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ARE DOG MUZZLES JUST FOR BITING DOGS? - Only Pawsitive Solutions

ARE DOG MUZZLES JUST FOR BITING DOGS?

As a dog trainer, I often recommend my clients to use a muzzle for their dog. Sometimes I feel like I just sentenced their dog to death. Because muzzles are only for dangerous dogs, biting dogs, right? What are people going to think about my dog? About me? Like it’s a sign of failure to have a muzzled dog.

The myth of muzzle means bad dog:

Oh, the things we hear when we walk a muzzled dog: « Is he dangerous?”, “Poor dog”, “you should train him with a prong”… and people staring at you, crossing the streets, scared to be attacked by the evil beast.

aggressive dog

There’s still a lot of stigmas around muzzled dogs. To most people, it still screams danger, pain, fear, failure…

It should mean “safety”, training and management.

Why use a dog muzzle?

We use muzzles to prevent the full use of a dog’s mouth. It’s a temporary tool we use while working on behaviour modification. Depending on the issue, it can take a long time to modify a behaviour, so meanwhile we limit the risks by using a muzzle.

Did you know that there are a lot of reasons why dogs wear muzzles?

  • Reactivity, of course
  • Eats random things he finds
  • High prey drive (with full predatory sequence or reaching the kill)
  • A cue for others to give space
  • Public transports
  • Visits to the vet or the groomer

It shouldn’t be used to stop a dog from barking (and spoiler alert: it wouldn’t work on the issue).

Are muzzles bad for dogs?

Definitely not! Almost every dog wears a harness or/and a collar nowadays, muzzles are just another tool you can use to keep your dog and others safe.

If you choose the right muzzle, adjust it properly and if you desensitize your dog to wear his muzzle, it won’t be a problem for him.

And just to be clear, using a muzzle won’t make your dog aggressive (if you use it properly, obviously).

I really think we should train every single dog to be comfortable wearing a muzzle, because we might need it one day and it will probably be too late to take the time to desensitize him.

Imagine if your dog gets hit by a car and becomes aggressive because of the pain. We’d be adding a lot of stress by using a muzzle to stay safe if he’s not used to it.

Muzzles are not made for extended and/or unsupervised use. That, could definitely dangerous!

DOG MUZZLE MEANS SAFETY:

What a relief to know that you can walk your dog without him eating whatever he can find on the ground, or risking to bite another dog or a stranger.

The relief it brings to the handler is huge and it impacts the dog a lot. Less stress on the leash and in the human’s body language will send a good message to the dog. Plus, usually, it means more freedom for the dog.

Everybody is more relaxed.

Personally, I’m very happy when people decide to cross the stress when they see me with a muzzled dog. It means they don’t feel safe around dogs and might react the wrong way if my dog does anything, or that they understand that we might be struggling. No matter the reason why they cross, I always thank them.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT MUZZLE FOR YOUR DOG:

In pet stores or on the Internet, there’s a lot of choices. Not every muzzle is the right one, though.

I find that basket muzzles are the only ones offering enough comfort for dogs so I’m going to focus on this kind of dog muzzles.

What to look for in a dog muzzle?

Here are the things that matter a lot when choosing a dog muzzle:

  • Comfort (your dog can breathe, drink, eat, pant, not painful, not too heavy)
  • Bite-proof if your dog is a high bite risk
  • Scavenging proof (more front coverage needed)
  • Easy to use

What kind of dog muzzle should I buy?

Just like for collars, harnesses, leashes…There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a dog muzzle. But not every muzzle is safe for your dog and others.

Dog muzzles I recommend and why:

Basket type muzzles prevent your dog from biting but allows him dog to drink, pant, vomit and eat treats.

It looks like a cage around your dog’s nose and exists in different materials. I’ll give some pros and cons for each type of muzzles.

metal dog muzzle
  • Metal/wire: +: strong and durable. : not good for very cold weather and can look scary. Brand: Ray allen wire basket muzzle
  • Hard plastic muzzles: Baskerville is the main brand but there are others like the muzzle movement + affordable, durable. not 100% bite proof
  • Biothane: Bumas is the most famous brand. + lots of options and color choices, less scary than traditional muzzles, light, easy to clean. can be expensive
Maple is wearing a @the.muzzle.movement customized muzzle

Please, note that few muzzles are 100% bite proof for very high bite risk dogs.

Dog muzzles I don’t recommend and why:

  • Leather:  + flexible. Be careful with the air flow. not great with water and rainy weather
  • Vinyl dog muzzles: + transparent so allows good communication , ventilation issues, not good for hot and humid weather
  • Fabric muzzles: the nylon muzzles should be use for emergency cases, as it doesn’t allow your dog to drink, pant or vomit. It’s often the ones that are used at the vets or groomers, and it’s definitely not the best for the dog.
Vinyl dog muzzle

What size of dog muzzle should I choose?

It should be well fitted, to avoid getting in his eyes.

If the muzzle is too small or too narrow, your dog won’t be able to pant and that will add some stress, or even can be dangerous if it’s hot outside.

If it’s too big, it might be moving too much.

We usually tend to go for too small, with the snout touching the muzzle. Not good!

Perfect fit for Maple’s muzzle (follow Maple @maple_pyrdog on Instagram).

PRO TIP with hard plastic muzzles:

  • If the size seems good but there’s still something “wrong” or if too wide but long enough, you might need to dip it in boiling water to shape it the way you need it. After 2 minutes, press it to make it narrower, longer, shorter…)
  • You can adjust the height or protect sensitive skins by padding the muzzle on some spots (where it sits on the nose).

Muzzle training your dog with positive reinforcement:

Shoving the muzzle on your dog’s face and let him get used to it is not an option in positive reinforcement.

Muzzle means good thing

We want our dogs to be happy to see the muzzle and enjoy wearing it. We’re going to train them and create that positive emotional response.

Pro tip: As every new training, start in a distraction free and stress free environment. Every training session should last less than 3 minutes (can be less!). Repetition is the key!

For each step below, it will be very important that you pay attention to your dog’s body language. He should be relaxed, all along. If not, go a step back or try to figure out what is making him nervous.

Step 1:

Introduce the muzzle by simply showing it to your dog, say YES and give him a treat while hiding the muzzle behind your back. Seeing the muzzle = treats, muzzle = good! Repeat 10 times, 5 times a day, to build the muscle memory.

Step 2:

Leave the muzzle on the floor, for your dog to sniff. Mark and reward every sniff, to make this new object become super interesting. Take the muzzle away and stop giving treats. Repeat 10 times 5 times a day.

Step 3:

Use a plastic container (yogurt, plant pot…) and spread some cream cheese or peanut butter on the bottom. Let your dog lick it, slowly getting used to have his nose in a closed space. Repeat 5 times a day.

By going slowly, one step at a time, we’re training stress free and setting ourselves up for success.

Muzzle up:

Now that your dog is happy to see to see the muzzle and OK to have his nose stuffed in a container, we can start phase 2 and get the muzzle on him. SLOWLY!

Step 4:

We’ll start by clipping his muzzle straps LOOSELY around his neck, while giving him treats, for a minute or less, depending on how he’s doing (body language!!)

Unclip it and stop giving him treats. Repeat multiple times throughout the day.

Step 5:

Once your dog is all good with the 4 previous steps and happy to see the muzzle, we can start having him placing his nose in it BY HIMSELF.

Lure your dog by placing a treat at the end of the muzzle, so that he has to put his snout through the muzzle to get it. Once his nose is in the muzzle mark with YES and give him the treat, remove gently the muzzle.

Repeat 10 times if your dog is engaged and happy. Repeat 5 times throughout the day.

Step 6:

Repeat step 5 twice and if your dog is good, then on the 3rd time present the muzzle without the treat (no more luring!). Once your dog places his nose in the muzzle, say YES and give him a treat through the muzzle while he’s still inside. Repeat 10 times 5 times a day.

Step 7:

We’ll process in the same way as above in step 6 but this time we will wait 2 seconds before saying YES, once your dog places his nose in the muzzle, to build duration. Mark and reinforce. Repeat 5 times 2 seconds, then 5 times 3 seconds…up to 10 seconds.

If your dog disengages, then go one step back. Don’t push it, we’re going at his pace!

Repeat multiple times throughout the day.

Step 8:

Now that Doggo is good with his snout in the muzzle for 10 seconds and calmly waiting for your YES and the treat that comes after, we’re going to be able to start clipping the straps around his neck.

Spread some cream cheese or peanut butter on the inside of his muzzle, for him to lick. Present the muzzle as we were doing on step 7 and while he’s licking, attach the straps around his neck. Once it’s done say YES and give a treat through the muzzle.

Same process as step 7, repeat 5 times for 1 second, then 2…up to 10 seconds, to build duration.

Once again: keep a close eye on your dog’s body language, keep it short and fun for him.

Step 9:

No more cream cheese or PB, we just present the muzzle, wait for him to place his snout inside, secure the straps, mark and reward with a treat.

Step 10:

Generalize using the muzzle in different places and do fun things while he’s wearing his muzzle.

Practice his favorite tricks , take him to place he loves, let him play with his best friends while wearing his muzzle for a few minutes.

Don’t put the muzzle on only in tricky situations!

Pimp your dog muzzle

A muzzle doesn’t need to look scary, it can look fun if you want.

Add some stickers, strass, any decoration that won’t bother your dog and send the message « I am fancy and fun, not dangerous »!

Pimp your dog muzzle

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