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Dog Debarking Surgery: Is It Legal & Vet-Approved Correction Tips

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on May 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

Pembroke Welsh Corgi dog howling or barking outdoor

Dog Debarking Surgery: Is It Legal & Vet-Approved Correction Tips


Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo


Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Barking is normal behavior for dogs, as they use it to communicate with you and other animals. However, some dogs take it to another level and bark all day and night, which can make it difficult to get the sleep that you need and might even get you into trouble with the neighbors. Once issues start, many people want to quickly quiet their dog’s barking and may start to wonder if dog debarking surgery is a legal and effective way to control it.

While dog debarking surgery is still legal in some areas, there are many concerns about its ethics, and more veterinary hospitals are refusing to do it. Here, we look at the potential problems with debarking and discuss if there are any times when it might be necessary.

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What Is Debarking?

Devocalization is a surgical procedure performed on dogs to reduce the volume of their bark. Debarking, or ventriculicordectomy, is also called bark softening. The vet will either go in through the mouth or make an incision in the larynx to reach the vocal cords to remove part of them, which will cause the barking to be a lower volume or even eliminate it.1

Image Credit: Jessi-et-Nono, Shutterstock

Is Debarking Your Dog Legal?

In the United States, the legality of debarking your dog varies from state to state. Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey do not allow it at all unless a licensed veterinarian states that it is medically necessary. Pennsylvania prohibits the devocalization of a dog “for any reason unless the procedure is performed by a licensed veterinarian using anesthesia” and is medically necessary. In California and Rhode Island, there are laws in place that state a landlord can’t require the devocalization of a dog as a condition of occupancy.2

How Much Does Debarking Cost?

The cost of debarking surgery can vary considerably depending on where you live and if the doctor is going through the mouth or larynx to reach the vocal cords. Typically, though, the surgery costs $500–$2,000. There are likely to be additional costs too, including hospital stays, medication, and follow-up visits. Most people ultimately end up spending more than $3,000. Many dogs may also need additional training to learn how to cope with their new condition.

dog owner talking to vet
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

Is Debarking Your Dog Ever a Good Idea?

Debarking is only a good idea when you have exhausted all other options and the dog will lose their home or life otherwise, and even then, it’s still not often recommended.

What Are the Problems With Debarking Surgery?

  • It alters a dog’s natural ability to communicate, which many people consider a violation of their rights and well-being.
  • It doesn’t address the underlying reasons for excessive barking, such as anxiety, boredom, territorial behavior, or lack of training. These issues may persist and cause other problems.
  • There are risks of anesthesia complications, infection, and bleeding involved when undergoing the surgery. It might also lead to scarring in the throat, which can cause breathing difficulties, chronic coughing, gagging, and an increased risk of aspiration pneumonia.
  • The surgery does not guarantee the complete elimination of barking. Dogs can still make noises, which might be more distressing or annoying than the original bark. Pet owners often describe it as a hoarse whisper or rasp, which can be unsettling to those who hear it.
  • The effects of debarking surgery are irreversible.
male veterinarian examining labrador retriever dog at vet clinic
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

What Can I Do Instead of Debarking My Dog?

  • You should try to understand why your dog is barking, as this might help you find ways to reduce it. Common reasons for barking include attention-seeking, boredom, anxiety, territorial behavior, or responding to external stimuli. If you can discover the cause, eliminating it might solve the problem.
  • Work on teaching commands like “speak” and “quiet” to train your dog to know when it’s appropriate to bark.
  • Dogs often bark due to pent-up energy, so ensuring that they get enough exercise and mental stimulation can help reduce it.
  • Expose your dog to various situations, people, and other animals in a controlled manner to help them become more accustomed to these things, which might help reduce barking.
  • Try to block your dog’s view of things that might be causing them to bark if you can’t remove them, such as people walking by your house.
  • Use positive reinforcement to reward your dog for quiet behavior with treats, praise, or playtime.
  • If you can’t cut down on your dog’s barking, consider consulting a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist for guidance specific to your pet.

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Debarking surgery is a controversial method that has been used to quiet or eliminate the barking that their dogs do. However, there are serious ethical concerns that you will need to consider, and it’s also illegal in certain areas. It will permanently change your dog’s voice, which can lead to anxiety, and it doesn’t address the underlying issues causing the barking. Surgery and anesthesia can also cause problems for your pet.

It’s best to try an alternate method of getting your pet to stop barking, which can include training, exercise, socialization, and positive reinforcement. We also recommend seeking out a professional trainer before you start to consider debarking surgery.

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Featured Image Credit: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

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