Why I Love A Good Muzzle!
Seriously, I love basket muzzles (not the kind they use at the vet that can inhibit breathing and cooling). Basket muzzles can keep dogs alive and other dogs, people, and children safe from a dog that may become aggressive. It is very difficult for a dog with a basket muzzle on to get a bite (unless you are crazy enough to put a finer inside) or the dog can get a little dog fur. I even train all my dogs to not only accept but work obedience for me in a basket muzzle!
It takes a little getting use to, but they love it when I feed them through their muzzle. At first I tape it off and put their food in there like a feeding trough, then they learn to wait for food nuggets to be fed in through the holes!
Because in some of the doggy sports in which I compete the dogs are required to do obedience in a muzzle. It takes a while to desensitize a dog a basket muzzle and to teach them to love it; but it is possible if you put just a little time in! I feed her out of her muzzle! Did you know that all Greyhounds wear muzzles while they race? They can get so overstimulated by the movement of the lure that they can bite one another. Most don’t mind their muzzles at all; they associate the muzzle with the fun of running (although I do not condone the way racing greyhounds are bred and kept!!)
The Right Kind of Muzzle is Crucial
Nylon muzzle (like they use at the vet or the groomer) that keep the mouth tight and shut are not meant to be left on for any real period of time much less while the dog is unattended. These muzzles keep the dog’s mouth shut and after a period of time it becomes difficult if not impossible for them to breathe and then cool themselves. Using this kind of muzzle for long periods of time or in the heat can kill dogs.
I also don’t care for metal basket muzzles. The metal is often cheap and not well finished making some of the edges sharp and it can be painful if your dog hits you or rams his muzzle into the end of it. The metal can also get hot in the sun and burn.
I do however like the soft plastic (almost feel like rubber) muzzles that Greyhounds use and the soft leather ones that police and protection dogs use while training. All dogs have to be taught to put up with and even enjoy his muzzle, it is not something that comes natural.
Won’t My Dog Look Like Hannibal Lector
YES!!! It is likely that he/she will. I actually giggle a little when I put my little female Dutchie in a basket muzzle she is so sweet and affectionate with people that it is kind of funny to watch people leap across the street. It is also likely that people will judge you and your dog when he wears one. But I have become immune to ignorant judgmental people over the years. They will think whatever they want, and really you have no control and as I tell myself, it is none of my business.
It is none of my business what someone else thinks about me or anyone else, this helps to keep me humble and put the worry of judgment in my past. Many countries in Europe force owners of certain breeds to muzzle their dogs in public whether or not the dog has aggression issues, but as Americans we seem to have more of an emotional issue seeing dogs in muzzles.
The Real Truth of the Matter
If your dog needs a muzzle to be safe or to keep others safe then he needs a muzzle. The real truth is that if your dog happens to bite another dog or a person, you will be much more embarrassed. And, your dog might be deemed “dangerous” and the city or the county in which you live could force you to have your dog euthanized.
A six month old Rottweiler puppy was taken away and deemed dangerous by the county in a county where I lived. The owners of the dog said the puppy merely scratched the child, the parents said the dog bit. I was young and new to dog training, but all I saw was a happy, go lucky, untrained puppy.
The parents and the court won and the six month old puppy was euthanized for being an excitable puppy with no obedience training (obviously this was the owners fault). I dare a parent to say a dog in a basket muzzle was able to bite (unless a finger gets into the muzzle). And although scratching and pouncing is bad and can and will carry a fine, it is usually not a euthanize-able offense.
Muzzles Keep the Idiots Away
And, I mean that in the nicest way possible. We have all met the person that no matter what you say about your dog not being comfortable about being petted or not liking other dogs. HE has a way with dogs, all dogs love and understand him… yeah right.
Or, his dog LOVES other dogs and is friendly so your dog will certainly like his off leash wild dog too, right? People often mean well, but they are ignorant and people like this aren’t capable of being taught a lesson; because they already think they know it all.
Ever try to teach a teenager something, with the eye rolling and the ignoring you… that is what it is like to try and educate a person who thinks he is good with all dogs, or his dog is fine with dogs so all dogs should be. But put a basket muzzle on your dog and watch the seas part.
No one will let their kids or their dog or themselves charge or scare your already nervous, fearful, or aggressive dog; if your dog is already wearing a muzzle. It is like a blinking sign that says STAY BACK!!! Let the muzzle do the work for you and ease some of your stress!
When I had my NIX, he was skittish of people from the time he was 9 weeks old and a muzzle gave him and I peace of mind in the beginning of our training program while he was learning to gain confidence and live around people. No matter how cute he was, people didn’t want to get close to the puppy with the muzzle on his face; but without it children and adults would come running to pet him (he was just sooo cute!).
He didn’t mind the muzzle and until I could learn to control him and the people around him it was the best way to keep everyone safe. Eventually he was able to live a very controlled but social life and he never bit a soul, but in the beginning I needed a way to be able to socialize him with confidence and desensitize him to people during training, for more on understanding desensitization click here.
Lack of Socialization
Many people that have dogs with aggression problems lock their dogs up at home and never take them out. They are embarrassed that their dog is dog aggressive or that he/she is skittish or aggressive to people or children; and so they keep their dog at home and stop socializing. They think this is the best way to keep everyone safe.
Socializing and trying to control people with a dog that suffers from aggression can be very stressful and that stress and anxiety that you are feeling travels down the leash to the dog; making the dog feel as if his aggression is warranted and also making him worse.
So How Do You Socialize an Un-Social or Aggressive Dog?
First, hopefully you socialize them effectively as a puppy and for more on that click here.
You socialize them safely where there is no chance of a bite. You socialize them with a muzzle and you still learn to control their environment.
Some people believe in flooding, a term in psychology where whatever the individual is terrified of they must face it on a large scale. Say you are afraid of spiders… if I were to treat you with flooding I would lock you up and cover you in spiders. Some of you would get over your fears, but most of you would be traumatized to the point of needing medication and being a million times worse with your fears.
I don’t believe in flooding dogs either! I don’t think that you should take them to the dog park to overcome their fear or aggression toward dogs, or to take them to Chuck E. Cheese if they are scared of or aggressive toward kids. The key with good dog training is to teach your dog that you can control their environment and to trust you.
If you allow them to be traumatized you are not to be trusted. If you can, however, learn to control people (keeping them from bothering your dog) while you are training and your dog learns through positive experiences that he doesn’t need to get aggressive or worry because he trusts in your abilities not to traumatize him then you can begin to move past some of his undesirable behaviors.
Desensitization which is a slow process is always better more on that here.
A muzzle can give you the confidence to work on his behaviors without having to worry about bites. And, this confidence will transfer to the dog, who will learn his environment isn’t really all that scary.
That Doesn’t Mean He is Cured
That doesn’t mean that your dog is cured!! People work on a behavior and then when they haven’t seen the aggression for a few weeks or months they think the dog is “cured”.
This usually isn’t the case, the key is that you have taught him how to act and react appropriately, but if pushed he is likely to revert back to his old ways.
Through therapy I might be able to teach you to overcome your arachnophobia. You may no longer be afraid of a spider outside your window or in the bush 50 feet away. But would you want to be covered in them?? Probably not!
The key is to know your dog and know he or she has fears, anxieties and a propensity toward aggression toward certain stimulus and be prepared.
These triggers don’t go away, you just learn how to control your dog and teach him to calm himself. But don’t fall prey to thinking that aggression is curable with a simple fix!
The dogs that people think they can “fix” are the dogs that end up biting someone later in their lives when someone lets their guard down.
If you have a nervous or aggressive dog you always have to be on guard that is what keeps everyone safe; because keeping everyone safe is what life and dog ownership is all about!
If your looking for a muzzle you can search online or check out this site http://www.morrco.com/dogmuzzles1.html
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.