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Muzzles: Good or Bad?

When you look at the image above, how does that make you feel about the dog and his or her owner?

A lot of times I’ve found that dog’s wearing muzzles have a more difficult time when out in public because of how people react around them. Their owner’s face other difficulties too as people are more weary and many will clearly (and sometimes cruelly) speak their minds about how the muzzled dog makes them feel. But I think we need to think differently about the situation. This dog owner has taken the responsibility upon themselves to ensure that their dog, others and themselves are safe – do we really have any right to be angry at them for that?

Muzzles when introduced properly to dogs can act as a lifeline to help prevent further (or any) aggressive reactions while the dog is in training. Dogs are taught to see the muzzle as something awesome that’s added to their day. They have none of the negative stigmas that we people try to place on them. They don’t think they’re bad dogs or that they’ve done something wrong. They’re just playing this weird game where their owner puts this thing on their face and life is great. And that’s the way it should be.

There are many different types and reasons someone might need to muzzle their dog. Most people assume dogs that wear muzzles are aggressive in some manner and the muzzle prevents them from biting. But there are other reasons too. I taught my own dogs to wear muzzles, so that should they ever be hurt in some way, I can easily put them in a muzzle while I get them to the vet without them reacting and accidentally biting me. Because of this forethought, in an emergency the muzzle wouldn’t be something scary or cause my dog even more stress, because we’ve planned for it. There are also many different types of muzzles and options out there so lets take a look at the common ones.

Groomer’s Muzzle on German Shepherd

The first most common one people seem drawn too is a tube type or groomer’s muzzle. If you’ve taken your dog to a groomer before, they may have already had exposure to them (and probably not the good kind). These muzzles are typically made from cloth and look less “intimidating” which is why I think people turn to them. They also tightly fit around the dogs muzzle which can makes it nearly impossible for them to eat treats or drink from and it can also restrict their ability to pant. The issue with the dogs not being able to breathe well can lead to more panic and stress plus the inability to cool themselves. This is why they are supposed to only be used for a few minutes, but sadly most users of these muzzles are not aware of that fact.

Baskerville Ultra Muzzle on Labrador

The second broad type is the more traditional basket muzzle. There are many different subtypes which I won’t go into. But the one pictured here is a Baskerville Ultra Muzzle basket muzzle. This muzzle looks more intimidating than the cloth ones but has the added benefits of not restricting breathing, allowing you to easily slip treats into the end and the dog can even drink with it on. The downside is that dogs can still bite at stray fingers or other items though the muzzle.

Which ever muzzle you decide to choose the important thing to keep in mind is that the experience should be a fun one for both you and your dog. You’re teaching them a life skill and they’re playing a fun, but bizarre, game with their favorite person in the world for treats. If you’re thinking of doing some muzzle training at home but don’t have a muzzle handy you can start out practicing with something like a plastic cup or Esther and I trained with a kids traffic cone too. Be creative 🙂

I’ll conclude with one of my favorite (and definitely most energetic youtube trainers) Zak George who has a great video here on teaching your dog to love having his or her muzzle put on.