So. I need some advice here. I am going to try and document everything as objectively as I can in hopes someone might be able to see what I can't seem to figure out.
Since we have moved here, we have gotten two complaints annomyously through the county regarding barking dogs. The first time I will totally admit was probably our fault. We were new here, the dogs were adjusting and in overdrive with all the new stimuli, and we didn't have a fence that could keep them in, so they were tethered and they hate that. They would get tangled and stuck and bark out of frustration. Within a few weeks of being here, though, we had invisible fence put in and combined with them getting settled in to the new environment, things have settled down considerably.
My husband got a call yesterday informing us of a second recent complaint. The biggest issue I have with an anonymous complaint is that there is no frame of reference as to when the barking issue is happening, or if there is anything that might cause it happening in the area. So I have no idea how to begin to address it. Also, I am not sure how someone can determine it is one of my dogs, when surrounding neighbors all have larger dogs that bark. If someone is coming close to my fence to look into my yard, my dogs will bark to alert to intruders. Especially the German Shepard, that's what she was bred to do. Because it isn't a formal complaint which requires leaving a name and contact info, all the county can do is give us a verbal warning. I don't know what exactly happens if they do get a formal complaint. Investigate us I guess? Park outside the house for a day and listen for barking?? I just don't know.
For the purpose of trying to figure this out, I can tell you that the dogs are never left outside if we are not at home. They go outside a million times a day at 10-20 minute intervals, hardly ever longer than that unless someone is outside with them. If the kids are playing outside, then the dogs are with them. My two beagles do not like to be out for any extended period of time, so they park/whine/howl when they are done. I don't ever let them just bark outside because it drives me crazy to hear them. Sure there have been times when I haven't been able to go open the door right away, but it is never for longer than maybe 10 minutes if I am in another part of the house. My German Shepard is usually happy to be outside longer and is pretty quiet outside unless she is barking at someone. We also share a fence with a neighbor who has large dogs and the dogs will bark at each other and run up and down the length of the fence. Again, when I hear it getting too noisy I bring her in.
Inside the house the dogs are quiet. The only time they bark indoors is if someone is at the door, or they can see someone through the window near our house, or if they are wrestling around playing. Otherwise they are pretty quiet and lazy.
Here is what I know triggers their barking:
-when they are at the door to go outside and when they first go down the porch steps. They are like kids who are racing and have to be first in the yard. Once they are in the yard they run around and don't right away.
-when they are playing/fighting over something in the yard...a smelly spot to dig, something they caught in the yard, a bone, or a stick. They will bark at each other and try and steal it.
-other dogs/people. They are getting better with the dogs next to us, I think a lot of the barking they do now is more friendly dog playing/taunting than vicious and territorial. They also will bark at people walking by our house, but again they are getting better at ignoring things.
-the change of seasons makes them a little extra vocal and wound up but after the first week or so they tarted to settle down.
-wanting to come back inside. Especially if it is raining.
Seriously, these dogs do not ever get left alone. The kids even know to let them in as soon as they start to bark. I could see if I left them out for hours at a time or if they were outside when we were not at home, but we don't do either of those things. If they are outside for 30 minutes at a time alone that is a long time.
So I don't know what to do. Do I just shrug it off and not stress and worry about it? Am I maybe missing something here? Do I just wait it out until there is a formal complaint? I don't want to get in trouble with the county or have issues with any neighbors, since we plan to be here for a long time. Getting rid of my dogs isn't even an option. I don't know many neighbors here yet. The ones directly next door with 2 big dogs seem to be fine. In fact, before we ever moved in we met them and I said how we had dogs too and we're going to be sharing a fence so it was probably going to be loud while they adjusted and they shrugged it off and were totally cool and said "it's ok they will get used to each other".
Should we talk to them and see if they notice any issues/triggers? I would hate to put them on the spot like that, we don't know them that well. I looked up anti-barking collars but I don't know how helpful they are when you have multiple dogs. I can't very well add a shock collar since they wear one for the fence they wouldn't understand. It doesn't really help when I don't know when this is happening. Or if maybe whomever complained just caught them on a rare noisy day before I could bring them in.
Uggghh. If anyone has anything to contribute here, I am totally open to anything. Unless you tell me to get rid of my dogs or clip their vocal cords. I am not okay with either of those options!