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.
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.
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.
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.
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.