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Old 13.05.2011, 20:01
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Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

So I came home from work yesterday and I heard my dog barking from down the street, which was unusual. When I get into the flat, I find he has completely shit himself (possibly a reaction to the change in food or to the vaccination he had the day before). Well, no wonder he was barking!!!

So I put him in the tub and clean him off, get him downstairs to go to the bathroom properly, come back and clean his kennel.

Well, today, I get a complaint notice that the dogs are barking ALL day, and that I have to do something about it. Not only was I notified that there was a problem, but I was told my contract would be terminated if it happened again.

I am really miffed. I have been very diligent not to make any unnecessary noise or leave any messes, and I always clean up after my dogs right away. But people make all kinds of noise around here. Doors slamming, full volume conversation in the stairwell late at night, TVs turned up loud... last night there was a party going on at 2:00 in the morning taking place in the building across from me, children playing on the street at 7:00am this past Sunday morning, too. Did I complain? Not one bit. Noise happens.

But one day my dog falls ill, sits in his own shit and barks a bit because he's unhappy, and I get a complaint??? I hope my anonymous neighbor knows that I also have the landlord's phone number. If this is how they want to be, I can start complaining, too. Fortunately for them, I'm a bigger person than to do that. However I am tempted to pee standing up and to flush the toilet after 10:00pm. Maybe I'll vacuum on Sunday, too.

But I am more angry with the landlord -- and yes I mean angry. Why would a landlord entertain a complaint for a one-time incident without there even being evidence of it (just an accusation)? Why would they threaten to terminate the contract without even finding out WHY it happened? It really seems unfair to me and I am wondering if it isn't just flat out discrimination.
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Old 13.05.2011, 20:17
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

I would just write a notice where you say that your dog was very sick and that the cause has been identified (say it even if it is not true), then stating the number of weeks/days/months/years that your dog was in your home and nobody hear a sound. Finish with a big thank you for their concernes for the well being of the inhabitants of the building and for your dog's health.

If they are b******, they will throw you out one way or anothre, otherwise, if they come to think of you as a submissive complyer, they may just calm down and be happy they handeled the situation right and leave you alone.

I can however only confirm your fears: you are renting in a liberal system, you are the weak part. It's called free market. I personnaly like it despite some sharp edges, but that may be just me.
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Last edited by Faltrad; 13.05.2011 at 21:33.
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Old 13.05.2011, 20:20
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

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I would just right a notice where you say that your dog was very sick and that the cause has been identified (say it even if it is not true), then stating the number of weeks/days/months/years that your dog was in your home and nobody hear a sound. Finish with a big thank you for their concernes for the well being of the inhabitants of the building and for your dog's health.

If they are b******, they will through you out one way or anothre, otherwise, if they come to think of you as a submissive complyer, they may just calm down and be happy they handeled the situation right and leave you alone.
To whom ought the notice be addressed? To the landlord? Or photocopied and plastered throughout the property with an extra copy in each mailbox and taped to every door? I'm leaning towards the latter.
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Old 13.05.2011, 20:22
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

Wrong country for that, I am afraid. General rule: when a Swiss is complaining, just say how thankful you are that he informs and helps you to do things the right way. Usually, that does not change anything for you but that will please the said Swiss immensely. If you are clever enough to understand the real limit behind the over-reacting, you'll be fine. I live in a building with only old Swiss, I had to play along and love it.
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Old 13.05.2011, 20:24
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

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I would just write a notice where you say that your dog was very sick and that the cause has been identified (say it even if it is not true), then stating the number of weeks/days/months/years that your dog was in your home and nobody hear a sound. Finish with a big thank you for their concernes for the well being of the inhabitants of the building and for your dog's health.

(Sorry Faltrad, I think I remember that English is only one among many languages for you but I simply couldn't leave that uncorrected )

This was my thought too. Write the landlord / letting agency to make it clear that your dog had been barking so due to distress from illness. Possibly also drop some candies or something in the mailboxes of your neighbors to apologize for the noise and explain about your poor pooch's distress as well.

Do you know any of your neighbors very well? Perhaps there is one to whom you can give a spare key and a contact number so they can check on your little one and call you if something happens again while you're away?
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Old 13.05.2011, 20:28
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

I edited quicker than you can read

Good idea with the key. However, find out first if the neighbour and doghaters... I personaly don't hate dogs but I would not enter a flat to check a dog. Ever. Irrational, I know.
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Old 13.05.2011, 20:31
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

thanks for the suggestions and recommendations for how to tactfully deal with this. Unfortunately I've only recently moved in, and I've never actually seen any of my neighbors, not even on the weekend. So that makes it hard to even think about giving someone a key. Maybe that's another faux pas because I moved in without introducing myself to everyone?
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Old 13.05.2011, 20:36
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

Never seen neighbour... that can explain the over reaction. They want to go safe. I am teacher, I do that with students too... no bending the rules at the start of the year (just in case...).
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Old 13.05.2011, 20:41
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

Do you know for sure that your dog does not bark on other occasions when you are out at work - and that was indeed an exception? How many hours is your dog on its own during the day? One of my daughters did have problems with her landlord and other residents (in the UK) - she got very upset about it- but to be fair her dog barked a lot as soon as he was left alone- and it would drive her neighbours crazy.

You are right though, being friendly and introducing yourself to neighbours right from the start can truly pay dividends. Hope you can find a way to ensure that your dog does not stay too long alone. Perhaps find a dog walker in your area to exercise him midday every day.
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Old 13.05.2011, 20:53
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

It depends on who the neighbours are:

Neighbours and Noise

Though I must say the neighbours in question have calmed down of late - perhaps they finally got the kids on ritalin...

Cheers,
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You are right though, being friendly and introducing yourself to neighbours right from the start can truly pay dividends.

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Old 13.05.2011, 20:59
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

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(Sorry Faltrad, I think I remember that English is only one among many languages for you but I simply couldn't leave that uncorrected )
So right/write was unacceptable but through/throw, which isn't even a homophone, was?

@ the OP: I would knock on the neighbours' doors and introduce myself, while slipping in a quick smile-accompanied apology for "any noise my dog might make -- he's very quiet, usually, but may whimper on the rare occasion that he's ill" (or words to that effect). Maybe even leave them my mobile number in case there are any problems, depending on how trustworthy they seem (or how likely they appear not to harrass me!).
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Old 13.05.2011, 21:03
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

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So right/write was unacceptable but through/throw, which isn't even a homophone, was?
Brain was "stuck" on the right / write, didn't even "see" the other.


KeinFranzösisch, how is your dog doing now?
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Old 13.05.2011, 21:04
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

I truly hope this was a one-off complaint, that you can patch things up with your neighbors and can all live happily ever-after.

But just in case this was only an opening salvo in a neighborhood campaign, be prepared.

First, as Faltrad says, respond to the landlord - or whoever signed the letter - in writing, explaining that your dog was very ill, and that the behavior was unusual. If your dog needed vet attention for the diarrhea, include a statement from the vet. Include steps you will take to prevent a similar occurance.

Second, if you haven't already done so, join the Mieterverband. Clarify with them if a one-off incidend can lead to termination of your lease.

Third, as Odile mentions - make sure you know exactly what your dog is doing. Keep a diary when you are home, try recording when you are away. You can bet your neighbors are doing the same.

---

When I received a complaint here is what I did:

I first got my trainer on my side. I have been training with her for many years, she knows my dogs well, their strengths and weaknesses. We had already been working on the Belltie's love of the sound of his own voice, so we had an action plan to hand. If you don't have a trainer, now would be the time to get a pro on your side - not that this one-off is a training issue, but it adds to your reputation as a responsible owner .And you'd have a Swiss on your side.

My trainer came to the house to do some 'in situ' sessions - we did these outside in the garden for all the world (read: neighbors) to see. I made it very clear that I was taking steps to address the problem.

The complaint I received was anonymous, via the Quartierverwaltung - so I have no idea who was behind it. (Have my suspicions though.) I wrote a letter to the Quartierverwaltung, apologizing for disturbing anyone and stating that we were in training to address the problem. I also outlined the immediate management step I was taking (the miscreant and I are in training, I will keep windows closed, etc.)

My trainer offered to follow through with any neighbor who wished to discuss the situation; in the letter I gave her contact details. Not surprising, no one had the courage to take her up on it.

The response letter to the Verwaltung got the neighbors off my back for the short term, but there is still the issue of dog-hating neighbors to deal with. This is a very difficult problem. If the dog two streets away barks, it's my fault. If the neighbor's cat leaves poo in the Spielplatz, it's my fault. If the cowbells in the farm behind us are too loud, it's my fault.

I own my home, so they can't throw me out (well, not without deportation proceedings...) but they have made life pretty miserable.

Although the Belltie is much better now, I still have to have proof at all times that there was no barking - as there is no way to defend against an accusation if there are no witnesses. I am pretty much under 'house arrest', I cannot leave the dogs alone at anytime - and since I do not have a sitter, that means I cannot leave the house. No dinners out, no running errands, no meeting friends for coffee - nada.

But it's what I need to do to protect my dogs.

If you are working, perhaps you need to look at a doggy day care, where your dog would go to the carer's home during the day. Or, the more expensive option, get someone in to be with the dog all day.

Before receiving the complaint, I went out of my way to be a good neighbor. I sent wine and chocolates around whenever I adopted an new addition asking forbearance while we were in training, checked regularly to see if we were disturbing anyone - the answer was always 'no, not at all'. I was always the first one to volunteer to help out around the neighborhood, went along with whatever scheme the neighbor hatched for Quartier improvements. I went out of my way to be a good dog owner, good Auslander, good neighbor.

And look where it got me. I think being so nice backfired; the neighbors decided I was a push-over, and decided to turn the screws. It seems that in these parts 'Nachbarstreit' is a sort of game. And increasingly complaints against pets are used as a weapon in these games - neighbors know that you love your pet, they see an Achilles heel. (Just in case you think I'm paranoid , there was an article in a local paper on this subject mentioned in the 'Kept In Twos' thread in the pets section.)

Added to the usual neighborhood relations issues, Switzerland is indeed becoming quite dog-intolerant. It is getting very hard to give a dog a decent life here, given the public mood.

If this continues with your neighbors, there is really only one solution - move. (Which is what I have been trying to do for two years now. )


I know I sound bitter and cynical - but I have good reason to do so.

I really hope that it works out for you.

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Old 13.05.2011, 21:10
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

Wow. We have dogs in the neighborhood and no one complains, but then again, we never hear the dogs either.

Someone up the road owns 13 cats (more or less) and no one likes them pooping all over the place. However, the cats are quiet so people are basically leaving the owners in peace.

Could it be, meloncollie, that it's not all the neighbors fault?
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Old 13.05.2011, 21:23
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

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Could it be, meloncollie, that it's not all the neighbors fault?
Never said it was.

Of course I'm to blame. I fully acknowledge that I live in a way that is unacceptable to the neighborhood. I fully acknowledge that I am the square peg trying to fit into the round hole.

I own dogs. The dogs are, well, dogs. That is the crux of the problem.

I have taken all possible steps to keep the peace - I just wish the neighbors would give us the time necessary to be able to move.
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Old 13.05.2011, 21:30
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

just a question : did you ever had the occasion to hear dogs barking all the day long ?

It's not only very annoying and disturbing but it gets on your nerves very quickly.

Hope your dogs are well now !
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Old 13.05.2011, 21:31
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

I just love dogs, and yet- as I am retired and at home a lot, if there was/were a/several dog/s barking constantly or pretty regularly very close by- I just couldn't stand it. This would be worse actually if I knew the dog/s is/are on their own all day - and let's say, if s/he/they were not exercised properly before and after work (not just a quick toilet and back). I have no idea what the real situation is here. For years and years we deprived ourselves of having a dog as we felt our work pattern wouldn't allow us to do the best by them- so seeing somebody who leaves a dog for too long and without proper exercise (and I am NOT saying this is the case at all - just thinking aloud here) it would make me very cross. Would I complain to the Landlord? No of course not. I'd go and introduce myself and talk it through, see if I could help at all, and do everything possible to solve the problem.

Our choice of home here was very much with our animals in mind. We chose a large property with a big garden and land - in one of the cheapest areas of Switzerland, out in the sticks - to make sure they could run around, bark, do what dogs do - without being a pain to anybody. In our area it is possible to rent large apartments with gardens still. No ultra modern kitchens and bathrooms, bars and clubs nearby - but great for the animals, and that is the main thing, for us. Hope you find a solution.
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Old 13.05.2011, 21:34
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

Thanks again to everyone for your support and advice.

Dog is 14 years old. He should not have even lived this long. His existence consists of sleeping, eating, pooping and two short walks around the block each day of about 15 minutes each (because that's all he can handle) before becoming winded.

He is in otherwise perfect health, excepting the episode of diarrhea, which I did report to the vet yesterday evening after I got home to determine if he needed to go back in -- which he didn't.

The vet advised me to give him a bland dinner that would fill his belly. So he got to eat plain couscous for dinner.

I am certain of his habits because I have had him since he was 8 weeks old. My other dog I have also had this long. Before coming to Switzerland we lived in a Townhouse with neighbors on both sides. Never a complaint to the Homeowner's Association. Before the Townhouse, I was in an apartments for the the majority of dog's life. Never any complaints there either.

My schnauzer got a "viscious dog" complaint from one neighbor who thought that if a dog approached him or tried to jump on him that it was an attack. Plus Schnauzers look so scary anyway. He doesn't bark ever, not even when there's food involved. He does alarm bark and play bark though, and only when I am around. If I am not at home he doesn't make a noise, and this was confirmed by realtors who showed my house before I moved here.

In short, I am quite confident that my dogs aren't barking while I am away unless there is a reason -- such as sitting in thine own filth.

I am only in this apartment temporarily, and the complaint came to me from my relocation coordinator, who was telephoned by the landlord. No formal written notice. Further since I am only here temporarily, I am thus not inclined to try making any kiss-ass maneuvers with the other residents. I am probably being too stubborn, and I trust my fellow EFers will tell me if I am.

Since initially posting I've gone out for a walk a couple of times and had the "culture shock fear tears" well up in my eyes. I recognize that "barking" complaints aren't Swiss... they're universal. I'm just taken aback at how it's "my fault" even if it was one time, and now it will be "my fault" every time there's an animal-related noise. I'll probably get blamed for cat shit on a car windshield and hedgehog poop on the door step, too.

Nevertheless, I already wrote back to my relocation coordinator explaining everything (and probably a bit too verbose, defensive and upset -- I should have slept before pushing 'send' -- yeah, one of those emails), including the daily habits of my comings and goings and my actions taken when I am aware of such issues, including that I've left late for work when I first arrived because the dog was whimpering, and further that I came home from work early today just in case my old dog was having problems again. Fortunately, he was sleeping and clean when I came home.

So.... without yammering on much more, I've done what I can, I've calmed down, and chalked this up to a "lesson" in assimilating myself. I will definitely take your advice and apply it when I move into my permanent home. Now I'm going to go find a big bar of chocolate and make myself sick.
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Old 13.05.2011, 21:43
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

I am so sorry if my post infuriated you even more. If only you had explained that your dog is elderly and very calm - this was NOT clear at all in your initial post. I can understand you are angry, but venting your anger with neighbours is unlikely to help though, is it? Let's hope it will all blow over and that you move to a more suitable soon. Bonne chance, viel Gluck.
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Old 13.05.2011, 22:03
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Re: Switzerlanded with a noise complaint

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the complaint came to me from my relocation coordinator, who was telephoned by the landlord. No formal written notice.
In that case, just disregard it and good luck with your next (I guess nicer) place to live. Why that made you so angry that you needed to talk it through here, I don't understand but I don't have to either.
But my general advice stands: Never ever say to Swiss neighbours they are wrong, just thank and thank again and make them feel right. It's the feeling that counts, not the actual being right part. First thing I did here is to ask my neighbours about all kind of things even if I already knew perfectly what and how to do, I just made them feel right. Makes a huge difference on the long run.
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