We are going to give you a mask that covers part of your face. It may feel a bit strange at first, but you will get used to it. Initially people might give you strange looks or stare but don’t worry, soon people won’t even take a second glance. We are not saying you are a danger, but you could pose a potential risk to others. No matter how small that risk is we would rather not take it. We want to be proactive; we want to be responsible and we want to protect others. Sounds familiar right?
Over the year’s muzzles have been a topic of controversy and have become unfairly associated with aggressive dogs. Now more than ever, people find themselves in a very relatable position. So, is now the perfect time to help people understand the importance and benefits of muzzles for certain dogs?
Firstly, what is a muzzle?
A muzzle is a device that fits over the snout of a dog in order to prevent their mouths opening wide enough to bite. They come in different shapes, sizes and materials and should always allow the dog to breathe and drink. Some muzzles also permit the dog to eat, these are very useful for training purposes.
There are several reasons why a dog might wear a muzzle, including:
- Preventing them from eating things that might be harmful
Wearing a muzzle can literally be a life saver for these dogs. It could prevent them from chewing or swallowing something that is dangerous to them. Ranging from dogs on strict diets due to allergies to dogs who make a habit of finding tennis balls at the park and swallowing them whole, the muzzle removes this risk.
- Safety when they are frightened, painful, ill or injured
Fear, pain, illness or injury can affect the way a dog feels and behaves, so training your dog to wear a muzzle is a great way to prepare for a veterinary emergency. A muzzle in this situation would allow the vet to provide the necessary care for the dog as quickly as possible without worrying about their own safety.
- Learning about other dogs and people
Some dogs may have grown up without the opportunity to learn valuable social skills, and might respond to other dogs fearfully, or become frustrated around them. A muzzle allows you to train your dog around new dogs or new people safely, at a distance at which your dog feels safe and can concentrate, giving you peace of mind and allowing you to focus on your training.
- A dog has been known to behave aggressively in a specific context
Muzzles do not replace the need for training or behaviour modification, because they don’t change the way a dog feels about things, but they do keep everyone involved safe while that training is a work in progress.
- Some dogs might have learned to chase and catch
Racing greyhounds have been trained to chase a small fluffy ‘hare’ so are also taught to wear muzzles comfortably so that they are unable to physically harm any animal they are able to chase. Some dogs really enjoy chasing, or even chasing and catching, things that move fast. This is part of dogs' natural hunting behaviour, and for a long time working dogs were specifically bred for this incredible ability to help us hunt and to control livestock and vermin. But for our pet dogs, chasing anything other than their toys - such as traffic, livestock, wildlife, cats or even other dogs - can be extremely dangerous. Muzzling a dog can help to prevent them from catching hold of any other animal they might chase so it is responsible and considerate to muzzle a dog for whom this has been identified as a concern, as well as keeping them on-lead where appropriate.
How do you teach your dog to wear a muzzle happily?
Introducing a muzzle should be a positive and enjoyable experience for your dog. There are many different approaches to teaching your dog to wear a muzzle, and which to use will depend on the individual dog and any previous associations or experiences they might have had with either wearing a muzzle in the past or placing their faces into something enclosed.
Here you will find an informative guide which covers how to choose the correct muzzle, how to introduce it in an enjoyable way and how you can incorporate muzzle training into everyday life so it becomes the 'norm' for your dog to wear one.
Life with a Muzzle
Charlie is a 4 year old Collie Cross who came to the centre on 30th October 2019. He was found as a stray and has since gone into a home temporarily however this didn’t work out and he was returned on 23rd December 2019.
Charlie is generally a friendly dog with people he trusts, he loves to play with toys and is a real foodie. He is worried by strangers and some other dogs so he must wear a muzzle when in public places.
Unfortunately like many other dogs that are required to wear a muzzle this can put off some potential adopters if they feel like they do not have enough experience, some might be worried about how others would view him in their neighbourhood or out on walks or even that he is a danger.
On a positive note, we have and will continue working with Charlie on his muzzle training and behaviour and he is improving day by day! Our Training and Behaviour team work on the best behaviour modification programme for Charlie and the Canine Carers like Jack are able to work with him on a daily basis to build his confidence and prepare him for life after kennels.
We spoke to Jack who is Charlie’s his main handler here at Dogs Trust Manchester.
“There’s always fun to be had with Charlie (Charles to his friends) and it makes my day when I get to spend time with him! Once he trusts you, he loves cuddles and gives the biggest, sloppiest kisses. He’s a sweet and sensitive soul and it always brings a smile to my face when I’m greeted with his waggy tail, happy face and excited tip-tap dance! Charlie loves to go out on long adventures and makes an excellent companion for exploring and adventuring – if there’s water nearby he is sure to go in it. A bright chap, he loves doing his training and lives to please – he picks up training quickly and it makes me proud to see how far he has come. I can’t wait to see him thriving in a loving home and being pampered like he truly deserves.”
Muzzles are in a way like the masks we see people wearing today. Six months ago, you probably did not fully understand their purpose, chances are you thought they looked uncomfortable and that the people wearing them looked almost ridiculous too. Now that more people understand the benefits of wearing a mask, they are becoming part of our normal daily routine. Some people are now even incorporating function and fashion with fun fabrics to show off their personality. Already there are some beautiful muzzles on the market, and we think they are great!
It gave us paws for thought, maybe this is the way forward for muzzles and something we will look at in the future but for now, the understanding of muzzles is what is most important.
The next time you are reading about one of our wonderful dogs and see the words 'muzzle' please do not be quick to hit the back button instead read on, your pawfect canine companion may be right in front of your eyes!