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Debarking Your Dog: Don't!
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Debarking Your Dog: Don\'t!

Every once in a while I see something about dogs online or on TV that makes me crazy. For example, I never watch America's Funniest Video's because the one time I did, they showed shots of dogs having weird accidents. It looked to me like the dogs were hurt, though not seriously. I was furious, then I saw that they do the same thing with children! There were scenes of toddlers falling down steps and, in one case, into a swimming pool. The audience thought it was hilarious. So a parent can earn thousands of dollars showing their kid having a funny accident. In several of the entries, the child was crying at the end. Guess I shouldn't be surprised that dogs were fair game.

Then the other night I saw a major network feature on debarking dogs. At first I thought it couldn't be what it sounded like. But... lest we not have a clear picture, the producers showed dog after dog having their vocal cords cut or otherwise damaged, as with a laser. Per the usual network practice of "balancing the story", we heard from those who were in favor of this practice, as well as those who were against. Didn't help, as far as I was concerned.

One of the dog owners was a Sheltie breeder who had had consistent complaints from neighbors because of barking. So she debarked her dogs! I watched 20 seconds of Shelties in her back yard opening their mouths to emit a sound that resembled a sick cough. Daphne was appalled. She slunk out of the room, looking over her shoulder at me in unmistakable rebuke. I felt ashamed for humans.

Debarking involves cutting the vocal cords, or otherwise impeding their vibration. The dog is anesthezied, then an incision is made under his/her chin. It only takes minutes. Whoopee for efficiency. And the neighbors don't complain... how nice. This practice is barbaric!! It reminds me of another century when prison guards cut peoples' Achilles tendons to prevent them from bolting. It's just one example of the lengths people will go to to avoid the work of training their faithful companions. People will use electric shocks; collars that spray stinging fluids like citronella in their eyes and mouth; prong collars with barbs that dig into the flesh of the dog's throat and damage his/her esophagus; and now surgery, rather than teach the dog how to live with humans. Sorry, but there's no excuse. It's sheer laziness, not to say the need for instant gratification. Would you use a citronella collar to stop your 3 month old daughter from crying??? Would you put barbs around the neck of a toddler who constantly pulls away from you and gets herself into trouble?

I know, dogs are not children. But they are mammels with nerve endings and they hurt. It's just that they don't always show that they're in pain. So a Rottweiler with a prong collar who's dragging his master down the street doesn't look like he's hurt. If it hurt, he would stop, right? WRONG! Lots of dogs don't make the connection between pain and bad behavior. Almost all dogs can make a connection between good behavior and rewards. So why doesn't the guy teach his Rottweiler to walk nicely by giving him lots of hugs and treats when he does well?? It's just too hard, I guess. And then there's the issue of guys and macho dog breeds, but we'll leave that for another post.

The argument was made that some people would have to put their dogs down if they didn't cut their vocal chords. One judge even ordered a dog owner to have it done or euthanize the dog. Thank heavens, that judge no longer issues such orders because someone showed him exactly what's involved, and it repelled him. He now orders people to train their animals or give them up for adoption. Anyway the argument is ridulous. If you can't or won't take the time and effort to teach your dog not to bark, then give your dog to someone who will. Get help!! (from a trained canine behaviorist). It'll cost maybe the price of a dinner for two and a movie.


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