Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ask Amanda Jane: Annoyed With Rufus

Dear Amanda Jane,
My next door neighbors have a dog that they keep fenced in their backyard.... and when my family and I are outside, the dog constantly barks at us and runs at us! We want to be able to enjoy our backyard without being growled and barked at. How do I address this with my neighbor?

   -Annoyed with Rufus

My Grandma used to say "Good boundaries are the backbone of good etiquette!" So it's no wonder that so many common etiquette conundrums begin with boundaries - we always want to know what lines should and shouldn't be crossed (or when it is appropriate to tell someone they've crossed them - see last week's column.) Although your neighbor has a well-intact fence, it isn't sound proof, and that is your main complaint. The first thing you need to ask yourself is "How is Rufus really affecting my quality of life?" If it really only comes up when you occasionally pass by a shared fence - it is annoying, but forgivable, and I advise you let it slide. But if Rufus is keeping you up at night or constantly interrupting conversations (in your own yard!) that is an intrusion and it is time to take action.

I am a fan of the anonymous note, in the right situation, but because your neighbor only shares a fence with so many people it would come off as aggressive rather than anonymous. So your level of notification depends on your level of familiarity with your neighbor. If you have ever texted them before (not if you can text them, but if you have) then it would be perfectly proper to shoot a simple message over, "Hey Melanie! I had some friends over last week and it really seemed to agitate Rufus having us outback. Is there anything I can do to avoid that in the future?" As much as you may despise Rufus, Melanie loves the over-active beast so framing it in a helpful tone helps her from feeling defensive. If you've never met your neighbor bring them a plate of cookies and have this conversation face to face. It's kind of an uncomfortable situation, but just like boundaries are the backbone of good etiquette, ignorance is the backbone of bad etiquette! Most people when presented with their (of their dog/child/husband's) bad behavior immediately apologize and try and self-correct. Even in this day and age very few people are okay with purposely and willfully being rude. Breaking the ice kindly, will help the next time you have outdoor guests and Rufus starts to act up - I'm guessing it won't take very long until Melanie has redirected his attention unprompted.

Amanda Jane

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