The Sound of Silence

February 6, 2013

Fortunately, it’s a question I’ve been asked a scant few times in my career: can my yappy, barking dog be “debarked” with surgery? I recently read an interesting Huffington Postblogon this topic, and the author beautifully sums up why this horrendously painful and unnecessary surgery is never recommended by veterinarians. Most of us consider debarking surgery to be medical malpractice.

If you’ve had the misfortune of meeting a “debarked” dog, you will immediately become aware of the fact that these dogs still can produce lots of noise. The sound they make, instead of a traditional “woof” is more of a hoarse scream. It is a sound you will never forget.

In addition to developing secondary behavioral problems from the inability to bark properly, debarked dogs are at risk for airway problems, choking and aspiration pneumonia due to the formation of scar tissue in the larynx.

Dogs can be trained not to bark. It’s not easy to do, and it takes a lot of time and effort, but the reward is a calm, quiet dog. Redirecting Fido’s focus with a highly valued food treat, lots of proper exercise to burn off Fido’s excess energy, avoiding situations that trigger the unwanted noisy behavior, asking the mailman to hand Fido treats when he drops off a package at the door…these are just a scant few of the behavioral modification techniques out there to help reduce barking.

Remember, barking is an absolutely normal canine behavior and all dogs can and need to bark on occasion. But if Fido is yip-yapping you into a constant migrane, maybe it’s time to contact a board-certified veterinary behaviorist to consult with you, and design a training plan to turn down the volume.