Dogs are some of the most lovable beings on this earth; they’re playful, intelligent, and loyal beyond compare; unfortunately, they can also be quite loud. Barking is the natural and most effective way for dogs to communicate, but it can be a major annoyance to dog owners and neighbors. Of course it makes sense to devocalize (sometimes referred to as debarking) your pup for medical reasons, but it is often considered inhumane and inappropriate when done out of punishment or irritation. Rather than removing your dog’s natural ability to communicate, you should consider pet training and containment before choosing to devocalize your dog.
What is Devocalization?
Devocalization is an invasive surgical procedure commonly referred to as a ventriculocordectomy. The procedure is performed by an expert veterinarian who removes part of the vocal cords. Partial devocalization removes only a portion of the vocal cords while total devocalization removes a major portion. Because this has been deemed non-therapeutic and cruel by most of the medical community, you will be hard-pressed to find a vet to perform this type of surgery. Those who willingly offer the procedure may do so because they believe it’s a better option than putting your pet into a shelter or on the street.
Along with the inherent risks of anesthesia and infection, complications can also include the development of scarred vocal tissue regrowth—also known as webbing. Once webbing occurs, your dog may begin utilizing their vocal cords again and making unwanted noise, leading to additional surgeries and putting your dog at even higher risks. Webbing also makes it difficult—almost impossible—for your dog to fully clear his or her throat, causing mucus buildup along with chronic coughing or gagging; it also makes breathing more difficult for your dog. The truth is that this surgical procedure is not guaranteed to work; on the contrary, it can actually be quite ineffective and lead to distorted, raspy, and wheezy barking sounds. This type of surgery is also linked to increased emotional and physical stress, destructive behaviors, and dogs that have been devocalized becomes a higher risk to other dogs and people due to their inability to bark (communicate).
The Alternative: Pet Training and Containment
Just like you need to teach your children to obey, listen, and to respect their elders and the boundaries they set, it is equally important to teach your pet to do the same. You wouldn’t remove your child’s voice box to keep them from yelling at you; you would teach them not to yell. Dogs bark; it’s just part of who they are as animals. They need to be taught to bark only when it’s necessary, such as alerting you to an intruder. If the barking becomes too much of a problem, an obvious solution would be to get a different kind of pet. If you are dedicated to your animal, everyone will benefit from pet training. Teaching your dog to obey simple commands will make a world of difference. They will respect you and respond to your voice when you tell them to stop barking. Another option is to install an electric pet fence like the ones offered at Pet Stop of Columbus in Columbus, OH. These fences are wonderful training mechanisms that operate in a humane way by delivering size and weight appropriate shocks to your pet when they attempt to cross the invisible fence. This teaches your dog to respect boundaries and is especially helpful if your dog is prone to running at other dogs or people while barking. It is important to treat all animals ethically; before turning to devocalization, give pet training and containment a try. You can also try taking your dog out for regular exercise to remove stress since prolonged barking can often be a sign of stress. Another option is to take your dog to a doggy day care where they will be fed, played with, and taken out for exercise. If needed, a behaviorist or dog trainer can help you decide what further steps you should take.