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A type of bark collar used to monitor the barking of dogs - Auckland Council will trial a similar collar. Michelle Campbell with bull mastiffs Buster and Zena who neighbours complain bark incessantly. Campbell insists Buster and Zena are no worse than other dogs in the neighbourhood and is welcoming the trial of the bark count collar, although she's aware it may be a double-edged sword. A 7 per cent jump in the number of dogs registered by the Christchurch City Council in the past 12 months means there is now one dog for every 10 humans in Christchurch. The bulk of those complaints (5772) relate to dogs barking, roaming the streets, or fouling but there have also been 1265 complaints about dogs acting aggressively. As a result of those complaints, 12 dogs have been added to the council's register of dangerous dogs and 55 have been added to the register of menacing dogs. In the same period the council took 13 summary prosecutions against 12 owners whose dogs attacked people or other animals. In addition to those prosecutions, the council issued 1406 infringement notices - up 38 per cent compared with the previous year - for breaches of the Dog Control Act and the council's Dog Control Bylaw. Mark Vincent, who heads the council's animal management team, said the council only prosecuted the worst dog attack incidents. In the rare cases where prosecutions were taken, the dogs were usually voluntarily surrendered to the council to be euthanised. Vincent said it was hard to identify trends but the public's tolerance for dogs, particularly aggressive ones, appeared to have lessened.


Most dog owners in Christchurch took great care of their dogs and acted responsibly but there was a small minority that did not, Vincent said. Hannah Ellingford, who has taken in dogs rescued from "really nasty circumstances", said more needed to be done in Christchurch to encourage dog owners to get their pets de-sexed. In an effort to determine what is normal woofing, an Auckland animal behaviourist has bugged the houses of 60 dogs and recorded how much they barked when their owners were out. Maggie, Brodie, Rastus and Jezebel (breeds unknown) were the kind of dogs anyone would like to have next door, barking infrequently and not for very long. The study's author, Dr Elsa Flint, said the average amount of barking for a home-alone dog over an eight-hour period was 4.3 times, with an average of about 30 seconds per bout. The study participants came from two Auckland vet practices, on the North Shore and in Howick.
All were aged one to 14 and were ordinary, well-cared-for dogs, exercised off-property for at least 30 minutes per day, and living in suburban houses with gardens. Sixty dogs began the study but only 40 returned data as tape recorders were lost or damaged or owners withdrew from the study.
Flint, in her work as a behaviourist, has seen complaints about barking dogs increase over the years as population density increased. Councils were in a difficult position because they didn't have a benchmark for inordinate barking. The other worrying factor was that concerned owners often turned to electric collars that shocked the dog when it barked, Flint said.


Flint said in one extreme case owners came home to find their dog hiding under a bed in a pool of its own excrement, fearful of moving because it wasn't sure what was causing the shocks. Flint said she could hear whether barking was territorial guarding or separation anxiety and most of the dogs she recorded were territorial guarding.
Problem barking required an evaluation of the many factors that could be creating the behaviour, she said.
In one case, she filmed two dogs in a backyard and the problem was that the older dog was going into their joint kennel and preventing the younger one from getting in.
Fridd may be well behaved but the growing number of dogs in Christchurch is causing problems. The council has investigated nearly 13,000 complaints from the public about dogs making a nuisance of themselves - up 6 per cent on the previous 12 months.
All 12 were disqualified from owning dogs for two to three years and ordered to pay fines of between $200 and $1100. It also responded to 27 requests for urgent intervention because dogs were reported to be at risk or in distressed situations.



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