Dog Muzzles – When And How To Use A Dog Muzzle

The thought of putting a muzzle on your dog can be unnerving.  You may wonder if your dog is able to pant, drink, or breathe with a muzzle on.  Is it painful? Is the muzzle cruel?

You may feel that a muzzle is a route to go with your dog.  But is it? There are times when a muzzle can come in handy, and at times necessary.   There are also times when using a muzzle on your dog is wrong.

The best time for using a dog muzzle is when your dog is injured and you need to transport it, and when a dog is known to be aggressive towards other dogs and people. However, there are classes you can enroll your dog into if your dog is aggressive. A muzzle is not a solution and should never be used as punishment.

The muzzle seems to be associated with aggressive dogs.   However, many dog experts have said that there may be a situation where a dog owner will need to muzzle their dog.  Let’s say your dog has an injury. There is a higher risk of being bit by an injured dog.  For example, if your dog is in severe pain and you need to transport it to the vet, you are at risk of being bitten as the dog is under stress and in pain, and probably not sure what is going on.

Situations When a Dog Muzzle is Appropriate

Grooming Sessions

Most dogs tolerate or even love getting groomed.  Just ask Kiki my dog! She loves it! But some dogs do not, and the groomer is at risk to get a bite.   If your dog has not gone through its socializing stage yet, or your bond is not strong enough, then it is best to put a one on to avoid any potential bites. If your dog is known to bite, then put a muzzle on it for grooming.

History of biting 

A muzzle can be used for safety if your dog has a history of being aggressive and has bitten a person or dog in the past.  Even if your dog has not bitten another person or dog but displays aggressive behavior like lunging or snapping at other dogs, a muzzle may be a good idea. Make sure to get behavioral training for your dog if it is aggressive as a muzzle should only be used temporarily not as a permanent solution. 

During Emergencies 

Chances are that when your dog is injured or scared you are more at risk of being bitten by your dog.  Especially if you have to treat or move your dog. A muzzle will keep you and whoever is assisting safe from a potential bite.

Threatening Situations 

A trip to the vet may be something your dog hates.  You may be worried that your dog will bite the Vet, so it may be a good idea to put a muzzle on your dog temporarily. 

Require by law due to breed 

In some places there are breeds that are deemed to be “dangerous”, and these breeds are required by law to wear a muzzle when out in public for the safety of others.  

When Not to Use a Dog Muzzle 

Muzzles are used to prevent dog bites.  They should never be used for behavioral issues like barking or chewing on things.  This is just not right and could be considered abuse. Muzzles are for temporary situations only; they are not a permanent fix.  Here are two main reasons do not use them for behavioral issues:

  1. A muzzle is to be used on your dog only when it is supervised. You should not put one on your dog and leave it alone. The dog could harm its self by trying to take it off.
  2. You will have to seek out a trainer if you want to fix behaviors such as biting and chewing or even barking.  This is in their nature, so tools like a muzzle will not work as they are meant to be used short term, not as a solution.  If your dog is barking a lot then it may be due to boredom, separation anxiety, territorial barking, attention-seeking or they are warning you about something.  Find out why these things are happening even if you have to hire a professional. It will make life better for you and your doggie.

Example When Not To Use A Muzzle

If a muzzle stresses out your dog, and most likely it does, then do not force it to endure the stress.  Let’s say all your friends get together and walk their dogs in groups, but your dog cannot handle this and gets anxious in groups and may result in someone getting bitten, then a muzzle is definitely not the right way to participate with the group. 

If you know your dog does not like the muzzle, then don’t use one. Simple. Your dog will end up connecting the muzzle with stress, which will add more anxiety and fear for the next time you pull out the muzzle. To fix this sort of anxiety with your dog, it is best to seek out a trainer to help your dog feel more comfortable in groups.

Muzzles are not to be used for discipline.  Never, I repeat never use a dog muzzle as a way of punishing your dog.   This will not teach the dog a lesson, and will not fix the problem. It will make the dog scared of you and perhaps not like you.   Personally, I think it is mean and abusive to use a muzzle for discipline or punishment.  

Types of Muzzles For Dogs

There are a few different types of muzzles for dogs, but you should make sure to get the right one to ensure efficiency and safety.  You may want to have one handy just in case of an emergency and you have to put a muzzle on your dog.

Homemade Muzzle

You may have an emergency and there are no muzzles, you can make a homemade one out of things like a roll of gauze, pantyhose, or your dog’s leash.  Best to look online for the safest way to make one if you find yourself in an emergency situation. You should keep a muzzle in your dog first aid kit.

Basket Muzzle 

Dog wearing a basket muzzle
Dog wearing a basket muzzle

These muzzles look just like their name.  They can be made of rubber, leather, wire or plastic, and they can be custom made to fit your dog.  Their appearance may look cruel, but they are actually the best one you can get as it does not actually close your dog’s mouth, or cover its nose.  These are made with comfort in mind for your dog. Most basket muzzles allow for panting, drinking, and eating.  

Soft Muzzle

Soft canine muzzle
Soft canine muzzle

I don’t like the idea of this muzzle as it requires the dog’s mouth to be closed, which prevents them from panting, drinking and eating.  Should only be used for a short time like a drive to the vet.

How To Train Your Dog To Be Accepting of a Muzzle

If your first time putting a muzzle on your dog is when it is scared or hurt will make it next to impossible to accept the muzzle going forward.  A canine can be trained to accept a muzzle if they are introduced to it when it is not under stress.

Try these easy steps for about a week. However, make sure to have some of your dog’s favorite treats at the ready, as you will want to encourage your dog’s acceptance of the muzzle. 

  • Step 1:  Have your dog sniff the muzzle.  Provide a treat and repeat a couple of times. 
  • Step 2:  Touch your dog’s nose with the muzzle.  Provide treat and repeat until your pup shows interest in the muzzle.
  • Step 3:  Hold muzzle in one hand while holding a treat in the other, so your dog has to place its nose in the muzzle to get a treat.  Repeat this until there is no hesitation in this step.
  • Step 4:  Here’s a challenge- gingerly slip the muzzle onto your dog’s nose, and provide a treat.  Remove immediately, and repeat a couple of times.
  • Step 5:  Now we are getting risky!  Place the muzzle on and fasten the buckle.  Provide treat. Remove and repeat a couple of times.
  • Step 6:  Just in case you are feeling lucky-Put the muzzle on and fasten it and count to 5.  Provide treat and remove.
  • Step 7:  Every time you place the muzzle on fasten it and slowly increase the amount of time the muzzle is on.  Make sure to hold onto the collar and give lots of treats. 

If your dog does not respond well to treats, then try encouraging words and praise.  Dogs love that!

How To Fit Your Dog For a Muzzle?

The fit has to be correct or there will be issues. An example of this is if the muzzle is too loose, your doggie may be able to take it off.  And if it is too tight, your dog may have trouble breathing, panting, drinking, and cause your dog harmful chafing. No one and I mean no one enjoys chafing!  

The Strap

The straps should be fitted so that you can fit one finger in between the strap and your dog’s head. You should take your dog to get sized by a professional who knows what they are doing.  You can order online, but you need to make sure your measurements are bang on.  

Conclusion

Whatever the reason for using a muzzle, it is very important to understand that muzzles are not an answer to behavioral issues and should therefore never used as punishment. Consistent positive training is the best way to fix behavioral issues. You can find a good trainer online or check with your veterinarian.

Bibliography

  • Wikipedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muzzle_(mouth_guard)
  • American Kennel Club- https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/dog-muzzles-about-when-why-and-how-to-use-one/
  • Google Scholar- https://patents.google.com/patent/US1351140A/en
  • Ceasar’s Way- https://www.cesarsway.com/training-your-dog-to-wear-a-muzzle/
  • National Geographic: Complete Guide To Pet Health, Behavior, and Happiness-Gary Weitzman, DVM, MPH, CAWA

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