Today I want to talk about the muzzle. In certain situations a muzzle is appropriate, but only in certain situations. Generally speaking, this should not be an option considered unless your dog is prone to biting or has an aggressive side, and you’re going to be around other dogs.
I want to talk about muzzles and their use, because I see so many questions on the dog forums talking about suggestions for muzzles. It continually amazes me that this is such a ready option. Muzzles are not comfortable and they can cause anxiety in dogs. Therefore, they should only be used as a last resort. They should not be used simply to get around a certain behavior – unless that behavior is biting people or other animals.
A Muzzle is a Tool, not a Solution
While reading the forums the other day, I came across a question that in particular decided me on writing this post. The owner said their dog ate any and everything he came across while on their walks. The day before posting, the owner’s dog ate a dead crow. While this is unhealthy, it certainly isn’t cause to use a muzzle.
A muzzle is a tool to be used when you need to protect other people or other animals from your dog. For example, if your dog is a fear biter with low bite inhibition, a muzzle is a good idea for a vet exam. The same holds true if your dog is aggressive for other animals, and you’ll be in a place like a vet’s office which is full of other people’s pets.
A muzzle is not a solution. The thing that bothered me about the question I read was that the owner was looking for advice on a muzzle for taking the dog on walks. The very first thing I thought of was reduced ability to pant. Unless you’re using one of those big wire muzzles, almost all muzzles restrict the ability to pant, which is a terrible idea when going for a walk. In addition to that, many dogs become stressed when wearing a muzzle, so it’s not something to use a solution.
/End Muzzle Sermon
I don’t want to be preachy, and I don’t think owners that are look for muzzles for their dogs are bad owners or people. Mainly, it’s been my experience at the vet that people don’t understand exactly how muzzles work or what they do. I can’t tell you how many times people brought their dogs into the vet wearing muzzles when it was blazing hot outside. The dogs had had their muzzles on since they got in the car a half hour in some cases.
A muzzle is a nuclear option. In the case of the owner I reference earlier, rather than look for a muzzle, he should look for a different style of leash and collar like a gentle lead. With those, you can maintain control of your dog without the use of a pinch collar or a muzzle.
The main takeaway here is that muzzles are a tool for short term use. If you are having issues with your dog, speak to your vet. If he or she can’t help you with your particular behavior issue, chances are he or she can direct you to a trainer who can help.