Debarking: A Controversial Procedure

Last week, the New York Times featured an article on a controversial procedure known as debarking. It was listed among the publication’s “most e-mailed” articles, so I know it drew some interest from their readers.

In the procedure, a veterinarian snips the vocal cords of a dog to prevent it from making a noise when it barks. Opinions stated in the article ranged from “it’s cruel” to “if it’s the only thing that can prevent a dog having to go to a shelter, it’s the right thing to do.” I thought I’d open up a conversation here on DogChannel to see what our readers think.

In the Times, one of the sources quoted said that de-barking cuts off a dog’s main form of communication. While I agree that the procedure is not ideal, I don’t believe this statement is true. In my experience, most of a dog’s communication is silent. Barking seems to be a last resort they use when their humans aren’t “getting it.”

I’m in favor of training to deal with barking and with keeping a dog in its natural state (aside from spaying and neutering), but if an owner has truly tried everything and the dog is just a barker and his neighbors are threatening to throw him out of his apartment building, I am glad this option is available. Those of us with dogs that don’t bark can criticize a person’s “failure” at training or assume they aren’t working as hard at it as they should be, but as a person with a 5-month-old puppy that has defied many of the “shoulds” in every training book, I can’t do so myself. A dog that can’t bark living with a loving family in a warm, happy home beats an abandoned dog barking his head off in a kennel at a shelter any day.

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