Tough No-Barking Laws Have Pet Owners Howling

Business is booming for dog trainers like Barkbusters USA.

ByABC News
April 10, 2012, 12:39 PM

April 11, 2012— -- Dogs across the country are increasingly being hounded to be quiet and those that can't resist barking are costing their owners hefty fines.

Consequently dog trainers like Barkbusters USA are seeing a growing number of pet owners scratching at their door.

Among the cities that has lost patience with barking pooches are Los Angeles, Hawaii County, and Centennial, Colo.

Centennial's experience is typical of towns and cities that have had it with yapping dogs.

An ordinance passed in 2010, said dogs could bark for up to 20 consecutive minutes before a neighbor could issue a complaint. That was revised recently so that neighbors can file a complaint if a dog is making excessive noise for 10 minutes during the day and only five minutes at night.

Owners are then issued a written warning and are given five days -- instead of seven like in 2010 -- to find a solution to the problem.

If an owner fails to remedy the situation within the five day time period, the consequences can make them howl. Pet owners face a $50 fine for the first offense and $75 for the second. If the problem persists, the pet owner is subject to automatic summons and a judge determines the severity of the fine.

Many owners choose to seek help rather than face fines.

"We get calls for barking all the time," says Jeffrey Brian Liebowitz, owner of Karma Dog Training in Los Angeles, which has tightened its anti-barking law. "Calls come in every single day. Barking is a huge issue."

Liebowitz says a barking dog is normally an unhappy dog, so treating it may not be as simple as training your dog to stop barking on command.

"Barking is usually a symptom of a dog who is not fulfilled. They're trying to communicate that. It's often separation anxiety...Maybe 25 percent of our business comes from dog owners who are gone during the day."

Liebowitz says evolving training, along with changes in the way people view their dogs, is the solution to the barking conundrum.

"Ten years ago, when a dog was barking, they'd just put a shock collar on it and shut it up. I think they're more attune to the fact that dogs have needs," he said.

Liebowitz has several suggestions to ease a lonely pet's mind. If a dog is barking because of social isolation, he suggests increasing its "people time" by going for walks.

Liebowitz recommends increasing the use of chew toys and exercise. However, if barking persists, he suggests consulting a vet, as medication may be required for extreme cases of separation anxiety.

Liebowitz's company offers several options for training, but he says the most popular are the in-home private consultation sessions costing $150 a pop.

Liebowitz says there are more complaints about barking dogs because more people are getting dogs.

Liam Crowe, CEO of Barkbusters USA, has also seen an increase in business and he says it's not just the number of dogs that is increasing.

"I think peoples' tolerance level has been tested over the last few years. Dogs are becoming more popular. They're one of the fastest growing industries in the country," Crowe said. "A lot of people are putting off having children until they're older, so they get a dog instead."

"We provide people with a solution to barking. Regardless of the changing laws, it's very simple to instill," Crowe said. "A happy dog doesn't sit there and bark all day. Once we take that stress away from a dog, you can almost see the smile on their face."