Sunday, August 23, 2009

Should you debark your dog?

At a recent get-together, an acquaintance came up to me and asked how he can train his 8-month-old sheltie not to bark so much. I laughed. Shelties were born barking. I wish it were just a matter of some quick training. My own sheltie was with me, and obligingly starting yapping full bore…but he is debarked. My friend was horrified. “Poor thing, he can’t bark,” he said. Tux didn’t feel too bad about it. He barked like he still had his full voice, and enjoyed himself immensely.

Debarking a dog is a surgical procedure where the veterinarian cuts the dog’s vocal chords. The dog will still bark, but only a hoarse cough will come out. This is a hot-button subject between the animal rights movement and anyone who advocates the surgery. Critics feel it is cruel and painful, a mutilation of a dog for our own human purposes, as bad as docking tails and cropping ears. If done for no reason, I agree. A lot of vets won't do the procedure.

This is clearly not a medically necessary operation. So why would someone have it done? And who does get it done most often? Breeders with a kennel full of dogs often debark all of their dogs as a matter of course. I’ve seen collies, shelties, Pomeranians, and various terrier breeds, though I am sure there are others too, all chronic barkers.

I was first introduced to the idea at dog shows, where I saw collies and shelties that were debarked. I have owned both breeds. Some came to me debarked, and I know why.

There’s nothing worse than constant complaints from your neighbors. And as many of you surely know, when it is your dog barking constantly, you get sick of it too on top of the guilt. Think of that aggravation times 4 or 5 or 10.

I have resorted to debarking two of my own shelties. It’s not something I would do unless I felt it was absolutely necessary. In both cases it was either debark or give up the dog. If it is a matter of debarking or giving up the dog, I feel it is justified. I have had several collies and shelties I have NOT had debarked.

I must say that one experience was less than satisfactory. I was referred to a clinic up in Los Angeles that does debarks for only $50. Sounded good to me. I took in my sheltie, and felt like I was in an illegal abortion clinic. Dark, dreary lobby with taped up signs saying “Cash only.” I quickly realized this was a regular factory, a production line of dock, crop and debark. Pit bull and Doberman owners sat with their pups in the chairs opposite me, waiting for ear jobs.

I took my dog in the back room, where a breeder had just had four Pomeranians debarked. The dogs lay on towels on the floor along the hallway while they recovered from anesthesia. My dog was placed on the table and knocked out, and as I watched, the vet took what looked like lopping shears you’d use to trim your trees, and stuck them down Bonnie’s throat and with one big crunch, he was done.

I was having some major regrets by this point. Bonnie joined the lineup on the floor and I waited while she recovered. An hour later, she was up, happy and ready to go home. The vet said there might be some bleeding, but she should be fine. “Try to keep her quiet,” he said.

If I could keep her quiet, I wouldn’t be there, I thought to myself.

Bonnie was fine, and still is five years later. She still barks constantly, and I do mean constantly, but I love her. She is a rescued sheltie, and I realized that if I had returned her, no one else could live with all that noise either. So debarking was the right answer for me.

But I am not going back to that vet.

Photo above: Tux, left, and Bonnie right. © 2009 Terry Albert. All rights reserved.

5 comments:

Rose said...

guest blogger invitation

Hello,

This is Rose writing from www.huliq.com. I visited your blog and liked your content.

Would you be interested to send us a guest post on any of the issues related to the topics that you cover in your blog. We will publish it in our site www.huliq.com

In return with each guest blog we will give one link in the author's byline back to your blog. We only ask that the guest post ( we prefer it be a news coverage, sources can be Google News, CNN, MSNBC, Yahoo News, BBC and others) be a unique story and not be published in your blog.

HULIQ is indexed by Google News and Google requires that the length of the unique news is at least 5 paragraphs. We desire it to be at least 6 paragraphs if possible. And that all need to be a unique content. Once you send us a new story totally unique we will immediately publish it with you link in it, and within 15 minutes it should be indexed by Google News.

Also, please structure author byline as follows:

author's name:
author's e-mail:
author's blog url:

Please let me know if you may have any questions about www.huliq.com.

If you want to consult the topic with me first that's perfectly fine as well.

Many thanks
ruzik.mail@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Wow. I cannot believe you would debark your dog. That is just wrong! How would you feel If someone just yanked your vocal cords from under you and you could no longer talk?! SHAME ON YOU!!

Anonymous said...

I understand completely why you had your dog debarked. I have a shih tzu that barks the second we leave in the morning till when I come home to check on him at lunch. And again until three when my son comes home. Stupidly I thought the dog never barked. I mean, after all he never did it when we were home. Then I started getting complaints from the apartment manager. And unless we get something done about his barking, they say we either have to move or get rid of him. I love my dog. In order to keep him, I see nothing wrong with getting the surgery. Its better than being euthanized at the local shelter.

Terry Albert said...

You might try putting him in a crate with a blanket over it. Then they don't feel like they have the responsibility of taking care of the entire house. I consider debarking a solution of last resort, but it sounds like you are on the verge!

Moria said...

i HAVE A WONDERFUL MINI AUSSIE,HES 2 AND HAS A VERY LOUD PIRECING BARK IMOVED TO THE CITY TWO MONTHS AGO I WANT HIM TO BE ABLE TO LIVE WITH ME IN MY APARTMENT WITHOUT GETTING THROWN OUT,HES STILL AT MY MOMS I GOT THE NUMBER FROM MY BREEDER AND IM THINKING OF HAVING AT DONE NOT SURE IF ITS THE RIGHT THING