The barking dog presents a serious problem in crowded urban or suburban areas. Neighbors become very angry and the hostility (and even lawsuits) that result are unpleasant for everyone concerned.
Quite often the offending dog does not bark much when the owner is home, yet "drives the neighbors crazy" when alone for the day. With more and more double income earning families these pets have to spend increasing amounts of time alone, perpetuating the problem.
There are three different approaches to managing this problem:
- Behavioral therapy with a trainer specializing in problem behaviors. This approach may help some dogs but unfortunately takes time and doesn't work with the majority of barking dogs.
- Anti-bark collars. These special collars produce either a high-pitched noise or a mild shock every time the dog barks. The shock producing collars are not cruel and seem to work the best of the two different types. They do not cause emotional damage to the pet however they are less effective with the "hard core, persistent barkers" and they are not inexpensive.
- Surgical debarking. The removal of the dog's vocal cords is the best method of reducing the level and intensity of the barking dog's bark. There are two different types of operations used to remove the vocal cords.
The oral approach involves the surgeon removing a portion of each vocal cord through the pet's open mouth. This is similar to a tonsillectomy in technique. This method of debarking is not recommended because only a portion of each vocal cord can be removed from deep in the throat. Because of this the procedure is less effective, with a higher rate of regrowth of the vocal cords.
The true surgical approach is recommended. An incision is made on the throat over the "voice box" and the vocal cords are completely removed and stitches applied to hold the voice box open. This procedure is 95% effective in reducing the volume of the dog's bark. Some of the dogs debarked in this manner will regain their bark gradually over a 2-3 year period but for the vast majority of pets the procedure solves the problem barking.
Anyone contemplating having their pet surgically debarked must realize that the operation does not eliminate the dog's desire to bark (that is he/she will still try to bark) but rather reduces the volume of the bark. Sometimes the raspy, quiet bark that remains can be irritating to the pet owner, although the neighbors are usually happy once again.