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Muzzles - are they really for nasty dogs?

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

I get a lot of people judging others harshly for their dog's wearing a muzzle and it really must stop. Someone with a muzzled dog means to me that they are being responsible and are trying their best. Emotionally abusing someone who may already be wrung out and stressed from having a dog who needs to wear one is needless. Just don't do it. Stop and try to think how you would feel in their position as you never know one day you might be!

Muzzles are a key part of equipment for managing a number of issues with dogs. Muzzles should not be mistaken as used solely for aggression. They can also be utilised for predatory behaviour, scavenging, as part of breed exemption orders or just part of a husbandry protocol to get a dog used to wearing a muzzle in case of emergency. I also advise on owners muzzling their dogs, even if I'm confident there is no bite risk, just to help the owners relax and feel more in control, which in turn, helps the dog to relax.

So which muzzle is the right muzzle? Consider the following points when selecting a muzzle for your dog:

What is it for?

When considering what muzzle to use, ask yourself what it is for. If it's for safety with aggression, then you might want a muzzle made from metal, other tough material and have a ‘bite guard’ so that any impact will not bend the material enough for a dog to get a bite in. For scavenging dogs, you want a muzzle where they cannot get their tongue out to scoop up and eat things. So select a muzzle with smaller gaps in the framework of the muzzle or the design of the bars so that a tongue cannot easily escape.

How long is the dog wearing it?

Comfort should be at the forethought of dogs that need to wear a muzzle for long periods of time. Either look at a muzzle made with soft material or muzzles with soft nose guards to minimise rubbing on sensitive places. Dogs also need to be able to open their mouth to pant (so as not to overheat), drink and eat. A common mistake I see very often is people using the 'inspection' type muzzle that is cloth and keeps the dog's mouth closed, used when out on walks. Those types of muzzle need to only be used for short periods, such as groomers or vets or for emergencies.

What is the shape of the dogs head and muzzle?

Some brands of muzzle come with a selection of shapes of muzzle for different breeds. This is especially true for long muzzle breeds like Sighthounds and jowly flat faced breeds like Frenchies. The fit of the muzzle needs to be correct for comfort and to prevent the dog from easily removing it. There is also the option of getting custom-made muzzles with your dogs exact measurements.

It's important to remember to condition your dog to wearing a muzzle first, don't expect the dog to just put up with having it put on and tolerate it. This is a great video from Michael Shikashio showing you how to work on acclimatising your dog to wearing a muzzle.

Here are some muzzle resources for buy and fitting a muzzle and a great muzzle group for helping with fit and other advice or just some muzzle wearing solidarity!


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