Often times I’ve taken my dog to the vet and sat with him in a small waiting room close to other patrons and their pets. Being in such close quarters can stir some unfriendly feelings and behavior, so I thought, should I muzzle train my dog for safety?
I have mixed thoughts and emotions about muzzle training my dog. Many folks recommended I should muzzle train my dog for the safety of others, to keep the dog calm when I take them to new places, keep humans and animals safe when we approach them in public, and people will appreciate knowing I have control of my dog when we engage them. I’d have control in the event my dog gets anxious and aggressive.
I used to think a muzzled dog always meant the pup was mean and vicious, and I was to be cautious around them. However, since raising many canines over the years, my view of muzzles has changed towards a more positive and beneficial perspective.
It is extremely important to introduce the muzzle to the dog as an accessory (like a leash), and something they shouldn’t fear, or think it’s punishment and worn because of poor behavior. So, the muzzle training should be taken seriously and performed gently.
Muzzles seen on dogs by other owners can be viewed as the owner’s poor treatment of their pups. Binding the dog in this manner can be controversial with thoughts like, are they in pain, how can the dog breathe and pant, how will they eat, and how can they drink. In actuality, muzzling is a caring act for the dog, the owner, other dogs and pets, and any spectators that cross their path.
Let me share that there are many types of muzzles to fit all breeds and all dog sizes and made of different materials. Rest assured, the many kinds of muzzles all have the dog’s comfort and convenience in mind.
When should a muzzle be used?
In distinct cases, muzzles are handy for safety situations when the dog might be a danger to other animals and persons. An injured dog in pain might leap at you as you attempt to provide aid. It’s for these occurrences that dog owners should grasp the importance of muzzling a dog.
There are several instances when muzzles may be handy and necessary.
In an emergency:
As stated, a dog that’s been hurt or stranded is scared, and when any human approaches them, they may bite to protect themselves because they won’t understand you are offering aid. Muzzling the pup will keep you and anyone administering aid to them safe.
In a dangerous situation:
If the dog is agitated for any reason, and they feel threatened, his one defense is to lunge and bite. One obvious event is when they visit the vet annually. If they have not been acclimated to the doctor or associate, the visit to the vet is interpreted as an unpleasant situation, and he will retaliate in some way. For the safety of all providing service to that dog, muzzle him.
The continuous aggressive behavior may require further training to alter and resolve this conduct.
In regular bathing and grooming situations:
Dogs may not enjoy baths. They may not enjoy nail trimming, or hair cutting (for long-haired breeds). However, if these tasks were administered routinely and lovingly, your dog may not exhibit aggressive behavior.
Some dogs absolutely will not accept a professional groomer to handle them. Muzzling the dog until they are used to being groomed might be the only solution.
My dog requires grooming every four months, and she was muzzled for the first two sessions. Over time she didn’t mind being trimmed, and the sessions that followed weren’t emotional. It does pay to warm the dog to any strangers they must confront.
When a dog is aggressive:
If you have seen an aggressive dog, you know that dog should be muzzled when in public for safety reasons. Any dog that behaves aggressively, lunges at passersby, snarls a friend and foe, or lays in state then pounces on anyone with the intent to hurt, that dog should be muzzled until they are trained to possess a calm and submissive demeanor.
Training should be a priority for these dogs, either by self or professional experts. Remember, the muzzle is not for everyday life, but to enjoy experiences like daily walking, shopping with handlers, and traveling.
In honoring the law:
There are states in the U.S.A. that have passed laws requiring certain dog breeds to be muzzled while in public. Do some research and study the local laws if you are moving to a new location. Thoroughly understand the restrictions before you move there or acquire a dog. Know whether the law is meant for specific breeds, for particular size dogs, or if for all dogs. Read more on this in AKC’s position on BSL.
When NOT to use a muzzle?
Although one might consider muzzle wearing as punishment, in reality, it is a kind gesture performed by both dog and handler.
Do not use the muzzle to shut down the dog’s unwanted behavior. Communicating with dogs can be easy and straightforward. Dogs are very willing to please their handlers, and misusing this tool will surely confuse them. Be clear with what you want your dog to learn and know by proper training.
Do not use the muzzle for:
- Correcting poor behavior, such as stopping them from eating food from the kitchen counter, or for barking too loud at the neighbor, or gnawing on furniture and chords. Never use this action as a means to discipline.
- Lengthy periods unsupervised. Muzzling them for long periods can elevate their anxieties and cause the reverse desired action. The dog’s aggressiveness can increase for being confined.
- Showing control without cause. Don’t muzzle to display your power over the dog.
- Heavy activities. Dogs require freedom while at play to run, to engage with other dogs in the park socially, to chase and catch items, and even to consume water.
Muzzling at inappropriate times will contradict legitimate reasons for caring for your pet, like in cases of emergencies or when administering care.
What type of muzzle do I choose?
“The first time you muzzle your dog
should not be in a conflict or fearful situation.”
Before commencing muzzle training for your dog, consider finding the proper muzzle first. The muzzle should be comfortable, easy to put on, and properly fitted. Once on, the item should be difficult for the dog to remove; however, only when permitted, it should also allow the dog to breathe easily, eat, and drink on demand.
There are basically three types of muzzles. The Basket, Soft, and Homemade types, and each are briefly described below.
Basket muzzles look like its name. The basket is placed over the dog’s mouth and nose and is strapped over their head and around the jaw. These muzzles are constructed in various materials like leather, plastic, rubber, and wire. These are known to be comfortable for the dog for the simple reason that the dog’s mouth and snout are not confined and clamped close. Dogs can easily breathe and even eat through them.
Soft muzzles are usually made with fabric like nylon or mesh or leather. These muzzles are designed to wrap about the snout of the dog, holding the mouth closed tight. You can imagine the dog’s response to this type of confinement, so wearing these will require much training before the dog is accepting of this muzzle.
It’s not very comfortable and does not allow for biting or eating, drinking, and importantly, panting, so running with this apparatus is not recommended. This type is meant for short periods of time, like vet visits or grooming sessions.
Homemade muzzles are just what it means. When nothing is available to you, and you require the device, you may have to concoct your own version of a muzzle. Remember, these versions, which are all your own, are only needed for the shortest period of time, like when transporting an injured dog. Items that have proven useful for this task are pantyhose, a first aid gauze roll, soft nylon rope, or a leash.
Here are a few muzzles types we are covering in this article.
- Trixie Muzzle Loop – Made for comfort, is great for larger dogs and training.
- Plastic Muzzle – Is scratch-proof, can be cleaned in a dishwasher, and designed in multiple colors for your choice.
- Coastal Pet Best Fit Mesh Dog Muzzle – Made of comfortable mesh, inexpensive compared to other styles, but can be very limiting to a dog.
- BronzeDog Wire Basket Dog Muzzle – Made of leather that can be adjusted to fit your dog and is ideal for training.
- JYHY Short Snout Dog Muzzle – Made for durability and is typically used for short-nosed dog breeds.
This video will demonstrate muzzles, the types, sizes, and other features in further detail.
There are many more muzzles, as you can see from this video. Even the video doesn’t cover all of the variations that are retailed around the world.
Other considerations when choosing a muzzle would be size, style, and of course, comfort.
Size. Think of the size of your canine and take two measurements before selecting a muzzle. Measure the snout length and circumference.
Carefully measure the length of the dog’s snout along the bridge, by starting one inch from the bottom of their eye to the nose tip. Then measure around the snout from one inch below their eye while their mouth is closed, making sure the tape measure is snug when the reading is taken.
Style. The style you select depends on the purpose of the muzzle. First, determine the muzzles purpose, then read any directions and construction information on the wrapping until one meets your desire. Ask yourself, is the muzzle good for how you plan to use it? Once you select the one that meets all your queries, you can feel assured you’ve made the right choice for you and your dog.
Now, follow any measuring directions to ensure the style is the right size for your dog and their breed.
Comfort. Your final concern when you make this purchase is whether the apparatus provides the level of comfort for your pet. Make sure it’s the right size, so it’s not too tight or too loose. Does the material offer comfort, or will it cause irritations? You’ll know what material is right for your pup, so don’t hesitate to shop for the best.
All of the muzzles mentioned in this article can be found on this site for your convenience.
How do I muzzle train a dog properly?
If we haven’t addressed the initial question of this article “Should I Muzzle Train My Dog?” let’s do it now by saying, YES, it is recommended that you muzzle train your dog. But training needs to be done under the best of conditions. Those conditions include when you and the dog are calm, receptive, and patient.
Train your dog in the early stages of owning them before they acquire other habits that may require a muzzle, or you won’t be prepared.
Here’s a video on a simplified version of how to muzzle train your dog.
Here are the steps one owner took to train their beloved pet to accept wearing the muzzle. They aligned their training similarly to that in the video. They were rescuing a dog from the streets of Chicago that just had six puppies, and the mom resisted any human interaction.
They couple saving the dog felt they needed to muzzle the dog for everyone’s safety. The couple did their best to be gentle and patient, and it was only after constant loving and trusting engagement over time that the mom dog accepted the muzzle and other treatment for her family.
- Get the dog to be familiar with the muzzle, introducing it to them, letting them smell it, tap it to their nose gently and repeat this several times over a few days.
- Continue step one repeatedly until the dog gets interested in it and recognizes it as a good thing.
- Using treats, gradually introduce the muzzle in a way that the dog must put their nose in the muzzle. Continue this several times and even over several days.
- Once the dog places their nose in the muzzle on their own to retrieve treats, praise them and while their nose is muzzled, pet the back of the head where the strap will hold the muzzle in place. Be sure to continue this training step repeatedly until the dog accepts the muzzle as a good thing, and not resist it being on their nose.
- Once the dog is comfortable with the muzzle on, and your hand around their neck, attempt to fasten the buckle. The dog may resist; however, repeat previous steps where the dog was comfortable and then work towards buckling the strap when you feel the dog is ready and won’t resist. Repeat this step several times and for several days.
- Now secure the muzzle on (loose at first then tighter over time) for a short time and distract the dog with treats, so they associate the wearing of the muzzle as a good thing. Progressively increase the wear time and repeat this several times and maybe over several days.
- Lastly, when the dog has logged in 15 to 20 minutes of muzzle time, and they are not irritated or anxious about wearing the apparatus, introduce the leash and walk them about for short periods. Repeat this step and increase the wear time and walk time until you feel the dog has accepted the muzzle as a good thing, and looks forward to wearing it because they have associated wearing it with walks and good times with treats.
This video is on how to get the dog to accept a muzzle.
If you find your dog working to remove the muzzle at any time during the training, don’t support this behavior and remove it. The proper time to remove the muzzle is when the dog is in a relaxed and calm state. If the dog shows resistance to wearing the apparatus, then further training is needed.
How do I fit my dog with a muzzle?
Fitting the dog correctly for a muzzle is key to making it a happy experience. If the muzzle is too loose or too tight, the experience for both you and the dog will be a disaster. It is very possible that the dog will not accept the muzzle if they are uncomfortable, and you will expect the dog will be aggressive to any further attempts.
Having the muzzle too tight will hamper normal activity like breathing, panting, drinking water, not to mention painful. Some muzzles, when worn, will permit the snout not to touch the apparatus, leaving them free to behave normally.
For best results, measure your dog accurately, choose the proper and appropriate muzzle for their size and breed, acclimate and train them with that muzzle, and strap it on them, allowing two finger spaces between the straps and the dog.
Ensure the dog is not choking and that they can breathe naturally. While wearing the muzzle, it shouldn’t be so loose that the dog can easily maneuver it off, and the straps should not be so tight that the dog chokes. Seek advice from local trainers in your area, and your veterinarian when in doubt.
Professional dog trainers and some breeders and vets will agree that no matter what type of muzzle you select for your dog, muzzles cannot and should not be the tool to improve poor behavior. Instead, a muzzle should be the tool that keeps all safe and improves lives.
Credit: to Youtube videos:
Aggressive Dog – Training
Union Lake Pet Services – Training