De-Barking and Other Methods

Dogs bark because we humans want our dogs to bark. For years our domestication process and selective breeding has allowed our dogs to develop their barking abilities. Wolves don't bark, so through genetic engineering and the selective breeding process, dogs these days have the ability to retain juvenile characteristics. This is through the process known as neoteny.


Humans have chosen to retain the infantile traits of wolves like large heads, flat faces, and large eyes and of course the ability to communicate, barking. Barking was further developed in dogs in order to scare intruders or to help the master out (i.e. on farms to assist in gathering the sheep). 


Indirect intervention methods can be applied to stop persistent barking. These techniques can range from spraying your dog with water while it is barking, to using noise producing devices such as "Dog Stop" or "Barker Breaker," which emit loud or high frequency sounds that interrupt and deter barking. These devices can be controlled by the owner, or triggered by the dogs barking. In the event your dog is resistant to these behavioural modifications, more drastic action can be taken in the form of bark activated shock collars. This device is particularly effective when barking occurs in the owner's absence. Shock collars, however, are recommended only after other control measures have failed.


The key to solving the problem of excess barking in your dog begins with an understanding of what is causing this behaviour. Once you have determined a cause, you have a greater chance of choosing the most effective solution (e.g., more exercise) or behavioural modification. Modifying such an instinctive and natural behaviour as barking can be difficult, and may require considerable patience, time, and hard work. Solutions, however, are possible, and worth the effort.

If you happen to own a hard-core persistent barker, use this method:


1. Vinegar-Water solution – mix a proportion of 7/8 water & 1/8 vinegar together. Pour the mixture into a water pistol or what kids call “super soaker” for longer distance shooting.


2. Aim and shoot at his chest whenever he can’t stop barking even on your command. Dogs hate the smell of vinegar and would usually back off and stop barking. He’ll even sneeze a few times. It’s harmless so you need not worry.


3. As always, praise him when he stops barking.


If a dog barks excessively for no good reason, well-known dog obedience instructor and author, Jerry Climer, suggests that you walk up to him and close your hand around his muzzle; forcefully, but not enough to cause pain. Hold his mouth closed and command “Quiet!”  If he tries to break away, be more firm and forceful. Hold his mouth shut and snap your finger sharply across his nose, commanding again “Quiet!”  Once he has stopped the excessive barking and is silent, praise him.


When training a young puppy not to bark, place a short rope on his collar and let him drag it around the house. When he barks to alert you, let him bark once or twice, and tell him he’s a good dog. Then use the command “Quiet!” in a firm tone, while at the same time giving his rope a little jerk to startle him. Insist that he stop the noise immediately, and praise him the minute he becomes quiet.


Whether training a grown dog or a young puppy, discipline must be consistent in order to be effective. After the lesson has been learned, commanding “Quiet!” will be enough to bring peaceful silence.



In some extreme cases, an electronic bark collar may fail to produce results. If your dog happens to exemplify such a case, then a surgical procedure called "De-barking" might provide you with a suitable alternative. A final resort to be adopted is debarking. This will come into operation when all other behavioural modification methods have been tried. Further due to the excessive barking, complaints from neighbours galore and particularly the dog's life in question, vocal cordectomy (debarking) can be performed. This surgical procedure involves removal of all or part of the vocal cords.


The surgery is fairly simple to perform and your dog's barking will be replaced with "squealing" sounds. The surgery will not affect your dog physically or psychologically as it will not make any difference to your dog whether it squeals or barks. However, there are several drawbacks to surgery. First, the procedure is irreversible; and second, your dog won't be able to alert you to intruders. If you are at your wit's end, when you have exhausted all others means, when you can no longer face your angry neighbours, then surgery might be the best alternative to giving your dog away.


Debarking can be somewhat inhumane because the dog is trained to let out a low, raspy bark which cannot be heard from more than a few feet away. If you consider the process of de-barking your dog you must weigh the pros and cons. It can be beneficial in the sense that your dog will no longer be the irritating dog on the block who barks at anything he sees but may be a problem if the dog is in danger. As an owner you would want to know where the location of your dog was if it was in danger.