Anyone who has ever had a dog, lived in a home with, or near dogs, knows that dogs bark. However, not all barks are created equal. Some dogs bark more than others while some dogs hardly ever bark. Barks can range from a tiny “squeak” to a heart stopping “Woov! Woov! Woov!” Unfortunately, many of us have had a neighbor with an incessant barker (perhaps some of us have been that neighbor). The bottom line is that dogs bark.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
There are a multitude of reasons for why dogs bark. In the countryside, a dog’s bark can carry for what seems like miles, but a country-dog’s bark is a useful tool. They detour predators from livestock, keep deer away from crops, and act as a home security system. City dogs bark for similar reasons. A dog that barks in an apartment might think the chime of the elevator is an approaching predator, or that a person walking down the hall is an intruder. These sounds cue the dog to alert its guardian by barking. This type of barking is often considered a nuisance and useless (until it’s not) to humans, and so some dog guardians seek out “debarking” procedures.
Devocalization, also known as debarking or bark softening, is an invasive surgical procedure called a ventriculocordectomy. A veterinarian performs the surgery by removing a portion of the vocal cords. Fewer and fewer veterinarians are performing the procedure as it is deemed unnecessarily cruel and non-therapeutic. Proponents of devocalization see it as a last resort to either giving up their companions, or being evicted from their homes.
Devocalization Prevents a Dog From Barking
The procedure doesn’t stop the dog from barking; it only muffles the intensity of the sound. The surgery can leave a dog with a raspy, high pitched bark and it doesn’t treat the actual reason why the dog is barking in the first place.
Devocalization is Minor Surgery
No surgery is without possible complications; infection, hemorrhage and even death can occur. The risk of infection is very high because the larynx and trachea cannot be made completely sterile during surgery.
Post surgery, there is a major risk of vocal cord tissue regrowth, or “webbing” which can lead to future respiratory problems. Webbing can reduce the dog’s ability to clear its throat of mucus leading to tracheitis. Furthermore, tissue regrowth can lead to the dog regaining its ability to bark, which could lead to another surgery.
Physical and Emotional Stress
Devocalization has been linked to destructive behavior, increased physical and emotional stress, and increased risk of threats to physical safety to the animal and others due to a dog’s inability to communicate.
More Wag, Less Bark
The Barking Neighbor
A neighbor who owns a serial barker should be notified. (A polite note in the mailbox is enough.) Remember, your neighbor might not even know that their dog is a barker, especially if it happens while they are out.
Doggy Day Care
Doggy day care is a great way to help curb your dog’s barking during the day. Dogs are engaged, exercised, and come home exhausted and ready to relax.
A tired dog is a good dog, meaning that the more physically satisfied your dog is, the more likely you will be able to train and manipulate your dog’s behavior.
There are several effective ways to curb your dog’s barking by working with a behaviorist or trainer. Do your research, read their reviews and ask for references.
Crating your dog in the quietest part of your home, like a bedroom, is wise. A bedroom is ideal because there is (presumably) carpet, furniture, and a bed to absorb the sound. Decorative sound proofing foam is a quick compromise to other complex ways of sound proofing a room. A simple spray adhesive is enough to mount it to any wall.
There are several different types of indoor and outdoor ultrasonic devices that can be used to curb barking. Theses devices emit a high frequency sound that disrupts the dog mid-bark. DAP diffusers have been proven to help reduce stress in dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. Thunder Shirts are also effective in promoting general relaxation in dogs.
Dogs, much like their human counterparts, aren’t perfect. Before committing to a lifelong companion, foster. Fostering is an excellent way to help dogs on death row and a great way to find your perfect match. (If you’re searching for a specific breed, look for a breed-specific rescue.) Adding a companion animal to your family isn’t without its obstacles, so make sure that you’re up for the adventure before you commit.
Image Source: University of Liverpool/Flickr