Muzzles are a frequently discussed product in our shop so we thought it would be useful to provide a handy article that will hopefully dispel some of the myths and stigmas attached to muzzles and explain why they are often actually the sign of someone being a responsible dog owner and minimising the risk to their own dog and others. We often hear of people who are limiting their dogs walks for fear of reactive behaviour/ scavenging incidence and so they are not able to work on training and their dog is missing out on appropriate exercise and stimulation. A muzzle can provide the peace of mind to get out to exercise your dog and to allow an opportunity to do further training, where appropriate.
They may look scary if you are not used to them but a correctly fitting muzzle is not harmful to your dog and if introduced properly dogs can learn to be completely relaxed whilst wearing one. We can’t over emphasise the importance of introducing your dog to wearing a muzzle gradually with positive techniques to avoid it becoming something associated with fear.
We sell four types of muzzles in the shop:
- The Traditional Basket Style Muzzle - suitable for most breed types
- The Baskerville Ultra Muzzle - wider made so can be useful for wider snouted breeds and with its additional straps and loops this can be useful for getting an extra secure fit
- Greyhound Muzzle - These muzzles are made specifically for greyhounds. All profits from sales of these muzzles go directly back to Scottish Greyhound Sanctuary
- Lucher Muzzle - These muzzles are made specifically for med - large lurcher shapes. All profits from sales of these muzzles go directly back to Scottish Greyhound Sanctuary
We have tried to answer most of the Frequently Asked Questions we hear in the shop below but if you would like any further information please do not hesitate to get in touch.
WHAT ARE MUZZLES USED FOR?
- to prevent nips/bites which can occur through excitement (e.g. lots of dogs playing at fast pace off lead), fear (e.g. of strangers or strange dogs approaching uninvited) or prey drive (e.g. chasing small furry animals)
- to prevent scavenging (e.g. from bins/rubbish piles, eating animal excrement) – this is actually much more common than you may think
- to prevent wound licking (e.g. after surgery, as an alternative to a cone collar)
- to prevent nipping during grooming/vet exam. We would recommend trying to work towards helping your dog to relax whilst being groomed/ visiting the vet through some conditioning exercises. We would only recommend a muzzle if strictly necessary for the wellbeing of the dog and groomer/vet as this can often increase stress levels if this is the only time a muzzle is being used and thus make the grooming/vet visit experience even more stressful.
When is using a muzzle not appropriate? Muzzles should not be used as a punishment device. We often hear people say “my dog stopped the unwanted behaviour as soon as they put the muzzle on”. This is likely because the dog is not used to wearing the muzzle and has perhaps shut down due to stress/fear. Using them as a punishment will interfere with any work you do to try to create positive associations with the muzzle, and could result in unwanted behaviour as a result of these negative associations.
We would not recommend using a muzzle to deal with any of the following:
- preventing barking (a dog SHOULD actually be able to bark in a correctly fitting muzzle – if there is room to pant freely then there is room to bark)
- punishment for unwanted behaviour
- leaving a dog unsupervised with children or other animals (e.g. cats) that you are not certain of their response to
- to prevent dogs with a high prey drive or those with a history of reactivity/aggression towards other dogs/humans from inflicting injury/distress whilst off lead and outwith your control. We would recommend taking other safety precautions (e.g. keeping your dog on lead) under those circumstances.
- to repeatedly force your dog into going into situations they are not comfortable in. We would recommend using training to reduce stress in the long run.
How do I teach my dog that wearing a muzzle is not scary? It is very important to desensitise your dog to wearing a muzzle so that they do not feel frightened or uncomfortable. We highly recommend creating a positive association with the muzzle by pairing it with yummy treats, fun games or something your dog really likes. Gradually build up the time your dog is wearing the muzzle for, starting with only a few seconds at first, so that your dog slowly gets used to the sensation of having it on.
How do I know I have the right fit for my dog? It is very hard to judge which style & size of muzzle will fit your dog without trying one on. So we would recommend, where possible, bringing your dog into the shop where we will help you choose the right one. You can always ring or email in advance to check when is likely to be a quiet time if you are worried about the shop being busy. We stock a wide range of basket style muzzles with sizes to fit most dogs (sometimes very flat faced breeds can be problematic) as well as greyhound & lurcher muzzles for sighthound breeds. These are all listed on our website too if you would like to see these online.
We don’t recommend the use of the mesh/fabric style muzzles unless these are only being used for very quick time frames (i.e. when clipping nails or doing a very quick couple of minute trim). Whilst people often comment that these look less scary than the basket style muzzles they inhibit a dogs ability to pant and vocalise so if used over longer periods these can be a safety risk.
When choosing a muzzle for your dog it is important to consider:
- Different muzzles will be appropriate for different breed/face shape
- reason for use (if you will have your dog off leash it may need to be a more secure style)
- comfort is very important and panting, drinking, taking treats, vocalising should all be possible
- The aesthetics of the muzzle are not important – don’t be phased by the look – keep in mind you are doing this for the benefit of your dog and to be a responsible dog owner and your dog doesnot care how it looks!
I use treats for training with my dog. Can I still reward them when they are wearing their muzzle? Yes, & we recommend that you do! You should still be able to feed treats through a basket style muzzle. It can take a while to learn the knack of this, but it is possible. Using small/non-crumbly treats or tubes of cheese/pate can help make this easier.
What about if my dog is thirsty? Your dog should still be able to drink from a water bowl/stream whilst wearing a properly fitting basket muzzle. They should also be able to open their mouth & pant to cool themselves down – this is one of the ways to check that a muzzle is the correct size/style for your dog.
Can my dog get the muzzle off? Ensuring you have a well fitting muzzle will minimise the risk of a muzzle coming off, but if you don’t take the time to desensitise your dog to wearing a muzzle gradually they will probably try to. Basket muzzles are made from sturdy plastic and we recommend adjusting their straps so that your dog is not able to remove the muzzle by rubbing it against the ground or pawing at it. The Baskerville Ultra muzzle is a particularly good choice if you are worried about your dog getting their muzzle off, because it has an additional strap which goes over the head making it extra secure.
Can my dog still bite through the muzzle? A muzzle is a safety precaution which can prevent a dogs teeth from piercing the skin whilst they are under your close control/on lead. However a dog who is outwith your close control may still be able to inflict injury on & cause significant distress to another animal or person whilst wearing a muzzle if they are sufficiently motivated (e.g. through fear/prey drive). Therefore we would recommend taking other safety precautions (e.g. keeping your dog on lead) under those circumstances.
Will the muzzle stop my dog barking? No, it shouldn’t. If the muzzle is properly fitting your dog should be able to open their mouth & bark normally. However if you don’t take time to desensitize your dog to wearing the muzzle gradually (or use it as a means of punishment) they may feel fearful whilst wearing it, resulting in the inhibition of normal dog behaviours like barking.
Other useful resources:
- Yellow Dog Uk - http://www.yellowdoguk.co.uk/
- The Muzzle Up! Project - http://muzzleupproject.com/
- DINOS - http://dogsinneedofspace.com/
- Another useful article from Mutt About Town - http://muttabouttown.com/2013/03/16/why-we-dont-need-to-fear-muzzles/
- Dogs Trust article on poop eating: http://dogstrust.org.uk/az/c/coprophagia default.aspx#.U2kQXVcvCqc
- Desensitising your dog to wearing a muzzle video: This video demonstrates nicely how you can teach your dog to accept (and enjoy!) wearing a muzzle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FABgZTFvHo