Debarking is a surgery that is also called "bark softening." It doesn't actually stop the dog from barking, it reduces the amount of tissue on the dog's vocal cords so it cannot bark anywhere near as loudly. It's generally good to get it done by a vet that is skilled at it. If it is done poorly, then scar tissue will form, making the vocal cords bigger than before and the barks louder.
This is generally a safe procedure, with no more risk than any other surgery (there's always some, but it's pretty low). Debarking is kind of an extreme solution though, so it's generally only recommended for dogs after you've tried training. It isn't inhumane, as the dog isn't going to know the difference and will still be able to make noise, but it's not good to take the risk of surgery if your dog is trainable. Another reason to prefer training is that there may be some other reason for the barking - lack of attention, etc., and training could resolve that. However, some owners end up faced with giving up their dogs because they won't quit barking and annoying the neighbors - in this case, this surgery is much better than giving the dog to the pound and risking it being put to sleep.
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