Is Debarking Dogs Inhumane?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Debarking is a surgery performed on dogs that removes their ability to bark loudly. The procedure, which cuts into the vocal cords while the dog is under general anesthesia, is fairly simple and rarely has complications. Yet many believe that debarking dogs is not only unnecessary but also inhumane, that it does not fix underlying problems causing the dog to bark, and that it is simply cruel to take away the ability of a dog to vocalize.

A dog's bark will sound more like a whisper after debarking.
A dog's bark will sound more like a whisper after debarking.

The surgery used in debarking dogs is fairly straightforward. After the dog is anesthetized, a veterinary surgeon either reaches in through the mouth of the dog or makes a small incision in the larynx. Using a laser or surgical tools, the surgeon then cuts part of the vocal folds off, then closes the wound. Primary risks of the surgery include infection, bleeding and pain. Some dogs also may re-grow their vocal folds, regaining their ability to bark after a few months. Others may grow excessive scar tissue over the incision, leading to a need for additional surgery.

Some believe that debarking dogs is not humane and does not fix underlying issues that may prompt dogs to bark.
Some believe that debarking dogs is not humane and does not fix underlying issues that may prompt dogs to bark.

People usually opt for debarking dogs when the animals chronically or habitually bark. A loud barking animal can certainly be a nuisance to owners and neighbors, especially if the problem is consistent. It is quite easy to see why frustrated owners search for a way to silence their noisy pooch permanently, especially if the animal does not respond to behavioral training or tends to bark constantly when left alone.

The surgery performed in debarking dogs is simple and straightforward.
The surgery performed in debarking dogs is simple and straightforward.

Opponents of debarking dogs insist that the surgery is inhumane, and takes away from the dog exhibiting natural behavior. Dogs bark to give warning or express needs, and concerned pet lovers feel that debarking a dog may lead to its needs being ignored by owners. Also, debarking does not remove the ability to make any sounds, so the large booming bark may be replaced by an equally irritating perpetual rasping gasp.

Dogs can be trained to reduce barking problems.
Dogs can be trained to reduce barking problems.

In some cases, when neighbors complain to authorities or the situation is unlivable, owners may be unsure of what to do other than have their dog debarked. Other solutions, such as sound-activated shock collars or muzzles seem equally cruel. Some owners may even choose to kill or abandon their pets instead of dealing with the problem. Yet therapists and dog trainers insist that most barking problems are fixable with proper training.

Some vets refuse to perform debarking procedures on the grounds that the surgery does not fix the problem and may cause continual pain for the animal. Yet others insist that the surgery is preferable to the animal being mistreated, abandoned or killed because of its problem, and will agree to conduct the surgery. Debarking dogs is truly a controversial issue in the animal community for both owners and doctors. While the frustration of owners unable or unwilling to train their pets out of bad barking habits is understandable, many experts question the suitability of owning a pet which you cannot properly take care of.

Positive reinforcement training can often stop a dog from excessive barking without the need for surgery.
Positive reinforcement training can often stop a dog from excessive barking without the need for surgery.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


I have a beautiful male Sheltie. He is deaf. His herding and constant barking are not just because we 'won't' train him; it is very hard to train a deaf dog who barks because of a natural inclination to herd.

His barking is causing incredible stress for us, for visiting guests, and keeps us from leaving him outside for longer than enough time to do his business.

I am trying to find a vet who is willing to do this. I know it can be done safely.

Is it humane to cut off a dog's tail, crop their ears -- or even subject them to neutering? I would rather de-bark, then keep going through citronella collars, shock collars and muzzles. It is the muzzle that makes him 'sad' and I only put it on when we have guests and would like to talk. So why is it so hard for me to find someone to do this for my 'otherwise wonderful' dog?


In my city in Milan, dog barking is a great problem even for human health and well being and it is now really intolerable. This "debarking" intervention is a really good solution. As all surgical means, it can have a collateral effetcs. The right of a city of 1.200.000 persons is Much More Important that a right of a dog to bark. Best regards.


God this is horrifying! Didn't even fathom this existed until I pulled out my dog's license (needed his proof of rabies shot so he can get groomed) and next to the "spay/neuter" check box, was an option for "debark."

My boyfriend and I pondered what this meant, although it sounds obvious I just couldn't believe it! I googled it and lo and behold. I was hoping it was a joke, much like the bonsai kitten thing from years back.


anon57707: so why is your dog just out in pen barking? bring him in. that really is a behavioral issue that has nothing to do with him being a puppy mill stud dog being debarked.


I have two rescue dogs, both Kelpie X, and only one of them is a barker. She suffers with profound anxiety and is even on Prozac. I have trained them both but due to Jessy's anxiety, she continues to bark. I have spent thousands of dollars on training and working with an animal behaviorist, but her problem is an imbalance in her brain chemicals.

I have had many complaints from neighbours and then the council, but my dogs are my family and i will do anything for them, but where do you draw the line? My dog Jessy rules my life, and that's not how it should be. I have tried everything and will continue to do so and will not have her put down just because she is a little "touched in the head". I am still unsure if i would have her debarked but when you have tried everything it seems a better option than death.


I adopted a shih tzu that was debarked. I need help in potty training her. How can she tell me she has to go to the potty? Anybody out there have any good suggestions?


Having been involved in animal rescue for most of my life, in South Africa, I have seen the consequences of dogs barking incessantly. Debarking for dog showing is virtually non existent, as 99 percent of all dogs are either used professionally by security firms or privately owned.

There is little or no training by most pet owners, who can barely feed their dogs the necessary protein, much less worry about their barking. People keep dogs, lots of them, for security and barking dogs is an ongoing problem for the SPCA, who is expected both to police those dogs and care for the abandoned population, on a shoestring.

Thousands of dogs, especially yappy one, are destroyed monthly, not always because their owners do not want them, but because the neighbours simply cannot tolerate living in a neighbourhood where dogs bark 24 hours a day (as they tend to do in a vast majority of households, especially in South Africa).

In the majority of cases, a barking dog will simply be handed over to an animal welfare organization when it becomes a problem. The owner is simply "handing over" the problem to someone else. The dog is then destroyed as it is considered unfit for adoption. As almost every dog is South Africa is untrained and most bark excessively, this means a huge population of dogs being killed simply because they bark excessively.

I know of elderly people who love their pets but who have been heartbroken to have their pets removed from them, because they have yappy dogs (they don't hear them barking all night and day) mainly because they don't know about the procedure of debarking or behavioural therapy.

Which brings me to the latter. I am an animal lover, have moved all over the world and paid for my animals to be where ever I am no matter what the cost, but I have a rescue dog who ruins my life and that of my family and the other dogs in the household. He is a cross Jack Russell/Maltese and despite being trained professionally in Singapore, where I currently live, and making use of a citronella dog collar, barks incessantly (except in the precious quiet times when he is sleeping).

He barks at everything and nothing. He drives me crazy, and the neighbours. My solution, and that of past years with barking dogs, call him in - he most often ignores me until I am up close to him - and then keep him inside. This means that my other two non-barking dogs and the barker, pee inside and do their poos if I do not see them standing at the door! So I am continuously stressed and they are almost always indoors (except when I am outside and controlling them or taking them for walks).

The other two dogs are denied the ability to laze about in the garden and lie in the sun if I have to be away. I could lock the barker up but then he would have no company and would bark even more and whine inside the house (which my neighbor complains he hears him do).

So what do I do? Do I listen to all the rhetoric about show dogs being debarked (which may be unnecessary and therefore not part of this argument) and how cruel it is, or do I act on my own years of experience with the most callous cruelty to barking dogs?

Do I think debarking is horrible? Yes, but thank God we have an option, clearly to be used only in extreme cases, which allows us to keep our beloved animal. I have had three-legged dogs, deaf dogs and dogs who never bark -- all have needed some special care. Am I thinking of having my one dog debarked, because I am moving to Switzerland where it is rare for dogs to bark (puppy training is mandatory) and will encounter problems with my neighbours, for sure?

Yes, I am thinking of the procedure as I have no other choice. I have tried everything, and I saw the relief and joy of an aged lady in South Africa, after her three Dachshunds underwent the operation. Sure they sound awful and they still bark, but more quietly and are therefore more acceptable to the neighbourhood, but she still has them to shower her love on and they reciprocate it. They go everywhere with her and she worships them. Would it be more humane to have them put down because the SPCA can hardly keep their animals for more than a few days, much less retrain problem animals for readoption?

So go figure. Stop the unrealistic criticism of the procedure, keep an open mind about the consequences and most of all speak out against any procedure which is unnecessary (i.e., to control behavior of show dogs). Don't write crap like "don't get a dog if you don't like barking".

I have had 14 dogs in my 53 years of life and only four have had problems with barking. All were rescue dogs. Should I have left them in the kennels "in case they had a barking problem"? This is such faulty logic as no one would then ever get dogs, much less rescue ones, so please think carefully.

It is good to have a healthy debate about something, but think about the issues and consequences, both of doing and not doing something before you knock it. Those who write comments in which there appears no logic clearly have not had problem barking dogs, nor have they been their neighbours. Lucky you. I am still undecided but when I do make the decision, I am thankful that there is a procedure, which I am lucky enough to be able to afford, which although undesired, is better than any other alternative I am faced with. And that's what I will be thinking of when I look at my sweet little barker!


For a last chance alternative, no dog owner could say they would truly euthanize their dog over a surgery that would quieten their dog.

Judge all you want, but when it comes down to it, it saves a dog's life. Half the dogs in the animal shelters are there for behavioral issues in the first place, mostly barking. Keep that in mind.


I have a de-barked sheltie. He was de-barked before I got him, also for showing. He is quite gorgeous (won some shows) but has a quiet bark. He does not seem to know his bark is quiet and sounds off full masculine vigor at any intruding mailmen, squirrels, or what have you.


I have my second Airedale Foster that has been debarked. I was told that they were debarked in order to show them in a ring. It's really sad. They cannot bark to help them protect themselves with other dogs.

In both cases, when my dale would bark, they would tuck their tails and run. (even if he was not barking at them.) I think it's a shame to do this to a dog in order to put them in a show ring.


I find the sound of the barking to be very annoying and feel sorry for the dog. We were not told the full story of the de-barking when purchasing the dog. I do feel it is a cruel procedure.


I purchased a kennel stud labrador retriever that clearly had this procedure. The noise that he makes is pathetic and annoying.

While he is out in the pen, he is not a nuisance because he cannot be heard. I am not sure if he was a barker before but he sure is now. I wonder how humane this decision was.

I do not like the results at all and would have preferred to train the dog not to bark. Think twice before getting this procedure. It is pathetic and sad.

I do not like how he sounds and really wonder if he is in pain. I imagine if he hurt he wouldn't be barking. He sure does bark a lot. But we are working on training him in that manner.

We haven't had him long and the seller clearly lied to me about this.

I do not like this. I know barking dogs are annoying but I do not like how this dog sounds. It is awful.

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