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Your dog may be your best friend, but your neighbors may view it differently. If someone complains about your dog, the worst thing you can do is get defensive. That’ll make your neighbor feel like you don’t care, and an issue that you might’ve been able to resolve amicably could escalate into an ongoing feud that could involve the authorities.

Listen and Gather Information
Even if you think your neighbor is exaggerating, take the complaint seriously. You may not fully understand your dog’s behavior, especially if problems occur when you’re away from home. Express empathy and ask questions. Talk to other neighbors and ask if they’ve experienced problems with your dog so everyone will know that you sincerely want to understand and address the problem. Setting up a video camera outside your house can help you observe your dog while you’re at work.

How to Address Problems
If your dog spends most of its time outdoors, it may be hungry, thirsty, hot, cold or lonely. The dog may bark when people walk by your house because it’s agitated or wants to play. You might be able to solve these problems by keeping your dog inside while you’re at work and having someone stop by to take it for a walk, by confining your pet to the backyard, or by providing more food and water or better shelter. If your dog barks right after you leave for work, it could be experiencing separation anxiety. Making time for a morning walk could help your dog relax.

If your dog plays or relieves itself on a neighbor’s property, keep your pet on a leash whenever you take it out of your yard. If your dog jumps on the fence separating your property and your next-door neighbor’s, you may need to reinforce the fence or put up a second fence to keep your neighbor’s family safe.

If your dog is accused of attacking a neighbor’s family member or pet, find out the extent of the victim’s injuries and try to locate witnesses or surveillance video. If the police and/or animal control are called, cooperate fully. You may have to pay for medical or veterinary bills and take measures to keep others safe, or even get rid of your dog if it’s deemed too dangerous.

Follow the Law
Comply with all local laws related to dog ownership. If your dog isn’t licensed and up to date on vaccinations, if you let it roam around unleashed, or if you don’t clean up after it relieves itself, a neighbor could use those facts against you if he or she decided to file a complaint with local authorities.

Look for Solutions
Assume that a neighbor’s complaints about your dog are at least partially justified. Listen, take the matter seriously, gather more information, and search for a way to resolve the issue that’ll keep everyone safe and help you maintain a positive relationship with your neighbor.