Dog Muzzles: Everything You Need To Know

January 3, 2022
January 3, 2022

If you’re looking to venture into the world of muzzling your dog, then you probably have a lot of questions. 

If you’re looking at muzzles as part of the dog equipment available, then you’re also probably wondering a few things about muzzles too! 

Whether the former or the latter is you then you’ve come to the right place because I’m going to answer all of these burning questions for you, and I definitely know what I’m talking about because I not only use them, but as a professional trainer, I recommend these for use when appropriate.

I’ve been using muzzles for years and I’m planning on reviewing a number of them to help you guys make great decisions (head to best dog muzzles for that!) – but before I do that, I want to give you guys some guidance about muzzles, their use, the why, the desirable qualities and the less desirable qualities. 

I’m a huge fan of teaching and educating about products, and allowing you to decide for yourself what is right for you and your dog. So, here it is; and let’s start with the basics! 

What Is A Dog Muzzle?

A dog muzzle is a term we use for a man-made device that is secured around a dogs head that is made to restrict the use of their mouth. Sometimes it’s very easy to forget that our wonderful dogs are animals and their last line of defence? Is their teeth. 

Normally I’m training we encourage resilience and management to avoid getting into situations where using their teeth is not a possible outcome. But in some instances? That cannot be avoided. 

I will always suggest using Basket muzzles. These create a cage around the mouth and ensure safety at all times (here’s a guide on fitting them too). These are always preferable to the cone-shaped “Emergency” muzzles or groomers muzzles that hold your dog’s mouth shut which isn’t a good idea – these are dangerous for a number of reasons.

What Does A Dog Muzzle Do?

A dog muzzle prevents the full use of a dogs mouth. The “bitey end” is a risk and for some dogs it’s a big risk. So, a muzzle may be used to ensure safety. 

What Is A Dog Muzzle Used For?

Primarily for safety for you, your dog, other people or dogs or your vet visits.

There are a few typical uses include;

  • Prevent bites 
  • Prevent dog from picking things up and/or scavenging.
  • For legal reasons. 

Did you know some dogs are bound by law to wear a muzzle?

Personally, the time I recommend these the most is when I’m going through behavior modification training for severe behavioural issues one might label as aggressive behaviour (though I prefer reactive). These can prevent your dog from getting a bite history, let alone increasing a bite history, particularly when you have to put your dog into stressful situations.

Interestingly, I do not really recommend these in groomers because I’m a strong believer in treating the cause of the behavioral problem – not to the symptom. If a dog has a fear of their groomer (unless the groom has become a welfare issue) then I would advise a gentler groomer. Perhaps like a holistic groomer.

When Should I Muzzle My Dog?

If your dog is a bite risk dog, and you’re going into a situation that cannot be avoided

If you’re training a dog who is a bite risk,

Or you’re putting a bite risk dog into a new, unfamiliar situation.

Or a bite risk dog for everyday ventures into the world is a very responsible approach to muzzles! 

New introductions can be a great time (whether to people or dogs) 

As well as for trips to the vets, or if they’re prone to scavenging whilst on walks. 

Indie demonstrating a wire basket muzzle
Indie demonstrating a wire basket muzzle from Ray Allen! Review coming soon…

Should I Muzzle My Aggressive Dog?

Yes. If you even get a hint that your dog is developing aggression (reactivity, not puppy biting) then it would be something I would suggest you begin desensitising your dog to. Because this will prevent your dog from biting someone or something that he or she shouldn’t.

This would also show (on a worst case scenario) that you’ve tried to take every reasonable precaution should a the question ever go to a judge (which I really hope it doesn’t for you!).

Are Dog Muzzles Cruel?

This is a great question: and m going to give a pie of very specific answers. A well fitted, appropriately chosen muzzle that is desensitised properly is not cruel. 

A constrictive muzzle that is not task appropriate is potentially cruel. 

But this all comes down to education and proper use of tools, right? Any tool can be cruel if they’re misused. But with me on your side? This is definitely not cruel. In fact, I see muzzles as a sign of responsible owners! And if you’re stuck at all, give me a shout!

Are Dog Muzzles Safe?

Dog muzzles have varying levels of safety. It’s a pretty complex subject and one I’ll have to investigate with you on a case by case basis, and forms a part of the review template for muzzles! 

Will a Dog Muzzle Stop My Dog Barking?

No. A proper muzzle, used properly? Is NOT going to stop barking. This would be an improper use of the tool and would be cruel because of the consequences of sizing a muzzle in this way. 

What Kind Of Muzzle Should I Get For My Dog?

Finding the right muzzle is a hard problem for sure. This is a broad question with a lot of answers, but I can give a little insight: 

A muzzle of proper fit, and of basket-style muzzle should give;

  • Room to pant
  • Space to drink
  • Dog’s ability to accept treats
  • Space to vomit if needed
  • Be properly ventilated 
  • Have easily adjustable straps

If all of these factors are satisfactorily filled by your desired muzzle? Then this is the right kind of muzzle for your dog, and it’s a properly fitted muzzle too.

I do talk through a few options here: Muzzle Reviews.

And you can see exactly how a dog’s muzzle should fit.

jafco clear vinyl muzzle as reviewed by rebarkable
The Jafco clear vinyl muzzle is fantastic for clear communication to you and other dogs.

Do Muzzles Help Reactive Or Aggressive Dogs?

In short, yes. Not only will they give you more confidence when working with your reactive dog (because you know that they cannot hurt anyone or anything if you slip up), but it will also give other owners a visual cue that your dog is probably not friendly. 

Do Muzzles Make Dogs Mean? 

Any misused tool has the propensity to make a dog mean, but, when used correctly? No. A muzzle won’t make your dog mean or ill-tempered. Of course, I strongly suggest a great quality muzzle and gentle introduction. 

Are People Judgey To Dogs Who Wear Muzzles?

Sadly, yes. But this is because of a lack of education and it’s not something that people can … help per se. It’s ignorance. A Muzzle is a sign of a responsible owner or pet parent. They are safety tools and they’re particularly useful ones when you consider the range of aggressive behavioural problems.

There was one incidence of this prejudice that broke my heart the most was a small child who asked his mother “Mummy why is that dog wearing a cage around his mouth?” and the mother’s reply was simple “Because he’s a bad dog.” 

It wasn’t true. 

But gosh, didn’t it hurt.

Indie wasn’t a bad dog. He simply didn’t make good decisions in the face of fear. 

So, Yes, you will face a certain amount of ignorance from other people & dog owners. Try not to let them get to you – no matter how heartbreaking it feels.

Can I Use A Muzzle If My Dog Scavenges?

Absolutely. A Basket muzzle is a great way to stop a scavenging dog from eating inedible objects. Ensure a secure fit and use lots of positive reinforcement when introducing, you can even put peanut butter in the bottom of the muzzle to encourage them to investigate all the way down.

Do Dogs Like Muzzles?

This depends! A dog who you just force one on – No, they’re not going to like it. But, if you spend time and properly desensitise the muzzle and create a positive association with it, there is absolutely no reason that your dog will not love their muzzle provided it’s well fitted and appropriately used. (Caveat city huh? Sorry, but the answer is more complex than a yes or no!)

Basenji wearing a white plastic basket muzzle - muzzles like this are rarely recommended
Basenji wearing a white plastic basket muzzle – muzzles like this are rarely recommended because they can be broken and snapped easily.

Which Dog Muzzle Is Best?

This is a question that I wonder about a lot and it’s something that can be debated, but like a lot of equipment? It’s all about what is best for your dog and your situation. But I’m working through a number of them so make sure to stay up to date with the reviews! You can find them here, and sign up for the newsletter below and stay up to date with all of our future releases. 

What Is Dog Muzzle Training?

Muzzle training is the process of adjusting your dog to wearing a comfortable, well-fitting muzzle and creating a positive association with the muzzle and ensuring that they’re comfortable with it on.

Wearing a muzzle doesn’t come naturally to a dog because you’re taking away your dog’s last line of defence, and in most instances, they truly are not necessary. But adjusting your dog to a muzzle is a clever thing to do, no matter how well socialized they are. 

Please do remember to avoid creating negative associations with the muzzle by using it as a tool for punishment.

Can A Dog Wear A Muzzle All Day? 

It wouldn’t be an ideal situation to leave a dog in a muzzle all day. Whilst desensitisation can definitely help, it’s like wearing shoes, right? We’re used to wearing them, they’re super comfortable, but taking them off? Is a wonderful feeling. 

Not to mention that muzzles should be used for mainly training purposes and keeping a dog in a high-stress situation may not be that advisable for extended durations. But, if necessary and it is (again) well-fitting and comfortable, they can definitely work up to longer durations.

Is There A Difference Between A Muzzle & A Head Halter?

Absolutely there is. A Head halter is smaller and absolutely does not prevent a bite though it may restrict the mouth slightly. Which means that it’s not a suitable “muzzle” as it’s totally ineffective as one.

They may look similar to the soft muzzles (emergency muzzles) but they absolutely do not function as a muzzle for your dog and should not be treated as one, even in an emergency.

Can A Dog Sleep With A Muzzle On?

Probably if they have to, but this (again) would not be advisable at all. Let their sleep be restful. 

Can I use A Muzzle For My Dog With Separation Anxiety?

Usually, this question is asked because a dog with separation anxiety will tend to chew, eat and destroy things that they shouldn’t whilst you’re out of the house. However, a muzzle is not an appropriate tool to use with separation anxiety cases. Behavioural issues like this should be treated from the root cause, not just by containing the issue with a muzzle.

Can A Dog Get A Muzzle Off? 

Sometimes! Yes. If you make a mistake with the fitting, and there isn’t a security strap (that goes between the eyes and over the head) they can sometimes slip them over their nose and end up wearing them like a doggie gangster.

Can A Dog Drink With A Muzzle On?

Yes! They absolutely can and should be able to drink with a muzzle on. It’s something that is important for safety for them. 

Can A Dog Eat With A Muzzle On?

You should be able to deliver treats to facilitate training, but I wouldn’t advise leaving them in it for a meal. 

This may be tempting if you have a dog who resource guards. However, this could create a sense of limitation and increase your dogs frustration, which could actually increase the risk of dog bites and facilitate a downward spiral as opposed to building them up. If you are considering this as an option for your resource guarder, then I would suggest involving or consulting a trainer or behaviourist first. 

A baskerville ultra muzzle fitted to pretty black an white dog
A baskerville ultra muzzle fitted to pretty black an white dog.

Can A Dog Wear A Muzzle To Prevent From Eating Poop? 

NO! Oh my god. I’m saying this for your best interest. Because poop isn’t solid? They can smoosh it… all you are going to get is a poopy muzzle that you then have to clean – it’s gross, don’t do it. You’ll regret it…

Can A Dog Be Left Unsupervised Whilst Wearing A Muzzle?

No. As they’re a snag risk on anything, it could create an issue where your dog cannot pull out of them, they could also chew the muzzle and destroy it or similar

Are There Alternatives to Muzzles?

Uhm, not ones that work with as much efficacy as muzzles. Though, to me? Muzzles are a ‘last barrier’. Training and management should always happen in a controlled environment that is managed and optimised for training (as much as real life allows). The Muzzle should simply be back up, a just in case measure, or a Belt and Braces approach. Because mistakes happen, and I’ve been in situations with my reactive dog, and other reactive dogs, that were beyond out control that were mitigated, lessened and evaded by the wearing of a muzzle.

Do Muzzles Impact Communication Between Dogs?

Well, there’s no distinct science to this (as far as I’m aware) and this is based on my personal opinion but yes, they do. 

A lot of canine communication is done with the face, whether that’s via the eyes (which may be less visible with the lines of some muzzles) or via the mouth (which also gets obscured to varying degrees). This fact alone means that we are effectively muting a part of our dogs communication to other that they are uncomfortable and relying on their human just a little more.

That fact? That fact worries me.

I don’t trust all dog parents, because everyone trains to a different degree, and has different expectations of their dog – and as a consequence, I don’t think it’s a great idea to trust strangers when it impacts my dog. We have to be their best advocates afterall!
TLDR; If you know they’re going to be communicating or in close proximity to other dogs, then I would strongly suggest a more open muzzle that can be seen through. 

Should I Train My Non-Aggressive Dog To Be Comfortable In A Muzzle?

Yes! Even the friendliest dogs bite when they’re threatened or in pain, and should your dog, say, break their femur? Or be equally subjected to pain or suffering (though I hope they never do!). It’s a responsible, preventative measure that plays an important role in keeping humans safe from dog nips.

Muzzles are awesome.

I’m a strong believer in muzzle training dogs of all shapes and sizes. It’s a prudent measure that is often only needed in emergencies. 

But for dogs who need them regularly? A strong, robust muzzle is a must and understanding as much about them and their impact on our dogs is a really important thing. 

Being safe is a great thing.

If you ever need any help with your reactive dog, or a dog you’re struggling with aggression issues with, then just let me know, I’m soon to launch the Rebarkable Reactives group course which is going to be a total steal! So make sure and sign up! I’d love to see you there so we can work through all of this together!

Author, Ali Smith

Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.

Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!



 

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