Whenever I mention the word muzzle to dog owners, I usually get worried faces. It has been so stigmatized that everyone thinks it is cruel. At the same time, people tend to think that the dog in a muzzle is dangerous. Well, today we are going to look at whether a dog should wear a muzzle. What are some of the reasons for or against muzzles?
Before I outline why you might consider putting your dog in a muzzle, you should not worry about what people will say. Instead, concentrate on having your dog safe and relaxed.
Why should dogs wear muzzles?
Most people are curious to find out why a dog has a muzzle on. Well, unfortunately, a muzzle is often associated with aggression. However, it does not always mean that a muzzle is a sign that a dog has attacked someone.
Some dog owners are simply being responsible. For instance, if you have spent some time with dogs, you must understand that they are very prone to anxiety. And when you have an anxious dog, so many things could go wrong.
Below are some of the reasons why dogs should wear muzzles:
Several situations can make a dog nervous and anxious. For instance, visits to the vet might be quite stressful for your dog. Other dogs tend to feel nervous around new people. Therefore, having guests over at your house might trigger your dog’s anxiety.
When a dog is anxious, he might bite. If your dog has ever tried to attack visitors or anyone for that matter, then you will need a muzzle. So, Should My Dog Wear a Muzzle?
Breed-specific law requirement
Certain dog breeds are required to be muzzled in certain parts of the world. A good example is the American Pitbull terrier in the UK. The law requires all dog owners must keep their dogs on a leash. However, this is a law that requires you to put a muzzle on your dog when in public.
If you are visiting a new state with your dog, you should find out about the muzzle restriction laws.
Dogs are a friendly species but at times, our dogs turn aggressive. It could be coming from an emotional aspect or it could be from a physical injury. For instance, if your dog has an injury, you will need to take him to the vet.
However, he can bite you or the vet if it is too painful. It is why they will force your dog into a muzzle once he bites.
Frightening a dog will automatically activate his fight or flight reflex. In most cases, a dog will bite because he is scared of something. For instance, if you’re your guest startles your sleeping dog, there is a likelihood that they would get bitten.
Even though dogs are friendly, identifying when you need a muzzle is important. You need to keep your dog safe as well as the public safe.
Why do dog owners hesitate to put a muzzle on their dogs?
If muzzles are so important, why do so many dog owners feel differently? Well, as I stated above, muzzles are not exactly an indication of friendliness. Public members may look at you differently as others think that having a muzzle on is a punishment.
It is not about what people say, always. It is about the situation at hand. Thus, no one should question you about the muzzle. Besides, you can explain to those who know you the reason for putting a muzzle on your dog.
Certain dog owners are afraid that other people will think that the dog is simply mean. Well, a muzzle is a temporary solution to allow your dog to heel or keep him from attacking other people. However, just because a dog bite does not always mean they are aggressive.
Some dogs are really sweet but will bite in some circumstances. I have discussed how to stop a dog from biting or mouthing before.
Should My Dog Wear a Muzzle? When should I put a muzzle on my dog?
I have already outlined the reasons why people opt to put muzzles on their dogs. However, I do not think I have covered it all. Below, I am going to look at the situations that might have you put a muzzle on your dog:
- When your dog is anxious about vet visits. This is especially if he is in pain or has injuries on his body. One of the reasons for dog biting is an injury, and especially during a medical exam.
- If your dog displays signs of anxiety when you have guests, maybe a muzzle will keep everyone at ease, including him.
- If you are in a state that requires you to keep your dog in a muzzle. Well, this will depend on the type of dog breed muzzle laws. Be sure to enquire before visiting areas with breed restrictions.
- If your dog has a habit of running after or chasing strangers, especially when jogging or walking on the street. You do not want to put anyone at the risk of getting bitten. Think about public safety.
- Dogs who eat stones and other non-food items can also wear muzzles. I mean, you would rather protect your dog from getting an intestinal obstruction or worse, right? Well, it should only be for a while before you get this problem solved. As I mentioned above, a muzzle is not a permanent solution and thus should not replace proper training and behavior modification.
- If you are introducing your dog to new situations. A good example is when you sign him up for dog daycare for some training. Well, new situations, dogs and other people may put some stress on your dog. As a result, you will need a muzzle to keep him and everyone else safe.
Teaching a dog to wear a muzzle
Now that we have outlined some of the reasons why dogs wear muzzles, you should train him on how to calmly wear one. Remember that muzzles are not meant for mean dogs. Rather, dog owners who put on a muzzle on their dogs are just being responsible.
Besides, if your dog does not learn how to wear one, it is always going to be a tough time at the vet’s office. The staff will always force one on him, especially if he gets nippy when getting a shot.
Well then, if you have never had to put a muzzle on your dog, I am going to show you how to train your dog to wear one. As I have always insisted, to learn and adopt a new behavior, a dog must associate it with a positive outcome. Therefore, we are going to use the positive reinforcement method in the step by step guide on how to train a dog to wear a muzzle.
Step 1: getting a well-fitting muzzle
As mentioned above, muzzles are not for mean or aggressive dogs. I think that every responsible dog owner should train their dogs to wear muzzles. You will need to get a well-fitting and comfortable muzzle for your dog, especially if he has had anxiety issues before.
Muzzles come in different sizes and also made from different materials. However, you must ensure that the muzzle is comfortable for your dog. After all, if it makes your dog uncomfortable, chances are that he will never enjoy wearing one.
I will discuss the types of muzzle later on in this article. However, ensure that the latter is comfortable and at the same time difficult for your dog to get rid of.
Step 2: Start early
Let’s make one thing clear, a muzzle is not only important when you need it. I think that every dog should be introduced to wearing a muzzle at an early age. I mean, you should never start training your dog to wear a muzzle when he is terrified or outright aggressive.
Instead, he should already know how to wear a muzzle before it gets there. After all, the point of wearing the latter is to protect him and the people around him.
At the start, muzzle training should begin as a normal part of dog training. Once you purchase your desired muzzle, let your dog see it. Luckily for you, dogs are always curious, which means that he will approach it.
Step 3: Use healthy treats for reinforcement
I already mentioned that positive reinforcement is going to be required during this training. However, you should start associating the muzzle with a positive outcome. Once he gets to it and starts sniffing it, offer him a reward. It could be in the form of verbal praises or a treat.
Never force a dog to shove his nose and mouth into the muzzle. It should be a voluntary exercise.
Step 4: Touch him with the muzzle
Now that your dog is sure that the muzzle is harmless, initiate physical contact with it. For instance, pick up the muzzle and touch his nose with it. When he does not back away, reward him with a treat once more.
Note that you will also have to repeat each of these steps to make your dog familiar with the muzzle.
Step 5. Put a treat in the muzzle
Well, of course, the muzzle will have an open side. Hold a treat in one hand and the muzzle on the other hand. Now, put the hand with the treat under the muzzle, such that your dog will have to get his nose into the muzzle to get it.
Only then can you restrain the muzzle on. However, during the first try, you need to take it off him a few minutes later.
With time, you can increase the amount of time the muzzle stays on. This process, like any other form of training, should be very gradual. Remember to have plenty of healthy treats to help you teach reinforce the training.
Types of muzzles
There are three popular types of dog muzzles. These are basket muzzles, soft muzzles, and homemade muzzles. Well, the basket muzzles are built in the shape of a basket. They are made of different materials ranging from leather to wire or plastic.
A basket muzzle is going to look a lot like a small basket tied around your dog’s nose. They are an excellent choice because they do not restrict dogs from opening their mouths. Thus, it is easier to feed your dog when he is still wearing a muzzle. You can always sneak in a few treats for him.
Soft baskets are usually made of fabrics. These, contrary to the basket muzzles, will keep your dog’s mouth shut. While some people prefer using this type of muzzle, it is my least favorite. It keeps the dog’s mouth shut, which means you cannot use it during hot weather. I mean, your dog might need to pant to cool his body off but his mouth is held closed by the soft muzzle.
Now, homemade muzzles should only be temporary and only used in the case of an emergency. For instance, if your dog is hurt and reacting aggressively, you can roll a gauze around his nose to keep him from nipping or biting you. However, you must purchase a more comfortable muzzle for your dog.
Wearing a muzzle does not always mean that a dog is harmful. It could be worn for many reasons as I have outlined above. Do you think your dog needs a muzzle? Well, if so, you will need to shop for a well-fitting muzzle for him.
At the same time, I would like to insist that the muzzle should not be a solution to behavioral problems. So, the muzzle should not be used as a tool to stop behaviors such as barking and chewing. You will need to train your dog out of these habits individually. Use the muzzle only when necessary.