Is Debarking Cruel to Dogs?

Debarking is still a controversial topic, but we’re here to set the record straight. Devocalizing your dog isn’t pleasant and comes with possible side effects, which we’ll discuss below!

Jan 3, 2024By Monika Dimitrovska
is debarking cruel to dogs

If you’re thinking of debarking your dog, just know that we’re not judging.

You probably don’t mind your dog’s barking. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have a dog in the first place, so there must be another issue at hand. Nevertheless, you’re thinking about it, and luckily, you stumbled upon our article.

In short, yes, debarking is cruel. The good news? You have other options! Below, we’ll explain why debarking isn’t ethical and provide better solutions, so let’s dive right in!

Is Debarking a Dog Ethical?

is debarking ethical
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Although barking is one of the most common behavioral problems in dogs, debarking is still not a good solution because it’s a surgical procedure that includes removing a large amount of laryngeal tissue from the vocal cords.

The worst part? It comes with postoperative pain.

Vets perform this surgical procedure under general anesthesia to decrease the volume, intensity, and pitch of the dog’s bark. The medical name for it is ventriculi cordectomy, and dog owners can choose a partial or total devocalization for their pets.

Luckily, since it’s a cruel, unnecessary, and invasive procedure, many vets condemn it, refuse to perform it, and say debarking should be illegal. In fact, they suggest that dog barking is natural; it’s a dog’s means of communicating their fear, pain, frustration, boredom, and even joy.

Simply put, debarking your dog is taking their voice away, which we couldn’t describe as anything other than animal cruelty.

Some would say it’s not cruel to debark a dog but think of it like this: would you want someone to cut your vocal cords because you’re being “too loud?”

Is it Cruel to Stop a Dog From Barking?

is debarking cruel
Image credit: dahancoo from Pixabay

If you’re asking about devocalization, also known as debarking, bark softening, or devoicing, yes, it’s cruel. You can reduce your dog’s barking in other ways, non-invasive ways. Typically, dogs bark for the following reasons:

  • Loneliness
  • Territorial protection
  • Frustration or boredom
  • Stress or anxiety, including separation anxiety
  • A response to external stimuli (other pets or people walking by outside). This is also one of the most common reasons for barking at night.
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of training

PETA suggests addressing the root cause of your dog’s excessive barking instead of choosing devocalization. Training a senior dog is also possible with some professional help. Here’s a list of possible solutions:

  • Bring your outdoor dog inside to be part of the family for companionship.
  • Connect with a humane trainer, behaviorist, or vet through the local humane society. They can help create a treatment plan for you and your pet, including behavioral changes, with or without medication.
  • Avoid shock or citronella collars as solutions.
  • Consider a dog walker, doggie daycare, or a local dog park for socialization.
  • Prevent boredom by taking daily walks in the park or around the neighborhood, hiking with your dog, and playing with your pet regularly. In other words, ensure your dog gets enough mental and physical exercise.
  • If facing a court order for debarking, euthanasia, or relocation, consult a lawyer.

Can a Debarked Dog Still Bark?

can they still bark
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A debarked dog can still bark to some extent because this surgical procedure doesn’t eliminate barking entirely. In fact, there’s a chance that the surgery may not be effective at all, and you would be putting your pet through so much pain for nothing.

The HSVMA reveals that debarking doesn’t have a high success rate, often requiring multiple surgeries for better vocal outcomes or addressing unintended consequences from previous operations. It also comes with side effects, such as the following:

Side Effects of Debarking a Dog

side effects
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Debarking your dog isn’t painless or harmless. On the contrary, there’s a wide range of potential side effects of devocalizing your puppy, depending on the surgical approach. If you choose the oral one, there’s a higher incidence of webbing (scar tissue regrowth), resulting in increased respiratory risks.

The reason why dog owners go with this approach is that it’s cheaper and less invasive. However, it’s still inhumane.

Now, let’s discuss the other surgical procedure called laryngotomy, which is more invasive and expensive than the former. It’s usually performed as corrective surgery if the oral procedure fails or causes unexpected issues.

Here’s a summary of the most common side effects of debarking, in general:

  • Bleeding and infection due to the inability to make the larynx and trachea completely sterile during surgery.
  • Swelling of the dog’s airways.
  • Scar tissue and narrowing of the throat, requiring potential further surgery.
  • Chronic coughing, gagging, and pneumonia from breathing in coughed-up material.
  • Increased risk to the dog’s physical safety and ability to alert others.
  • Increased frustration, potentially leading to destructive behaviors or aggression.
  • They have elevated stress levels.

Do Vets Still Debark Dogs?

do vets still debark
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While some vets may still offer debarking, many professionals and associations discourage it. The American Animal Hospital Association is against it, and more vets refuse to do the procedure because it’s seen as unnecessary and potentially harmful to dogs.

Ethical concerns and a better understanding of dogs’ needs have led to a move away from debarking. Pet owners should consider alternatives like training instead of surgery for excessive barking.

Is Debarking a Dog Illegal?

is debarking illegal
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Although not illegal everywhere, some states have laws against devocalizing dogs. For instance, debarking is banned in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland, except if deemed medically necessary by a licensed veterinarian.

Pennsylvania and Ohio also ban the debarking of a canine regardless of the reason, unless it’s performed under anesthesia by a licensed veterinarian.

On the other hand, Rhode Island and California ban requiring the debarking of canines as a condition for real estate occupancy.

Some states even ban the devocalization of felines.

Closing Thoughts

is debarking cruel 2
Image credit: Richard Brutyo from Unsplash

In a nutshell, while the frustration of a barking dog can be real, you should never choose debarking. It’s cruel, unnecessary, and comes with many potential side effects.

Additionally, most vets condemn this surgical procedure and refuse to do it, which is a clear indication that it’s not the most humane solution to intense and consistent barking.

Instead of silencing your furry friend, which could turn out unsuccessful, consider addressing the root causes of their behavior through training, companionship, and professional guidance.

Monika Dimitrovska
By Monika Dimitrovska

Monika is a pet enthusiast and seasoned copywriter with a tech degree. She loves writing, but her heart belongs to her two mixed dogs, Buba and Bono, a mother-son duo. Bono’s siblings found loving homes, sparking Monika’s advocacy for neutering and deepening her curiosity about animal care.

But Monika’s pet family doesn’t end there. She also has two cockatiels and two rescue cats, proving her home is a haven for creatures big and small.