What is debarking? Part 1

In some ways, a barking dog is similar to a noisy child; if it is your own, you will have a high tolerance to him or her. If it is someone else’s, a mere decibel over what you consider acceptable is enough to raise your blood pressure several notches.

dog-debarking-surgeryFor some dog owners, however, even the bark of their own pet is too much to bear, and they opt for surgery to their pet to cuts its vocal chords.

The procedure, which is known as ‘debarking’, has been around for some time, but is now less popular with a new generation of animal rights campaigners and younger vets. The procedure is a straightforward one: when under a general anaesthetic, the larynx is severed either through the dog’s mouth, or by an incision in its neck. This doesn’t render the dog completely silent – it can still bark, but it will sound wheezy or muffled. There are some vets who will carry out the procedure, but many of them do not advertise the fact.

The reasons for debarking can vary. Some dog owners do it for their own convenience and peace. There have been reports that drug dealers have their guard dogs debarked to make it easier for them to attack intruders, and even some people who show dogs at competitions are said to have the procedure carried out.

In a recent interview in the New York Times, Paul, a dog breeder and handler who deals mainly with Shetland sheepdogs, declares that he is a proponent for debarking.

Having at least 12 dogs at any one time, Paul has the majority of them debarked, and makes it a requirement of his clients that they debark their dogs before showing them.

He said:

“I probably spend more time and money on my dogs in one year than they have in a whole lifetime.”

“None of them are any sadder after being debarked.”

Many critics of debarking consider it to be an outdated procedure, and removing a dog’s primary means of communicating is considered as inhumane. Some dogs also need further surgery, as a build -up of scar tissue in the throat can lead to problems with breathing.

However, debarking has some proponents, and we will look at the positive aspects to it in part two of this article tomorrow.


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