German dogs face rules on barking

Having covered nearly all aspects of human behaviour, the German love of regulation has extended into the canine world.

Henceforth dogs which bark for more than 10 minutes non-stop or over half-an-hour a day can be reported to the authorities - and ordered to dog-training school. A similar fate awaits those that whine, growl or simply whimper between the sacred hours of 1-3pm or 10pm - 6am.

The new regulations have been set down in the latest edition of Das Haus, a monthly magazine covering all aspects of homes, gardens and neighbourly disputes. The magazine draws on a court ruling in Cologne in which the precise length of time dogs are allowed to bark without risk of punishment was meticulously defined.

In that particular case a dog owner was ordered to take his pet to a training school after an infuriated neighbour complained about its incessant noise.

Many more cases are expected. Since publishing its article, Das Haus has been flooded with requests from dog-owners and dog-haters alike for copies of all relevant legal rulings. "It is very sad to think that something as banal as barking dogs have become a matter for the courts but, unfortunately, that is the tendency here now," said a spokeswoman for the magazine, Anette Bongartz. "Rather than talking problems over with their neighbours more and more people prefer to take legal action against them."

In a country where dogs are favoured pets and where the fetish for regulation even covers things such as the times at which lawn-mowing is permitted, the Cologne court ruling has been greeted with derision by many.

"It is ridiculous to set precise rules governing when dogs can and cannot bark," said a spokesman for the Berlin Animal Protection Association. "Of course unruly dogs need training, but that should not be a matter for the courts."

However, the German Watchdog Society is to challenge the ruling on the grounds that it infringes on an even greater national right - that of being able to protect one's property.