The idea of using a muzzle on your dog may be a difficult one to get used to, especially considering how inhumane muzzles look and the stigma attached to using one (aggressive, hard-to-control dogs). However, the chances that your dog will one day be in a situation that will require the use of a muzzle is high, as experts agree, and it’s best to plan and be ready for that day.
Read on to find out more about which situations will require muzzles, what kind of muzzle to use, and how to properly use a muzzle on your beloved dog.
When Should I Use A Muzzle?
Any situation that may be stressful for your dog, where the chances of him biting you or someone else around him is high, those are the situations that warrant the use of a muzzle. The more common situations of this type are trips to the vet or anywhere you’ll be around a lot of strange people or dogs.
Trips to the vet may go smoothly if you’ve been with your vet for a long time, and perhaps your dog is already comfortable with him. however, if for some reason you have to see a new vet, or if there is an unforeseen situation at the vet, having your dog trained to be comfortable in a muzzle will make a lot of difference.
On the other hand, some dogs are calm around new people or other dogs. But if your dog is reactive to new situations, a new dog park for example, or already has a bite history or any history of discomfort in crowded places, especially if there will be young children in that environment, you would be well-advised to be prepared with a muzzle for that situation.
Less common situations include an emergency, such as when your dog gets injured, and he is very frightened or in a lot of pain, the chances that he will bite is high in this case, and use of a muzzle is definitely warranted.
In all these situations, the muzzle would be most effective if your dog has already been trained in the use of a muzzle. In other words, the first time you put a muzzle on your dog should not be the time when he needs it, you should have some practice sessions with him in a calm and controlled set-up until he is comfortable using one.
When Should I NOT Use A Muzzle?
Muzzles should never be used as a punishment. If your dog barks excessively, has a habit of chewing up your stuff at home, or often fights with other housemate dogs, a muzzle is not the solution. Muzzles are not a substitute for training and socialization, and this type of situation is best resolved with the help of a dog trainer or a dog behaviorist.
Any situation that can be avoided. A muzzle is intended for short periods of use, in unforeseen circumstances, so any situation you know to be stressful for your dog should be avoided if at all possible.
What Kind Of Muzzle Should I Use?
Generally, there are two types of muzzles: the basket-type and the mesh-type.
The basket-type muzzle, while it looks more inhumane for dogs, is actually more comfortable for dogs. There is enough space for your dog to open his mouth, for drinking water or panting, and is the better option if the muzzle will be used for a longer period of time (over 20 minutes), if you’re dog is going to be physically active (running or playing), or if the environment you’re in is hot (above 75 degrees F / 24 degrees celsius). Being able to drink water and pant will prevent overheating in your dog. When using this type of muzzle, try to avoid ones made of metal, opt for plastic ones instead as they are more dog-friendly.
The mesh-type muzzle fits more snugly around your dog’s mouth, usually made of fabric or leather. This prevents him from opening his mouth, so he won’t be able to drink water or pant to relieve heat. This type of muzzle can be used for quick trips to the vet or for short socialization training sessions (under 20 minutes). When using this type of muzzle, make sure you constantly check on your dog’s comfort level and monitor for any signs of difficult of breathing or overheating.
Recommended Muzzles For Your Dog
- Basket-type Muzzles (don’t forget to select the right size!)
- Mesh-type Muzzles (don’t forget to select the right size!)
How To Put On A Muzzle
Again, it’s best to practice using a muzzle with your dog, rather than using a muzzle for the first time when it’s absolutely needed. A practice session will require a few hours up to a few days of your time, some patience, and lots of high-quality treats (cooked chicken, hotdog bites, etc) for your dog. Make sure to use a basket-type muzzle during practice sessions.
Your goal for the practice sessions is to make your dog associate the muzzle with treats, until he is happy to see the muzzle. First, show him the muzzle while giving him treats, then hide the muzzle and stop the treats, then repeat. Your goal here is for him to see the muzzle and associate it with getting treats.
Next, have him voluntarily put his snout through the muzzle head by putting the treats inside of the muzzle head and allowing him to reach for it. Do so repeatedly until he is comfortable with his snout inside the muzzle head for minutes at a time.
Third, allow him to leave his snout in the muzzle head voluntarily, and clasp the muzzle in place. The first time you do this, you should leave the clasp on for about 30 seconds only, then remove and give treats. The next few times you put the clasp on, leave it on for longer and longer periods of time, from a minute or two at first to longer later. Once you reach the 30-minute mark, that’s it, you’ve come to the successful end of your training sessions.
If you notice your dog is distracted by the muzzle, if he tries to remove it with his paw or by scratching his snout on any surface, you can try to distract him with treats or with other tricks, or, if he’s not too distracted, you can ignore him. You only want to remove the muzzle when your dog is calm, so he continues to associate the muzzle with good things only.
Below is a very helpful, step-by-step instructional video on getting your dog used to wearing a muzzle, along with tips and pitfalls of the process.
Other Things To Remember
- proper size and fit of the muzzle is very important. A muzzle that is too large may defeat its purpose, while a muzzle that is too snug can cause chafing, difficulty breathing or overheating if used improperly.
- try to make the practice sessions a positive experience for your dog, by associating it with treats, and by always associating it with some training goal. Also, try to make it a positive experience for yourself, by keeping your energy and tone positive, and always remember that this is a way of teaching your dog the right behavior, not a way of controlling or punishing your dog.