What do you think when you see a dog with a muzzle on? Aggressive? Unpredictable? Dangerous? Bad Dog?…… Bad Owners?
For years, muzzles have been often associated with aggression and viciousness and frowned upon in society. Granted, the old “Hannibal Lecter”design of a muzzle did not help curb the negative connection made, but rest assured there is much more to this tool than meets the eye.
It’s time the stigma surrounding this tool changes and we understand some of the benefits of muzzle Training.
SHOULD YOU MUZZLE YOUR DOG?
There is many reasons you may consider muzzling your dog. In a perfect world, our dogs would be completely balanced, confident, social and well-behaved but this is not always the case. While we hold our dogs in the same esteem as we do our own children, it is important to note that dogs, cute and loveable as they may be, are still animals with their own unique set of drives, innate behaviours and instincts, fears and anxieties all of which can impact their response in various environments.
The fact is, as animals, dogs can be unpredictable and in some situations muzzles can keep your dog and others around them safe.
It is well known that in recent months the numbers of dogs being baited in parks and areas where baits are laid for foxes and other wild dogs, has increased significantly. In areas where the bait 1080 is used, taking your dog for a walk may pose a huge risk. These baits smell delicious and your dog will not understand that it is in fact deadly. A dog who is muzzle trained will be able to go for a walk with risks of baiting significantly decreased.
Many Labrador and Beagle owners know the pain of their dogs consuming everything in sight. Both food and non-food items; and, of course, the stomach pumping that often follows. Eating everything in is not exclusive to Labradors and beagles, many dogs will eat items they discover during a walk, whilst sniffing in the bushes, on the path or rotting away at the park, and proceed to gobble it up before they can be stopped. Again, a muzzle trained dog could be just what is needed to protect our dogs and keep them safe.
Some dogs may display unpredictable behaviours. One minute they are fine and the next minute they are behaving differently. Whilst there are many reasons why dogs will behave in different ways, we always suggest to speak to an expert to source why a dog may be behaving in an unpredictable manner. For walks and outings a muzzle may provide peace of mind knowing that an outburst will not result in any injuries.
Pain or Injury (Vet Visits)
Given the right circumstance, even the friendliest pooch is capable of biting. This is especially prevalent if the dog is experiencing pain. In conjunction with the possible stress of being at the Vet, being in a closed in space, vets poking and prodding, giving injections and of course that dreaded temperature check can cause your dog to behave defensively to keep this stranger out of their personal space. For some dogs this will mean biting.
As an owner, you can anticipate that at some stage, your dog will need to visit the vet. Depending on the treatment, procedure or severity of illness or injury a Vet may require the dog to be muzzled for the safety of themselves and their staff. Having a muzzle placed on for the first time in the vet clinic can make the experience even more stressful. Having a dog already muzzle trained prior to this, can help avoid any added stress.
If you suspect your dog may nip or bite, it is your responsibility to muzzle your dog for Vet appointments.
Fear and Anxiety
Frightened or anxious dogs are more likely to bite under stress, so in the event of an unpredictable situation, a muzzle is a great tool to have. A negative experience causing lasting memories or lack of early exposure is enough to make a dog fearful or anxious in certain environments.
An anxious or frightened dog will adapt either the flight or fight response and if it's the latter, it can be an unfortunate turn of events indeed. It is important that you as the owner pay attention. Learn to read their body language. Know their reaction to people and animals. If you believe your dog to be reactive when frightened, stressed or anxious, prevent any unwanted injury or aggression and implement a Muzzle.
LET GO OF THE STIGMA
As Trainers, we encounter many owners who view muzzling as a last resort or that they have failed their dogs by having to use one. The number of incidents that could have been prevented is incomprehensible. Due to the stigma attached to Muzzles and the reflection it has on the dogs who wear them, many people would rather take a risk, than subject their dog to public scrutiny.
The point is, who cares?! By muzzling a dog, you are practising caution, safety and responsibility.
The more we understand Muzzles and their benefits, the more people will accept and be comfortable around our muzzled dogs. For this to happen, we as owners must learn to be okay with using them. As an owner the concern should not be with how your dog may be perceived in the public eye, but with the safety of your dog and those around it. Muzzling your dog is not an attack on their character.
On the contrary, if you encounter a dog with a Muzzle do not fret. Do your best to not make assumptions about the dog or its owner. As mentioned above, a dog could be muzzled for many reasons, some especially common.
DIFFERENT MUZZLE TYPES
There is many different brands and types of muzzles. Not all muzzles are suitable for every situation. It is important to make sure that the muzzle selected is the correct muzzle for the intended purpose.
For example: tight fitting muzzles should not be used for any type of walking or exercise. These types of muzzles are only suitable for short term use. Dogs are not able to pant properly or drink with these types of muzzles on.
Cage muzzles often seen being worn by ex-racing greyhounds can be fantastic for walks but may not keep your dog safe from baiting. These muzzles often give dogs the ability to still reach things with their tongues and potentially still lick or pick up some items.
Smuzzles are a great option for dogs that may be in areas where 1080 baiting has occurred and also for dogs who pick up and eat things they shouldn’t. However, they are not suitable to protect from a possible bite and wouldn’t be suitable for dogs who may need one in the vet clinic to prevent a snap.
Knowing what type of muzzle is best suited for your dog may seem like an over whelming task. In fact, the best way to determine a suitable muzzle is to consider the reason you require one. Once established selecting a muzzle is merely a process of selecting the right one for the job. Our trainers at Found By The Hound can help owners establish suitable muzzle types if needed.
WHEN SHOULD I START MUZZLE TRAINING?
At Found By The Hound, we like to be prepared. As we say, prevention is the best cure.
It should not take a bite, an attack or an injury to begin muzzle training.
We encourage owners to implement muzzle training into their regimen, so that should a situation arise where muzzling may be required, your dog is familiar, comfortable and at ease.
Whilst we know that muzzle training is not a common practise with many owners, unless deemed necessary or until an incident has occurred, you as the owner can start to identify certain behaviours in your dog (i.e. defensiveness) that may warrant a muzzle. If you do identify with one or more of the reasons listed above, we believe that you should begin muzzle training at your earliest convenience.
It is important to note that muzzling should never be used to curb a problem behaviour or to punish a dog. Muzzles should NOT be used for things like stopping your dog from barking, chewing, or for a puppy who is play biting/mouthing. If you are unsure if your dog may require a muzzle you should contact your trainer for guidance and advice to work out what is most suitable for you and your dog.
Our Found by the Hound team are experienced with muzzle training and can assist you with tools, techniques, selection and correct fitting.
To learn more about muzzles and muzzle training, contact the team at Found by the Hound.