Training to avoid bites is important, but sometimes muzzles are necessary, particularly while a dog is still in the rehabilitation process. Here are the questions to ask before you decide to muzzle your dog.
1. When should my dog wear a muzzle?
If you have a dog that is likely to bite and you’re going to be in a situation that’s stressful for the dog, a muzzle might be a good idea. Stressful situations can include a trip to the vet, or places where you’ll be around a lot of strange dogs and people.
If you have a dog that you think might need to be muzzled in a situation you can avoid, it’s better to avoid the situation for the time being.
Remember that a muzzle is not a replacement for training and socialization. Never take a dog-aggressive dog to the dog park before she has been rehabilitated. Muzzling a dog in that situation can just make it more stressful, which will make your dog more aggressive. This will prolong the rehabilitation process.
2. What kind of muzzle should my dog wear?
This depends on the situation. At the vet, or when you’re working on socialization, a mesh style muzzle will work, although keep in mind that, like all muzzles, they should only be worn for brief periods of time, up to twenty minutes at the most, depending upon temperature and the dog’s activity level. Constantly monitor your dog’s comfort and remove the muzzle if they are showing any difficulty breathing or signs of overheating.
To help keep the humans around a muzzled dog relaxed, Cesar suggests a design like the Funny Muzzle, which is intended to reduce the stigma of a muzzled dog by amusing the humans around them.
If your dog is going to be running, playing, or otherwise physically active, then an Italian basket style muzzle is ideal. This allows the dog to pant for cooling as well as to drink water, but still keeps her from being able to bite.
When choosing this style of muzzle, look for models made of durable plastic rather than metal and leather, as these are more dog and human friendly.
3. What should I watch out for with a muzzle?
For all muzzles, make sure you have the right size and the proper fit to help your dog avoid discomfort. If the muzzle is made of metal or has leather straps, check to make sure that it’s not chafing your dog anywhere.
Overheating can be a problem, especially with mesh muzzles that constrain the dog’s ability to open his mouth. Monitor your dog’s breathing and get him out of the heat and take the muzzle off at the first sign of distress.
Most importantly, when you have to muzzle your dog, keep an eye on your own emotions and energy. Don’t look at the experience as something you have to do to keep your dog under control. Rather, look at it as a step on the path to rehabilitating your dog. Keep your energy positive to prevent your dog from developing negative associations with being muzzled.
In an ideal world, our dogs would all be balanced and we’d never have the need to muzzle them. However, this isn’t an ideal world, and sometimes such measures are necessary. The important thing to remember is that a muzzle is just another tool and, like any tool, it’s only effective if we use it with the right attitude and energy.
Watch Cesar tell why he created the Funny Muzzle.