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Dogs With No Bark
Why people pursue the controversial surgery

Another interesting read out of New York—this time a story about “debarking,” cutting a dog’s vocal chords, on the front page of today’s New York Times. It’s always seemed cruel to me to put a dog through surgery—never without risks—to address a behavioral issue (like de-clawing cats). Aside from health risks, I wonder how my barker would feel if he emitted only a rasp or a whisper with the UPS man on our stoop. It feels like a matter of convenience and lifestyle taking precedence for the owners. Still, the article raises the specter of animals being surrendered because of excessive barking. That’s a stickier wicket—I can’t imagine a dog is better off keeping his or her vocal chords intact but ending up in a shelter.

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com
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Submitted by Anonymous | February 3 2010 |

this is a sticky situation for sure..one I'm currently debating over and over. I own a territorial terrier who despite the amounts of physical and mental stimulation he gets during the week (daily runs, dog walker, agility training) he loves to bark. Barks at noises in the hallway, barks at people coming to the door, barks at a random leaf blowing in the wind.

He is a watch dog - I do like the protective aspect - it's why I chose him..but..in a downtown apartment - my neighbours aren't always as appreciative.

I've gone through de-sensitization, training, and while it has helped a bit..he simply loves the act of barking.

I don't know what my ultimate decision will be...I've gathered lots of information from people with this same breed who have done this and those that are for/against...as you say - I will not surrender him to a shelter over it - but also cannot afford to be evicted over it either.

Submitted by Sharon | February 3 2010 |

I find this very disturbing. I admit that I had my cats declawed when they were kittens. I did it because I was a new cat owner, having dogs my whole life, and relied on the advice of others. My vet also stayed neutral and didn't discourage it. I regret this now. I wish I hadn't done it. I think it's amazing how we can justify things in our heads sometimes. For example, maybe someone's excuse for doing this is that they live in an apartment building and they'll get thrown out if the dogs are noisy. We need to stop making decisions for our pets that result in cruel procedures like these and respect them as they are.

Submitted by Dog Lover | February 3 2010 |

any vet who performs this surgery should have his license permenantly revoked. this is ridiculous

Submitted by Debark? YES!!! | February 4 2010 |

Seriously? Loose their license? They are doing NO HARM. These vets are saving dogs from screamed at, being shocked, beaten, hosed down- they save lives! I am a strong proponante of debarking. We now live with dogs in close proximity to others. We live in a society that is not tolerant of barking dogs. We must respect eachother.

Debarking is a quick surgery with results that allow a dog to bark bark bark and bark. AND, they do bark right after surgery! No too painful. The end result? The dog is not abused!

Case in point: I adopted a Pyrenees Mountain Dog (great Pyreneese) from Pyreneese rescue sight unseen, as I needed a guardian dog on 117 acre ranch. She was spayed and de-barked when I got her. She is BRED to BARK as are may other breeds. She can bark all night long now that we have moved closer to town. No neighbors have threatened to poison her or shoot her(yes that happens to barking dogs. She is a very happy girl with an important job- protecting our house from percieved threats.

Humor me here . . .you are a dog hard wired to bark bark bark. You can stay in your crate alone for 12 hours a day with your shock collar inside OR you can have a dog door and go out and bark at the cats, birds, squirrels anything threating your yard -have a real job? Yes your voice sounds raspy and it is not very loud but you can BARK!! You were born to bark!
What would you choose?

Submitted by Rachael | January 21 2013 |

I agree! We have a 6 year old Great Pyr who we have had since birth. Although, he is not a huge barker he still barks enough to annoy our neighbors. As long as we are home, he is quiet but it seems as soon as we leave, he knows he can go to town. We keep him inside when gone for shorter periods but sometimes this isn't reasonable. He loves to bark at the birds who have found great joy in tormenting our dog. We have gone to court because of a neighbor who I swear waits for us to leave and then calls animal control. We have tried the spray collar, noise blocker, and two different bark collars. He will bark right over being shocked. This leaves horrible marks on his neck. We are great dog owners who love our boy. We are responsible and never allow our dog to bark but sometimes we just cannot be home to monitor him. Without moving away from our crazy neighbor we are facing giving up our baby or having him debarked. I think you all know what we are choosing and plan on having the procedure done as soon as our vet comes back into town. Because we love our dog, we are choosing this!

Submitted by Shauna (Fido & Wino) | February 4 2010 |

What I don't like about this article is it says: debark, or give up to a shelter? What about training? And training and training and training? I don't think a dog should potentially get euthanized because he barks, but I also don't think debarking should be made to sound like it's the only alternative when more exercize and training could potentially solve the problem.

Also, it sounds like vets aren't even being trained to do this anymore- sure a vet might say she can do it, but has she been trained to?

Submitted by Maura | February 4 2010 |

I had the same situation as comment #1. My neighbors were not always happy with us despite all our hard work at training and stimulation. We decided to rent a house instead so it wouldn't be such close quarters. We now have another dog too whose not quite as barky but it's not a huge problem now anyways since you hear dogs barking in the neighborhood all the time- and we're not sharing walls with anyone.
I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make life happy for myself, my dogs and everyone else around us. I can't believe someone would preform a surgery or get rid of their dogs because of excessive barking- they are dogs after all!

Submitted by Tamandra | February 5 2010 |

I have a German Shepherd. Notorious for being vocal. My dog barks AT me every day, for a whole variety of reasons. And, he is loud. It does get on my nerves, and can be super annoying. He's going on 9 years old and I've been putting up with it for a long time. It's *who he is*. I can do training, I can get him to stop, for a few seconds at a time ha ha...but in NO WAY would I EVER put him under the knife to mutilate him for this behavior !!!! Granted it's not something he does that's annoying to neighbors, he's not as much of a random barker like that. If there's a noise, it's a normal outburst. Still, there are ways to modify behavior. Everyone looks for the quick fix, and it's not always the best option.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 12 2010 |

There was just an article by a contributor to this magazine (VS) in another well known publication about debarking. Simply put it's very stressful for the dog because they lose their ability to communicate. She's against it of course. I have a 100 pound Akita-Shepherd mix who has a bark that can be heard throughout our neighborhood. But with patience and training we don't have a barking problem and I have a fantasic companion who alerts me only when someone comes right up to my front door.

Submitted by Kathrine Konetz... | February 13 2010 |

I visited a Collie breeder several years ago, and a beautiful 6 month old male greeted me at the door. He was a bit wobbly from anesthesia as he had just been debarked. As someone who has many years of veterinary experience, I know how the surgery is performed and it is not one I would ever recommend as a routine procedure. The breeder's response was that she lived in the city (she did have a nice sized, fenced yard) and she had 5 adult dogs (only three are allowed), so she had all her dogs debarked to avoid problems with the neighbors/animal control officials. I was quite shocked to learn that many show dogs are debarked; it's kind of a dirty little secret. On the other side(and there is always another side), we recently adopted a young puppy who, I believe, came out of the womb barking. He honestly never stops and after a month of living with him, I can see that a lifetime of this would be very frustrating. Fortunately, he IS learning to control his boisterous nature somewhat, and I can see slow progress being made, so I am hopeful. And as we live in a more country like setting, we do not have neighbors to worry about. Would I consider surgery for him? Not until I had exhausted every other alternative. But if placed in a situation where my choices were surgical intervention or re-homing my dog, I know what I'd choose.

Submitted by M. Furie | February 14 2010 |

While I understand when given the option of debarking or a trip to the AC, debarking seems the kinder way to go. But, let's understand that there is another alternative. Don't choose a barky dog in the first place. Shelties are wonderful dogs, easily trained, and very pretty. How can one buy a sheltie, and another sheltie, and not know that they bark? It isn't a surprise, yet shelties are the breed most often debarked. It's not a leap to figure out that you can find a really nice, very trainable puppy or dog that is not a barker. Min Pins bark. If you don't like the constant high pitched yap of a tiny dog but you want a very small companion, get a papillon or a Boston terrier. If you don't like the overbarking ritual of the sheltie, get a different dog of similar temperament. Yes, you can train the dog sufficiently to reduce the barking (oops, that would take a little time and some commitment), but a barky dog is not going to become a nonbarker.

Submitted by Cindy Hicks | January 18 2013 |

Get a papillon? Are you kidding me? I have 4 papillons, they are very much barking dogs. One of them kills my ears with her high pitch but I'm not complaining about that. I ran across this site trying to figure out why my newly rescued papillon (the fourth one) has no bark. I had no idea about this surgery until right now. I don't know this dogs history, as her foster caregiver doesn't have any to share aside from the fact she was rescued from a puppy mill, but I can assume by now that it is very likely she is so broken she may never trust any human being for the rest of her life. So this sickens me to think that on top of the abuse she obviously endured (I'm told the original vet estimated her age at 5 but she seems older), the fact that she "may" have been debarked to possibly quite her anguish. I'm not even sure I should take her to my vet yet, as I wanted her to adjust to her new life before making that scary trip. Dogs bark, period. For those who cannot handle it, simply shouldn't own a dog.

Submitted by Lexi Huber | February 15 2010 |

I have worked in the vet business for years. My mother owns 3 very territorial doxies and I have a very boisterous coonhound. Under absolutely NO cercumstances would I consider such a ridiculous and unnecessary proceedure such as debarking. There are SO many other options out there, they just require some time to work. My mother has had great success with teaching "quiet" and my baying coonhound has finally learned when are appropriate times to communicate. All without that invasive surgery. Any GOOD vet would not encourage this surgery and does not ecourage this surgery because there are many many more humane options available. If you dont want a barking dog or you arent prepared to put the time in to train them appropriately, then dont get a dog, you obviously arent ready for one. Get a cat, at least they are quiet.

Submitted by angil | October 1 2010 |

I just rescued a dog and found out tonight that he has been debarked. I am so angry and disgusted at the fact! ITS NO WONDER he has such trust issues! Poor baby is scared of everything. he was used for breeding all his life, kept outside, been debarked, and LORD KNOWS what else!
I believe the "KINDER" way to go, would be to surrender the pet, and let someone RESPONSIBLE give it a home. One where they dont have to have body parts cut to shut them up or make them 'look better'. This little man ended up at the pound anyway!

If you cant take care of your pet, you dont need one. People like that SICKEN me!

to the people who think its ok: I wish you could have your vocal cord ripped out, have your tailbone docked, and your ears clipped. oh and hey, It would be cool to keep you outside and use you just to make babies. doesnt sound so 'ok' now, does it?

Submitted by Anonymous | March 10 2011 |

You do not fully understand "why" some dogs may have a "voice reduction" surgery. It could be that the breeder kept several dogs and did not want to annoy their neighbors. Oh, by the way....without "breeders" there would be no puppies or patients for the Vet's. I have seen the procedure performed and the dog wakes up in a matter of 3 min. and goes on with his day. The dog lives a better life, due to not being yelled at all day for barking. It is one or two snips across the cord, in the back of the throat and it is done ! So do not be so quick to judge and be so opinionated about a subject you have never been involved in. There are very good reasons for a dog being debarked. In CA most all of the dogs are debarked, because you are not allowed to have kennels and this is a way for breeders to do what they love. Most people who take my adult dogs, when they are retired,LOVE the fact they can keep them in an apt. or close living quarters, as there is no barking ! Believe me, LOTS of people love the "voice reduction".

Let me ask you....did you have your baby boy circumcised ? Hmmmm... but no one thinks of that as sickening ? No, because it is for cleanliness and cosmetic reasons ! But it is not much different than what is done to a dog is is ? This is done to prevent annoying barking.

So, before you fly off the handle and point fingers, be aware of the details associated with this procedure. Oh.... and my dogs live better than most children. I have seen some children living in horrible conditions, whereby my dogs are clean, loved, having babies INSIDE my home, in my bedroom. Believe me, my dogs and other breeders dogs are well cared for and it is an amazing amount of work ! Most people would not want to dedicate as much time as it takes to do it right.

Submitted by sarah | June 11 2013 |

Your response did not encourage us to agree with you. It was disgusting. And no, I did not have my boys circumcised. You are right, it's very much the same thing and is horrible and should be against the law too. I believe my rescue dog was also debarked (sweetest little terrier with a docked tail too.) I think it's terrible.

Submitted by Kim | June 19 2013 |

Yet I will bet that all you critics of unnecessary surgery endorse spaying and neutering, a much more dangerous and life-changing procedure. You are hypocrites, on a high horse because you haven't faced a real barking problem. Perhaps you should check out the benefits of leaving a dog unneutered and tell me if you still think that elective surgery is necessary? Can't you just be a responsible owner and make sure your pet is supervised and restrained to avoid unwanted litters?

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