Muzzle training is a fun and rewarding activity to work on with your dog whether they have a history of aggressive behaviour or not. Some dogs are prone to ingesting non food items such as sticks or rocks which can lead to serious injuries. A muzzle can provide reliable prevention giving the dog safe access to more places. Some dogs are afraid at the vet and having a muzzle on ensures the safety of the veterinarian and veterinary technicians who have no choice but to handle the dog. Not to mention that any dog can become a bite risk if they become seriously injured and are in a lot of pain. Taking the time in advance to condition your dog to LOVE wearing a muzzle can guarantee safety without adding stress.
For dogs who are reactive towards other dogs, strangers, or who lunge at joggers, etc. but do not have a bite history, muzzles can be utilized to ensure safety while modifying their behaviour around their triggers. People who live in densely populated areas may wish to use a muzzle as a precaution so that otherwise great dogs can have safe access to public places. A muzzle on a dog represents a responsible owner, not a dangerous dog.
In the case of dog with a known hard mouth, meaning a dog who bites using their full jaw strength and causes deep punctures, contusions, tearing, and/or a fatality, MANAGEMENT is crucial to prevent ANY re-offences. A dog that causes serious injury must NEVER be given the opportunity to do it again! Owners can use behaviour modification to improve the dogs quality of life, however the dog must be managed forever. Aside from the obvious issue of public safety, in Ontario dog owners are liable for any damages resulting from an attack. In fact an owner can be taken to court even if their dog has only scared someone and the owner did not take reasonable precautions to prevent it.
The owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person or domestic animal (section 2.1). A proceeding may be commenced in the Ontario Court of Justice against an owner of a dog if it is alleged that, (a) the dog has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal; (b) the dog has behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals; or (c) the owner did not exercise reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from, (i) biting or attacking a person or domestic animal, or (ii) behaving in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals (section 4.1). If, in a proceeding under subsection (1), the court finds that the dog has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal or that the dog’s behaviour is such that the dog is a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals, and the court is satisfied that an order is necessary for the protection of the public, the court may order, (a) that the dog be destroyed in the manner specified in the order; or (b) that the owner of the dog take the measures specified in the order for the more effective control of the dog or for purposes of public safety (section 4.3).
The Good news is that with a little time and patience you can condition your dog to LOVE wearing their muzzle!
These dogs have been conditioned to enjoy wearing a muzzle. On the right is an example of duct-tape art.
Slowly and systematically introduce your dog to the muzzle while pairing it with something the dog loves (chicken) at each stage, a procedure known as desensitization and classical conditioning. Do not just slap it on your dog and expect them to be comfortable wearing it. Watch this short video by Chirag Patel to learn how to condition a dog to love their muzzle, for more information and countless resources visit the Muzzle Up Project.
Do not use a muzzle as punishment as that will ruin the positive associations you want to build with it.
For short term (a few minutes) you can use a groomers (tube style) muzzle which does not allow the dog to open their mouths very much but is easy to feed treats through. For anything longer than a few minutes please use a basket muzzle (like the ones pictured) which if properly fitted allows the dog to open their mouth comfortably to pant, and drink water. Most basket muzzles have openings to feed treats through the front. If they don't have a large enough opening in the front already, sometimes you can cut a little hole or use a squeeze tube to get food through to the dog.
A good brand of muzzle is “Baskerville” (pictured) and is available in most pet stores and online. This brand can also be soaked in hot water and then reshaped to better fit your dog! You can also experiment with duct tape art to make it look cute.
A muzzle is a safety aid and a backup to management. A muzzle does not give us the right to force the dog into situations that make them uncomfortable or afraid.
For dogs who are fetch-obsessed certain toys can be easily picked up while wearing a muzzle such as the Tizzi by West Paw Design.
Make sure you get the right fit and never leave a muzzle on an unsupervised dog.
An example of a dog fetching a toy (Tizzi) while wearing a muzzle.
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