A muzzle exists for the sole purpose of protection. It helps prevent dogs from biting people and other animals, and it subsequently protects the dog from suffering any repercussions as a result of their bite. However, a muzzle only works when it is being used properly.
When Are Muzzles Used?
Some people tend to dismiss muzzles as something only “bad dogs” have to wear. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Even the best-behaved dogs can suffer stress and become agitated in certain situations, and a muzzle can help soothe them and prevent them from lashing out in anxiety.
That said, muzzles should be used in conjunction with social training — not instead of it. Some dog owners make the mistake of not training their dogs properly and instead just relying on a muzzle. However, the muzzle is only a crutch, and it does not prevent a poorly trained dog from reacting inappropriately to other dogs and people.
How to Put on a Muzzle Properly
Just like seatbelts, muzzles do not work effectively if they are not put on the right way. Muzzles vary in design, so read instructions closely and carefully (and make sure you are getting a size and shape that is suited to your dog type).
Make sure the muzzle fits snugly and does not move around as your dog moves their head around. Your dog should not be able to loosen it at all by pawing at it. At the same time, the muzzle should also not be so tight that it hurts them.
Train Your Dog to Use a Muzzle
Again, a muzzle is not meant as an alternative option to training. Instead, dogs who are trained to wear it will feel more at ease and comfortable with it on, therefore greatly decreasing the likelihood of bad behavior. It’s also worth pointing out that your dog may be required to wear a muzzle in certain emergency situations, so it’s a good idea to get them comfortable with one even if you don’t intend to use it at all times.
To train your dog with using a muzzle, most dogs will do best when introduced to it slowly in a relaxed, familiar environment. Have them wear it for short, spaced out periods of time, gradually increasing the wear time until they are perfectly at ease with it. If you don’t intend on having your dog wear their muzzle frequently, make sure you’re still putting it on them (and taking them out into social settings) every now and then to make sure they stay comfortable with it.
There’s a lot you can do to make sure your dog gets as comfortable using a muzzle as possible. At the same time, following these tips will also help your dog become less stressed and more at ease in social settings.
Don’t introduce them to busy social settings right away. Start by using the muzzle at home and gradually bringing them out into busier locations.
Practice positive reinforcement and praise your dog before, during and after their wearing of a muzzle. Make it clear that wearing a muzzle is a good thing!
Take your dog away from any situations that are too stressful for them. If they start showing agitation or aggression, remove them immediately.
Learn to notice and acknowledge your dog’s signs of agitation. The better you are able to read each other, the better your dog will be able to follow your direction.