetically speaking, of course.