Problem dogs

While renowned as man's best friend, sometimes dogs are not. They may be scary or annoying, and sometimes their owners are irresponsible.

Find out about the rights and responsibilities of dog owners.

Below is information on what to do if someone else's dog is causing a problem including barking, acting aggressively or fouling.

Dangerous dogs

Dogs are descended from the wolf and they sometimes show behavioural traits we associate with wild animals. Dogs may bite when they are frightened, injured, threatened or when they attempt to be dominant or territorial. Usually, biting is a result of poor training and socialisation or the owner's lack of control over the dog.

Biting is not acceptable behaviour and can result in serious consequences for the dog, its owner and the victim.

Under the Dog Control Act 1996, dogs responsible for attacks on people or other animals can be seized and/or destroyed. The dog owner can be charged with an offence under the Act and may be liable on summary conviction to a fine. In addition, the owner is also liable for any damages caused by the dog. The dog may be required to wear a muzzle and in a worst-case scenario may be destroyed.

What constitutes a dangerous dog?

We are required to classify as dangerous any dog:

  • Whose owner has been convicted of an attacking offence under the Dog Control Act 1996
  • Where sworn evidence has been received describing aggressive behaviour by the dog
  • Whose owner admits in writing that the dog has an aggression problem

If you own a dangerous dog, you must:

  • Provide a securely fenced area of the property, which allows visitors unhindered access to the house
  • Ensure that your dog is muzzled when anywhere outside your own property boundary
  • Have your dog desexed within one month of classification
  • Pay registration fees at 150 percent of the normal level
  • Apply to us before selling or giving away your dog

Correcting aggressive behaviour

Aggressive behaviour should be addressed as soon as it is noticed. It is important to know what is causing the aggression in the first place as aggression caused by fear or pain requires different treatment to that caused by dominance or territorial challenges.

Get your vet to rule out sickness or injury as a cause of the aggression. Neutering may cause some aggressive tendencies so discuss this with your vet at the same time.

Obedience training may not stop your dog's aggression, but it will give you more control over it. As with any undesirable behaviour, it is important for you to put in the time, effort and expense to correct or at least minimise the problem.  Until the aggression ceases, keep your dog under full control at all times. For more advice, feel free to contact us, or your local kennel club.

Identifying aggressive behaviour and avoiding being attacked

Dogs may demonstrate aggressive behaviour towards some people but not others. Much of this relates to the person's behaviour towards the dog. If you are unafraid of the dog and walk calmly and confidently around it, you will often draw a different response to someone who is tense and jerky.

Dogs communicate aggression using body language. Having the ability to identify and interpret the key 'expressions' and body movements will increase your confidence around them, in turn, increases your chances of avoiding a dangerous situation.

Barking Dogs

Barking dogs can be upsetting for everyone – neighbours and the dog owner. If you’re having trouble with a dog barking in your area, we encourage you, if you feel comfortable doing so, to talk to the owner or drop a note in their letterbox.  Often they may not realise there is a problem.

If this proves unsuccessful contact Council’s Customer Services Centre, and we will try to work with the owner to address the issue. And if it is your dog that is barking – which can be just as upsetting – check out our ‘Nobody Likes a Noisy Dog (4.2MB PDF)' brochure which has lots of information on how to solve the problem.