Does your dog bark too much, too loud? Consider bark softening, the common sense answer for the barking dog and neighbor problems.
Barking, Debarking, Bark Softening
by Diane Klumb, courtesy ShowSight Magazine
Have we lost all common sense? Health risks aside, debarking allows people to own and actually breed dogs as a hobby in urban and suburban areas without bothering the neighbors, while wholesale spaying and neutering of puppies will eventually lead to a situation where the only dogs produced are coming from large commercial operations out in the country, away from any neighbors. In places like rural Missouri.
How'd we lose this one? Probably the same way we've lost all the other battles to win the "hearts and minds" of the dog-loving American public... by being reactive, defensive, and apologetic rather than proactive and getting a clear and positive message out there in the first place.
Politicians have long understood that he who controls the language controls the argument. And let's face it, the word debarking, from a psychological point of view, has all the appeal of death tax (an absolutely brilliant synonym coined by its opponents for the federal inheritance tax) and is just about as hard to defend with any enthusiasm.
The term bark softening, on the other hand, has some real potential. And the advantage of being a lot more accurate.
As anyone who's familiar with the procedure knows (remember, we're not talking about a full laryngotomy here - that one's pretty well dead in the water thanks to its discovery by urban drug dealers) dogs who've had a small notch made in their vocal chords can (and do) still bark merrily away to their heart's content...they just don't have sufficient volume to bother the neighbors any more. (In fact, they end up sounding a lot like Pugs - and, as everyone with an RV knows, an ex-pen full of Pugs are hands down the best neighbors you can hope for at a dog show, especially when parking's tight and they're right outside your window.)
Which reminds me of another load of total horse manure that's gotten more traction than it deserves -namely, that if a dog is barking, it's because his personal emotional or physical needs are somehow not being met; ergo, debarking only provides a band-aid solution to a deeper problem.
Have these people never owned dogs??? Dogs bark because that's what dogs do -in fact, most of them get a real charge out of it. We owned a Gordon Setter bitch for over twelve years who barked whenever the phone rang. That wouldn't have been so bad, but she would not shut up until you actually hung up the damn phone, I swear to God. (This was before cordless phones, so you couldn't just walk into another room and shut the door.) If she had any unmet emotional needs I have no idea what they were, since her tail would wag the entire time. (I suspect it was simply what animal behavioralists call allelemenetic behavior –in other words, she wanted to be part of the conversation. Unfortunately, in addition to being generally noisy, she was cursed with a particularly shrill voice for a dog of that size, and her bark could peel paint off the walls.) So we had her bark softened. End of problem -she could then bark all she wanted without getting constantly yelled at ("Shut UP, Velvet!!!") for something that came so very naturally to her, and which gave her such obvious pleasure.
To my mind, that's not cruel at all. The dog that's had his bark softened can exercise one of the chief joys of dogdom to his heart's content while his less fortunate brethren get hollered at, squirted with water bottles full of lemon juice, and jolted with electricity.
Seems to me if we want to encourage dog ownership in an America where the amount of acreage owned per family is constantly decreasing, we need to ditch the term debarking altogether and sell this "bark softening" thing as the kinder, gentler, and really more natural option for dealing with unappreciated canine noise, rather than allow those who would rather no one owned a dog, much less bred one, to snow the public into believing that it's a cruel and unnatural procedure that should be banned. If we keep allowing ourselves to be dragged down that road, what will we give up next - doggy haircuts? How about brushing? That can be pretty unpleasant for the dog...surely mats are more "natural." It's a slippery slope, folks...
See you ringside, and remember to have fun out there!
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