Do I need to muzzle my dog?
If you know that your dog can be aggressive in certain situations, then it is irresponsible not to muzzle him. Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 a dog can be destroyed and the owner can be prosecuted and given a criminal record if their dog is seen to be a threat to anyone. The dog does not need to have bitten someone.
As a muzzle can act as a warning to people your dog is less likely to be approached and provoked to respond, making exercising him easier for you.
Are muzzles cruel?
Muzzles will only cause welfare problems if they are used wrongly. By following these guidelines you will ensure that your dog is safe and enjoys wearing his muzzle. You will also ensure that he associates the muzzle with pleasant experiences rather than a sign that something unpleasant is about to happen (e.g. an injection at the vets).
Are all muzzles the same?
There are lots of different types of muzzle, the two most common being:
The basket muzzle – as long as it is fitted correctly this allows the dog freedom to drink and pant. The dog will remain cool and comfortable but will not be able to bite anyone.
The nylon muzzle – although you will still be able to give your dog small treats he will not have sufficient freedom to drink or pant freely making it unsuitable for prolonged use. The dog can still nip with its front teeth.
How do I get my dog to accept a muzzle?
- Make sure that the muzzle is the correct size for your dog so that it is comfortable. Take advice from your veterinary surgery or pet shop to ensure a good fit.
- Introduce the muzzle to your dog when he is relaxed. Let him sniff it and give him a few treats and then put the muzzle away. Do this several times over the first few days to build a positive association with the muzzle.
- Slip the muzzle over the dog’s nose as you give him a treat, leaving it undone. Remove it and put it away. Gradually increase the amount of time that the muzzle stays on and only reward the dog when he has been particularly calm and still.
- Now try fastening the muzzle, again rewarding the dog for remaining still and calm for increasing periods of time. If the dog becomes distressed try to distract him with a game and try not to take the muzzle off until he is calm and can receive a reward. Gradually build up to wearing it for 30 minutes. Follow the longer sessions with a game or walk.
- Start to muzzle the dog for short walks, but initially choose times and places that will avoid confrontation and excitement. Give your dog lots of praise for relaxing during the walk. If you have to take the muzzle off while out, ensure that the dog remains under control.
- Continue to use the muzzle whenever you are out but especially if you know that you are likely to encounter a problem situation. By making sure that your dog has lots of pleasant experiences while wearing the muzzle he will not associate the muzzle with the occasional negative experience.
If your dog starts to panic or become distressed at any stage you may have progressed through the stages a little too quickly. Take him back to a stage at which he can relax and try again more slowly.
Always feel free to contact the surgery for advice if you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour.