Mr. Collins is experiencing a dilemma that many of us have experienced at one point or another. The barking dog has plagued many a restless man. His repetition of the line "The neighbors' dog will not stop barking" stresses Collins' annoyance to the reader. I liked his thought about the owners of the dog "switching him on on their way out". It's a comical thought, as if the owners purpose of owning this dog was for the sole purpose of annoying their neighbors. As he tries to mask the barking with a Beethoven symphony he slips into a daydream. He sees the dog as part of the symphony. I thought that this was an effective method of showing the reader how the barking is making Collins insane. As the dog becomes part of the symphony the rest of the instruments stop and the dog has a barking solo. This solo is rewarded with respectful listening by the audience which, I think, may be a comment by Collins' about the pretentiousness of Beethoven's music. Collins seems to be taking out his frustration on those who claim to appreciate Beethoven's music. I think the title of the poem is just as important as the poem itself. Most readers would interpret the title to insinuate that if Collins had a gun in his house he would shoot the dog. One could read into the title this way but my initial reaction was much darker. I think that the title could also be taken to mean that if he had a gun in the house he might shoot himself. If the dog has driven him to absurd hallucinations suicide isn't too far fetched. The title also implies that Collins has a tendency towards violence. There is clearly more than one reason why he doesn't keep a gun in the house.
Another critical essay about the poem