There is a common misconception among non-doggy people and dog owners alike that a dog wearing a muzzle must be a threat. In fact, the reality is that dogs can be muzzled for a number of different reasons and, rather than being something to be scared of, it is the sign of a responsible pet owner.
When to consider using a muzzle
- If your dog has been known to bite people or dogs, a muzzle is essential while out and about to protect others and give you peace of mind.
- If your dog is nervous of strangers or has a bad association with vets, it is prudent to muzzle him for a routine check-up and essential if your dog is in pain and needs to be thoroughly examined.
- If your dog is a scavenger and constantly makes herself sick from eating things she shouldn’t while out on a walk, a muzzle is a good idea to keep her healthy.
- If your dog has a high prey drive, but you want to be able to let him off lead, a muzzle will allow him to chase small animals without causing any harm. However, a muzzled dog should still not be allowed off lead around farm animals as she can cause harm through worrying, and if your dog chases a larger animal, such as a muntjac, deer or fox while muzzled, she could get hurt if the prey retaliates.
- If you want to try your hand at dog show racing events around the country, your dog will need to be muzzled; these meets are not restricted to sighthounds anymore, so more dogs can join the fun, but safety comes first in the form of a muzzle.
In all circumstances (except racing), muzzles should be used as a tool alongside positive reward-based training to help change an unwanted behaviour, not as a way of preventing your dog doing something you don’t want.
Types of muzzle
Fabric occlusion muzzles are designed to keep your dog’s mouth shut and should only be worn for short occasional times as they don’t allow your dog to pant properly. They are suitable for vet visits, particularly if your dog is in pain or likely to react to treatment.
If you are looking for a design to be used while out walking, you will need the plastic basket style as this will allow your dog to pant fully and therefore regulate his temperature while running. A sighthound requires a specialist muzzle with an even deeper basket to allow heavy panting to cool down after extensive exertion.
Fitting the muzzle
Whichever style you choose, make sure that the bridge section over the nose doesn’t obscure her eyes, watch out for any chaffing or rubbing of the skin with prolonged use, and tighten it behind the head so that you can get a small finger under the strap, but no more. Tip: once you have the right fitting, it is a good idea to stitch the strap so that it doesn’t work its way loose enabling your dog to get it off.
When not to muzzle your dog
Don’t use a muzzle as an alternative to crate training or other reward-based methods of dealing with destructive separation anxiety. Leaving your dog unattended and muzzled could result in serious injury and will not address the underlying behavioural problems.
Similarly, don’t use a muzzle to resolve fighting between dogs; they can still fight with a muzzle on and are just as likely to do injury without their main defence mechanism of their jaws.
The most important thing about muzzling your dog is knowing that you are doing it for the right reason and not to stress about it yourself – your dog will pick up on your tension and believe there is something to be concerned about. By remaining positive, you will help the dog make the right associations with being muzzled. Read our article on how to introduce your dog to a muzzle here or contact our dog behaviourist, Tom Walsh, to discuss this or any other issues you may have: 01296 706403 or email@example.com