The low down on muzzles

Ever walk through the dog park, or even down the street and see a dog with a muzzle on? Might be a big scary looking dog, or a small timid looking dog. Either way, the muzzle should not be a badge of infamy, but rather the signal that the pet parent has identified an issue, and is taking steps to protect the pet from getting in trouble.

The most obvious and expected use of a muzzle is to prevent aggressive dogs from hurting other dogs. In many cases this is the reason for the muzzle, and it is used for this far too infrequently. Muzzled dogs may have “dog aggression” issues, especially when on leash. When on leash, many dogs are more protective of the person on the other end of the leash, and most have no issue confronting other dogs, even ones much bigger than they are. In these cases, a muzzle can prevent an incident from escalating to the point where a dog or person gets bit.

Some people use a muzzle while walking to prevent the dog from eating things. Yes, it is a way to prevent a dog with allergies or sensitivities from getting into goose poop, or eating dog cookies dropped at the dog park that may contain wheat, or bread left for the ducks (don’t feed bread to ducks/geese, please, use cracked corn or a duck feed) or some other garbage that dogs so love to get into. One little crouton sized piece of bread can cause an episode in a pet with allergies that can requires hundreds of dollars in vet care.

Anyone walking a dog with a muzzle hopefully has purchased the proper muzzle. Not only a correctly fitting one that doesn’t rub and cause wounds, but also the right type. There are inexpensive nylon/fabric muzzles which clamp the jaws shut. These are meant to be used for short periods only. Trimming nails, doing minor grooming like burr removal or tick removal, or cutting out a mat. Nylon muzzles hold the mouth shut, the dog can still breathe through its nose, but it cannot pant. And panting is the main cooling method dogs use, so if that kind of muzzle is used too long, or when the dog is exercising, it can cause them to overheat and worse.

Basket muzzles are available for all size dogs, in many forms. From simple plastic ones, to heavier duty rubberized ones, to police dog level leather and metal cage ones. Choosing one that fits the size and shape of your pet’s head is very important. From greyhounds to mastiffs, dachshunds to bulldogs, dog faces have many diverse shapes. Finding one that fits can be an adventure, but well worth the time spent if it solves an issue and keeps pets and people safe.

When approaching a muzzled dog, it is best to avoid close contact unless initiated by the other party. In some cases, the muzzle is a precaution, but the person may be trying to socialize the dog better.

Muzzles aren’t cruel or an indicator of a bad dog. In most cases, they have a good reason for being used, and pet parents using muzzles should be respected, not disparaged.

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