Muzzle Love

By Abby Huxtable

Muzzles are an absolutely fantastic tool. They also have a big stigma attached to them. Everyone assumes a muzzled dog is aggressive. Fortunately, with the increase in more positively educated trainers and owners following suit, this opinion is slowly changing.

Muzzles are used for a huge range of reasons; yes, a dog may be scared and so have a bite history, but they may have been attacked and be worried by other dogs, they may be a rescue who is terrified of people, they may love eating yukky things that make them poorly, or they may be hunting dogs who we are protecting the wildlife from.

Muzzles also have the added benefit of making people more wary of our dogs, so they enable us to safely work with our dogs with less risk from the ‘oh, it’s fine, he’s friendly’ brigade, or random people and children touching our dogs without permission.

Just as with any of our tools – leads, harnesses, grooming equipment – we do need to carefully introduce muzzles to our dogs to ensure they are happy and confident wearing them.

Also, like any of our tools, the muzzle is not a solution to a behavioural issue. You still need to work on the behaviour itself; same as a lead and harness is not a solution for pulling on the lead, you still need to teach your dog loose lead walking. A muzzle will not make your dog feel happy around strange people, you still need counter-conditioning to strange people. Your muzzle can just help gain more space when around people and prevent an accident happening.

It is a good idea to teach all of our dogs to wear a muzzle, as you never know when we might need to help them out. They may have a painful injury that needs attending by the vet or they may have a nasty knot in their coat that the groomer needs to remove. They may be competing in dog sports that require muzzles, such as lure coursing, or even dog sports, where there are a large number of dogs and they need that bit of space.

Muzzle training, just like any husbandry training, is always a great idea and can be a fun game to play on an evening when you want to channel your dog’s focus!

We would always recommend a basket style muzzle, so they are able to eat, drink and pant while wearing it. It is also really important that a muzzle is correctly fitted, so it is secure and comfortable on your dog. There are muzzles in all shapes, colours and sizes, and many companies make custom fit muzzles, so you can buy one specifically for your own dog.

The Muzzle Up Project is a brilliant resource for more muzzle information, desensitisation work, and brands and fittings.