How to Decipher Breed Standards

The official American Kennel Club breed standard probably contains many unfamiliar terms. Here’s a dictionary of the most common ones illustrated with a graphic of a generic dog.

Angulation – Angles formed by joints of the skeleton

cobby – Stout, short-bodied, and stocky

Cowhocks – When the hocks (midleg joints) on the rear legs turn inward and the feet turn outward giving the dog a knocked-kneed appearance

Croup – Region of the top of the dog between the hip bones extending to the start of the tail

Dewclaws – Additional toes on the inside of the leg above the foot

Hock – Joint in the hind leg (an ankle in humans)

Leather ear – Caused by fungus. Dogs have black shading and no hair on the ear or bridge of the nose.

Loin – Parts of the body located on both sides of the backbone between the ribs and the hips

Muzzle – Part of the face in front of the eyes including mouth, nose and jaws

Pasterns – Part of the foreleg between the foot and fetlock or pastern joint (the knee)

Stifle – Joint next above the hock (like a human ankle) and near the flank in the hind leg

Stop – Point at which the nasal structure meets the cranium between the eyes

Topline – Outline of the dog between the withers and the tail; i.e., the back

Tuckup – Shallow body depth at the loin; i.e., small-waisted.

Undershot bite – An underbite, opposite of overshot bite

Withers – Point at the top of the dog’s shoulders where the neck and back meet, from which a dog’s height is calculated

Wry mouth – Cross bite where the upper and lower jaws do not live up

How to Tell If Your Dog’s in Pain

Our little dogs are good at hiding signs of pain. That may be an instinct developed when they lived in the wild and needed to hide any weakness from predators.

Since they won’t tell us they’re in pain, how does an owner know when his dog needs medical care?

If your dog is having trouble eating and/or hides from and avoids contact with his family, those are ominous signs that your dog needs medical care.

Other signs of pain include

  • Unusually quiet, lethargic or unresponsive
  • Reluctant to rise or walk
  • Biting at or pulling at a body part such as an ear
  • Unable to sleep
  • Acting out of character such as snapping at people or animals he used to like
  • Constantly licking one part of his body
  • Whining, whimpering or howling

The most reliable way to verify that your dog is in pain is through medical tests such as blood pressure which may be difficult to perform at home. Easier medical checks for owners are to measure your dog’s heart rate or pulse.

An increase in your dog’s heart rate/pulse or respiration from his normal baseline may be an indicator of pain.

The short video below shows you how to check your dog’s heart rate.

If you’re concerned about your dog or he has any of the signs above, get him to a vet!

Compare Pet Insurance


Actual Vet Bills pays x% (typically 65% to 90%) of actual bill, not predetermined ‘customary’ rate for your area

Adjustable Deductible allows you to pay $0 to $1000 per incident/treatment before insurance kicks in. The higher the deductible, the lower your monthly premium. Make sure you understand how this works in your policy.

Breed Xs some companies exclude conditions (heart disease for Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) that are frequent in a breed but would pay for heart disease treatment in other breeds

Hereditary means both inherited and genetic disease or condition

Holistic includes alternative treatments including acupuncture, water therapy, massage

Pre-existing conditions (at the time you enroll) are usually excluded or may be paid only at limited coverage after a point in time

Procedure Limit pays $x-amount per procedure even though total annual limit may be much higher

Some means the company has plans that cover this to some extent or offers as add-on at additional cost

Wellness covers routine vaccinations and pet exams (this really increases your premium if you include it)

***Excludes Chinese Shar-pei (I have no idea why)

How to Stop Your Neighbor’s Dog from Barking

Nine Steps to Take and Two Steps to Avoid


1. Start with an anonymous, gentle approach

Gentle because some novice puppy/dog owners do not realize Fido is barking his head off when he’s left alone or outside all day.

Never leave a threatening or belligerent note because you never know who might see you dropping it off! If you don’t want to leave it, send it through the mail.

Try something like –


Dear Neighbor,

You may not realize that your puppy/dog is barking all day while you’re gone. {or barking all night while he’s outside).

He may be bored, scared and lonely.  All of us in the neighborhood would appreciate your attention to this.

Another Dog Lover

You might Google an article on how to keep a dog occupied when the owner’s at work and include it with your letter.

Keep a copy of your note and any attachment.

Anonymous because there are plenty of nuts out there and many of them own dogs. They enjoy annoying their neighbors and, in fact, consider any act of decency on their part to be a loss of position. Don’t provoke them unless and until you must.

Give the gentle note at least a 10-days to see if there’s any improvement.

2. Notify your landlord or homeowners association (HOA)

If you rent or live in an HOA community, call them and explain the problem.

If they appear uninterested or unwilling to do anything, you may need to follow up with a note.

If you have a lease or community Codes, Covenants, and Restrictions (CC&R’s), review them for provisions on noises and your right to “quiet” or “peaceful enjoyment” of your home.

Warning – some CCRs require “multiple household” complaints to enforce noise rules. Even if your neighbors hate the barking as much as you do, you’ll probably find they’re too apathetic or frightened to work with you. In that case, keep reading.

See if your lease discusses noise control especially after 10 p.m. or before 7 a.m. or other “nuisance” or “disturbance” provisions. If your lease has it, the dog owner’s has as well.

Send your landlord/HOA a letter referencing the applicable language. Again, do not threaten or attack (they’ll be time for that if these early steps don’t work).

State that the barking is keeping your awake/unable to work at home/etc and ask that they enforce the rules of the HOA or lease.

Do NOT give ultimatums. If the other side doesn’t respond/act, you might have to eat your words, and they’ll never again take you seriously.

State the facts, reference the appropriate lease/CCR provisions and ask them to take action.

3. Ratchet up the approach to the neighbor

If you’re not renting, there’s no HOA and the gentle anonymous note didn’t work, you need a stronger letter. It can still be anonymous.

Get a copy of your local/state ordinance or law that would cover loud noises. Some cities have specific ordinances on dog barking.

With the Internet, this is likely to be easy. Visit your city or county’s official website and do a search. If you can’t find it, call the city attorney’s office or county’s District/Prosecuting/State’s attorney office and ask them. Sorry about all the names but states use different terminology.

Get a copy of the ordinance/law and mail it to your neighbor with a stronger note.

Do not threaten or attack but do state that if the situation does not improve, you’ll be forced to notify the authorities.

Ask them to help their dog by keeping him inside at night or leaving him toys to keep him busy during the day (whatever is appropriate in your case).

Again, wait at least 10 days to see if that helps.

Be sure to date the note and keep a copy.

4. Try technology and remain anonymous

Technology 1
If you don’t want to go to the authorities or you’re afraid of your neighbor, make use of technology.

Mount a DOGTEK Sonic BirdHouse Bark Control Outdoor/Indoor. It looks like a harmless bird feeder. 

It may take a few days for the dog to associate the high-frequency sound with his barking and realize that you can’t have one without the other.

When this works – and some breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers do not seem affected and it won’t work on hearing impaired dogs – it’s fantastic because your neighbor won’t hear it, and probably won’t recognize what it is.

If you live in an apartment with paper thin walls, it’s also worth trying. Mount it against the wall. If you can hear the dog, it’s likely the dog will be able to hear the ultrasonic blast.

There also is a hand-held Viatek Bark Stop DOG MASTER with Laser. If the dog only bothers you when you’re outside, you press the trigger about one second on and four off – until the dog quiets down. Again, it will take him a couple times for him to realize the cause and effect.

If neither one works for you, visit Bark Stoppers for other suggestions.

Technology II

Try headphones and earplugs so you don’t hear the dog. Macks Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs can be molded in your ear and are great for sleeping. If you can hear the dog through the ear plugs, you really do have a major, major problem. Keep reading.

5. If technology or letters don’t work, start keeping a log

This is a written or video record of when and for how long the dog is barking. You can create a computer log, use an old calendar or buy a fancy notebook log.

Just note the date and time the barking started and when it stopped. If there were any outside causes for the barking (such as garbage men or letter carrier show up), be sure to note that.

You will need this record for the authorities or legal action you may take. Have your log for at least a week before you contact the authorities.

If you have a Smartphone or camera, make video recordings that show the time and date of the incidents. Have several recordings over different time periods. The first thing any irresponsible owner says to the authorities is ‘my dog never did this before.’ You’ll have evidence to prove that’s not correct.

6. File a complaint with law enforcement

This may be the police or animal control, depending on where you live.

The police are often effective when they come. Note, the “when they come.” Dog barking complaints rarely are a priority with them, and they may not arrive in a timely manner. In some areas, they only come if there’s nothing else going on; e.g., murder, rape, robbery, etc.

Animal control may or may not be effective. It depends on your area. With your log showing that this is a chronic problem, you have a better chance of getting their attention and help.

Provide animal control or the police with copies of your written letters to the neighbor and your log.

In many areas, you will be required to sign a complaint so your neighbor then will know it’s you who has been complaining. There’s no way around this.

If police or animal control aren’t responsive, ask for assistance from your mayor, city councilman or county commissioner. Remember, everyone has a supervisor.

Using the authorities is an irrevocable course so make certain that you are ready for the fall-out and that the authorities will do something worthwhile such as charge the dog owner with a misdemeanor or take custody of the dog(s).

One other note, if you live in a community where there is some state or local agency that has oversight, be sure to file a complaint with that agency.

For instance, if your HOA board hasn’t acted and your state has a board that oversees them, send the agency a complaint with a copy of your initial letter to the HOA and send the HOA a copy of your complaint to the agency.

If you’re in Section 8(a) or other assistance housing, ask your case worker for advice and assistance.

P.S. Never exaggerate your problem. Rely on your log to speak for you. It is human-nature to see your problem as monumental but lying or misrepresenting your case to the police may be a criminal offense.

7. Get a lawyer

There are two things a lawyer can do. One is to send a “lawyer” letter to the dog owner or the authorities, public or private, who should have been taking action to stop the dog barking.

Many people- especially landlords and HOAs – will finally act when they get a formal lawyer letter and realize they could be sued.

A lawyer letter is a fairly economical way to go and may force some action.

The other thing a lawyer may do is get a restraining order against the dog’s owner. The order may require the owner to keep the dog indoors or some other action that stops the noise. These can’t be obtained through Small Claims Court so you need a lawyer.

A restraining order may be expensive; the dog’s owner may counter-sue and it may be a prolonged financial and emotional process through the courts.

It’s often effective, however, because the dog’s owner could be arrested if he violates the order.

An alternative to the restraining order is mediation or arbitration and your lawyer could offer this to the dog’s owner. It’s not that this isn’t workable, it’s that when it’s reached this point, the dog owner is apt to be a 100% nut and may be too emotionally deranged or violent to cooperate in a mediation.

8. Sue in Small Claims Court

All states today allow people to bring actions in Small Claims Court without a lawyer. The amount of money you can ask for is limited, usually between $2,000 and $10,000.

You will need your written or electronic log, copies of police or animal control reports (both should provide you copies often for a nominal fee) and ideally, witnesses other than yourself.

You will have to describe how the barking prevented you from doing normal activities (such as sleeping), give evidence of the barking (through your logs, etc) and show that you asked the person to stop the noise (copies of your anonymous or signed letters).

Once you have a judgment, if the neighbor doesn’t pay, you can attach their bank account or get a lien on their home. If the barking continues, you can sue them again but you’ll probably want to move on to the next step.

Buy or borrow the Nolo Press book, Everybody’s Guide to Small Claims Court so you know what to expect.

9. When all else fails, move but disclose the barking

Be aware that in many states you must disclose to potential buyers that there is a nuisance in the neighborhood; i.e., the barking dog(s).

California actually had such a court case and the homeowner who was trying to sell lost the case because he didn’t tell the real estate agent or buyer about the barking dogs.

Two Steps to Avoid

1. Don’t shoot the dog

I’m serious. Do not get to the point that you poison or harm the dog or the owner or the owner’s home.

Yes, you know better but lack of sleep can distort your thinking. Your reputation, credit rating and bank accounts may be seriously damaged if you react violently – no matter how provoked.

2. Don’t confront the owner

Sometimes people recommend that you tape the dog and play it over and over on a loud speaker. Or, they recommend calling the dog’s owner at 2 a.m. when the dog is barking. This can prove embarrassing if your neighbor has caller id.

These things probably worked in the non-litigious past, but they are apt to get you into trouble today. You can be sued or you can be reported as a stalker for too often or too vigorously contacting the dog’s owner.

Some nutty dog owners will try to provoke you so you look like the trouble maker to authorities. Do not play into their hands.

Keep your contact with the dog owner to a minimum. You should rely on written contact and the authorities and avoid situations where it is just you and the dog’s owner.

Unfortunately, there are many violent people in the world and you don’t want to get in their line of fire.

Good luck.

Compensation Disclosure: This site receives compensation for referred sales of some or all mentioned products.