What do you think when you spot a muzzled dog when you’re out and about? We’re willing to bet you draw a breath and give him or her a wide berth.
If you’re accompanied by your own pooch, the chances are you’ll double your efforts to avoid the dog. He or she’s bound to be dangerous…
There’s a lot of stigma around muzzled dogs. The US-based Muzzle Up project, for example, was started by a dog trainer who wanted to change people’s perceptions of muzzles. Their aim is to educate people about why they need not fear them.
Muzzles are mainly used to prevent biting and injury, but there are other reasons to use them. They come in different forms. The basic muzzle fits over a dog’s snout and is fastened securely. Some versions prevent the dog opening his or her mouth at all. Others enclose the snout in a small cage, allowing the dog to open its mouth, but prevent the mouth and teeth making contact with people or objects.
The first reason for muzzling your dog is if he or she is aggressive. Perhaps your pet tries to bite if approached or tends to go for people. A muzzle, however, should be part of a bigger plan to train the dog properly. The root causes of his or her behaviour need to be addressed. You can’t muzzle your dog all the time. If he or she escaped from the house, threatening behaviour could prove dangerous.
Nervous dogs are sometimes muzzled. If your pet tends to snap when approached by strangers, muzzling is good practise. It’ll prevent defensive aggression or snapping. Children often run up to dogs and try to touch them, behaviour that frightens nervous dogs. Your pet might not bite hard or break the skin, but if he or she does it to a child, you’ll face a serious backlash.
The final reason for putting a muzzle on a dog is pica-related. Pica is a condition where dogs (and humans!) eat non-food substances. Some dog breeds tend to do this. Your dog might also scavenge, helping him or herself to anything they find on the ground or near bins. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, but it doesn’t stop them eating it. A muzzle can provide peace of mind. You need not worry about what your pet might find during your walks.
A muzzle needs to fit properly and be comfortable for your pet. You will need to work slowly and carefully to build your pet’s tolerance for it. And as we said earlier, it’s not a substitute for proper training to guard against aggression.