When people see a dog wearing a muzzle, they automatically assume that dog is dangerous, aggressive and is on the same level as Hannibal Lector.
I’ve seen people automatically cross the street while they look over at the owner with shock and fear.
There is a stigma attached to muzzle training when in reality, there should be none, and I’m going to address how and why that’s important today.
So why would someone have their dog wear a muzzle?
The primary reason that people will use a muzzle for their dog is due to them being reactive in certain situations due to pain or becoming extremely stressed and scared.
Vet’s offices can be a place where many dogs feel extremely stressed and if your dog becomes reactive and aggressive while being examined at the vet, they will most often recommend using a muzzle to avoid bites from happening.
This will surprise a number of people reading this, but my dog, Max, has had to wear a muzzle at the vet. While many people think Max is sweet because he’s a smaller breed (Boston Terrier/French Bulldog), he does not like being handled at the vet and has tried to bite the vet examining him on a number of occasions because he’s scared. That doesn’t make him a bad dog or a dog that people should fear. Thankfully the last few times he’s gone in to the vet, there’s been no issue had has not become reactive or aggressive.
I know some people who have chosen to muzzle train their dog in order for their dog to avoid becoming reactive to dogs that run up and try and get in their face. Once again, this is not a sign of a bad dog. It’s an owner who is working on the best possible solution to deal with a fearful and reactive dog. That is a sign of a responsible dog owner.
In some areas, certain breeds are required by law to wear a muzzle in public (despite it being an open discrimination policy towards certain breeds such as pit bulls).
Isn’t is cruel to force your dog to wear a muzzle?
No, it’s not. It’s not the same as something like like a choke, prong or shock collar as it causes no physical pain to them to wear it. It’s keeping your dog safe and avoiding potentially bad situations. While it won’t solve behavioural problems (you will still need to find a qualified and force free trainer for that), it’s a positive step you can take in training your dog.
Yes, Max has had to wear one at the vet, but he was also rewarded with treats and praise for doing so. He actually calmed down after it was on. If I put one on him now, while he wouldn’t enjoy it, he’d be fine.
How do I get my dog to wear one?
The biggest thing with muzzle training (or any kind of training) is to make it positive and not about punishment.
The worst thing you can do is grab your dog and shove their face in it if they have never worn one. That will not invoke a positive reaction and will likely make an agitated and fearful dog even more so.
One of the best things you can do is use treats. Let your dog sniff the muzzle and then reward them with treats. Then try dropping treats into the muzzle and praise your dog if they put their face in the muzzle to get the treats. Do not strap on the muzzle right away the first time after going this though as that could create fear.
Once your dog has associated putting their face in the muzzle and being rewarded with treats, that is when you can start to secure the straps of the muzzle while still rewarding with treats and praise. Eventually, your dog will associate their muzzle with positive rewards such as treats and walks.
Muzzles are not to be used for things such as controlling barking (as that will not work), chewing, or a puppy that nips. Those are all behavioural and training issues that you need to address as a muzzle won’t prevent any of those things from continuously happening.
So then next time you see a dog wearing muzzle, there’s no need to judge or be fearful. If anything, be thankful the owner is being responsible and has taken the time to muzzle train their dog.