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Why Debarking Your Dog Is Cruel


Debarking also known as devocalization, is just another fancy word for muting your dog. During the surgery part or all the vocal chord structures are removed.
Although the procedure is the popular solution for barking dogs, it is actually a radical and cruel solution.

Dogs Bark

Dobermans barking while alone at home.

Dobermans barking while alone at home.

As you know, dogs bark; some more than others. It can become annoying and disturbing, but I doubt that hitting the mute button will solve the barking issue. Imagine the frustration of your dog when it will try to bark and no sound will come out. Is debarking the real solution for the problem?

In this week’s post I want to talk about this particular procedure in a FAQ structure. If you are considering debarking your dog, this article will help you to know more about what debarking is about and which results you can expect.

Which procedure is better?

The oral approach
Debarking them with this procedure, 90% of the dogs were muted or aphonic 3 or 4 months after the intervention. Scar tissue at the surgical site appears in about 60% of the dogs. There is also the possibility that the removed tissue grows back, or even worse, scar tissue blocking the throat. Both scenarios would require further surgeries.

The laryngeal approach
This method is suggested to provide better surgical exposure and of course a better tissue removal. Since the scar is on the neck; an Elizabethan collar (also known as the “cone collar”) can’t be worn to protect the scar, and several complications due to scratching can appear.

Dog's scar after devocalization surgery.

Dog's scar after devocalization surgery.

Is the dog under general anesthesia? Is it dangerous?

Yes, but the anesthetic is delivered by intravenous route. Because of the surgery area, the anesthesia can’t be delivered through an endotracheal tube and the anesthesia risks are higher. 

Besides the anesthetic risk and the known possibilities of scarring after the procedure; the devocalization implies other postoperative risks. Complications such as: bacterial infection, laryngeal spasm due to the inflammation and necrosis are a few of them.

Consult with your vet about the specific risks of putting your dog under general anesthesia and the discuss the postoperative complications.


I still want to go ahead with the devocalization. How can the complications be reduced?

After the devocalization it is advised to keep the dog quiet and relaxed for about 4 to 5 weeks. The agitation and the excess of the inhaled air will increase the inflammation in the area. In order to keep it quiet sedation may be required.
Also, most of the dogs after being debarked, will develop a chronic cough, difficulty in swallowing and serious breathing problems due to the scar tissue are often seen.

Note that excessive barking is a consequence of something else and by mutilating your dog’s cords you are not addressing the underlying behaviour that may be causing the barking or crying.

Will my dog still bark?

Yes, your dog will still bark, however, the voice will be altered. Some dogs’ bark are half less loud and piercing and others are just left muted after the surgery.
The key to a successful procedure is removing the entire vocal process. If part of the vocal cord remains; there is a big chance of scarring.


Are there other options to make it stop barking?

Yes, you can talk with a behavior specialist or a trainer. They will help asses the dogs environment and unwanted behaviour with the purpose of correcting it.

Famous Cesar Millan, also known as the Dog Whisper.

Famous Cesar Millan, also known as the Dog Whisper.

Does it affect the dog’s well being?

The bark is the way a dog communicates and if there’s a lot of barking, he/she is trying to tell you something.
Debarking the dog not only won’t solve the root of the problem but it can escalate. The reason of barking, whether fear, loneliness, stress, anxiety or fear, will be channeled in other ways, including biting, destruction of goods or auto mutilation.

Is debarking necessary?

Debarking is yet another example of non therapeutic procedure like declawing, ear cropping and tail docking. As the procedure brings no medical benefit added to the surgical risk; explains the reason why some veterinarians refuse to do it.
Therefore, the answer to the questions is NO. It’s not necessary and there’s always other alternatives.



Dogs bark.

No pet is perfect and unfortunately the devocalization is not the answer to the problem. Barking is part of normal canine behavior. Excessive vocalization can be due to fear, anxiety, boredom and even medical pathology.

Barking will keep you and your neighbors awake. Will probably ruin your TV series. But maybe your dog doesn't wish to destroy your life, it is wishing to tell you something. Think how it must feel when you are gone all day.

The solution to the problem can be found by removing the cause, socializing and training your dog. As Dr. Conn says, “It is a convenience procedure since the surgery addresses the symptoms but not the underlying cause of incessant barking.”


Some solutions:

Training will help teach your dog boundaries. Spending more time with your dog instead of asking it to stop barking and creating a nice play routine will reduce the anxiety. Early socialization in puppies and early exposure to new situations, will make your adult dog more balanced and less frightened.

Dog at agility.

Dog at agility.

Knowing all that would you force your dog to have an unnecessary, traumatizing and harmful procedure like debarking?

If you are considering to debark your dog, you must watch this video and think about it:

Other useful sources: If you find that your dog’s barking is a problem, refer to these 5 Tips for Handling Nuisance Barking. Also check out the Vol. 5 of the Mastering Leadership DVD series, Common Canine Misbehaviors , where well known Cesar Millan goes in-depth on the issue of barking.

Other related posts: Tips to choose the right dog for your family.


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