Muzzle stigma is a real freaking thing, the sheer volume of judgement I’ve received because my dog wears a muzzle? Is unbelievable, and I know I’m not alone as the parent of a muzzled dog.
So I want to talk about it with you! Because it’s important that we raise awareness, as anyone looking at a muzzle for the first time can be put off because of this stigma! And it’s not right…
As the dog population explodes, and behavioral issues spike to all time highs, more and more dogs are becoming bite risks, and consequently, muzzles are becoming more and more necessary. It’s really important that there is a positive association with muzzles in the eyes of people to ensure that we show new people that muzzles are good things.
What Is Muzzle Stigma?
“Muzzle stigma” is a term that refers to the negative perceptions, judgement and stereotypes surrounding the use of muzzles on dogs – which are totally undue.
This stigma often arises from the portrayal of muzzled dogs in media and popular culture as aggressive or dangerous (see Dog with Channing Tatum…), and that the only dogs who need to be muzzles are those showing aggressive behavior.
As a result, people may misunderstand the purpose of muzzles and associate them with negative traits in dogs, and get judged for that!
In reality, muzzles can be used for simply show an owner to be a very responsible individual! Because any dog can bite.
So muzzle training, and electing to have your dog wear a muzzle is a good thing and we need to shout about that!
Common Misconceptions About Muzzled Dogs
- Muzzles are only for bad dogs
- Muzzles are only for aggressive dogs
- Muzzles are for dogs who bite
- Muzzles are only for certain breeds
- Muzzled dogs shouldn’t be in public
- Muzzled dogs must have been abused
But none of this is really true, a muzzle is simply a safety tool, a training tool, that allows us to contain a dog’s mouth (the dangerous part!) and make sure that everyone is safe when we’re looking at nail trims, emergency situations, or a multitude of other reasons that a dog can bite! Heck, even when I get clients who have behavioral problems as a private dog trainer, I will ask my clients to desensitise a muzzle so that I can go into the pet parents home and interact with their dog safely.
Honestly, Muzzles are not well placed in the media, and, the scene that really comes to mind is where Lady (Lady and the tramp) is a “bad dog” and so gets muzzled as punishment.
Much like Lady in that scene being misjudged, so is the muzzle! A muzzle isn’t a punishment, and (although incredibly poorly fitted) should never be used as it will only make a fearful dog more fearful and leave the dog vulnerable to things like choking and overheating.
And then for muzzles to be enforced all over the world to ‘breed-specific legislation’ for ‘dangerous dogs’, or how vets only muzzle the dogs who get snappy with them… or even when you google “dog in muzzle” how many of them are german shepherds? Dobermans? Bull breeds? Just to double down – ever seen a doodle in a stock image of a muzzle? I certainly haven’t.
And all of that just doubles down that only certain dogs need muzzles, that only certain dogs bite… And to make it worse, then when (say) a labrador develops reactivity, or needs to wear a muzzle, these individuals get hugely judgey comments like “Labradors don’t need muzzles” or “what did you do to him?” – and that? Right there is such a huge misconception.
Why Muzzles Are A Good Thing
The use of a muzzle in specific situations is really one of the best things you can do! Muzzles can protect both dogs and people in various situations by preventing dogs from biting or nipping. While many people associate muzzles with aggressive dogs, there are several instances where a muzzle can be a useful tool for ensuring the safety of the dog, its owner, and others. Here are some examples:
- Veterinary visits: Some dogs may become anxious or fearful during veterinary exams, leading them to become defensive and potentially bite. A muzzle can help keep the dog, the veterinarian, and the staff safe during these visits.
- Grooming sessions: Similar to veterinary visits, grooming can be a stressful experience for some dogs. Muzzles can prevent dogs from biting the groomer while they perform necessary tasks such as trimming nails or brushing fur.
- Training and behavior modification: Muzzles can be a valuable tool during training sessions, especially when working on behavior modification for dogs with a history of aggression or reactivity. The muzzle allows the trainer to work with the dog without the risk of injury, creating a safer environment for everyone involved.
- Introducing new pets or people: When introducing a dog to a new pet or person, especially if the dog has a history of aggression or fear, using a muzzle can provide an extra layer of safety. This precaution allows the dog to become accustomed to the new situation without the risk of biting.
- Public transportation and crowded places: In some areas, muzzles are required for dogs on public transportation or in crowded places to ensure the safety of other passengers and pedestrians. Even well-behaved dogs can become overwhelmed or frightened in these situations, and a muzzle can prevent any accidental nipping or biting.
- Preventing ingestion of harmful objects: Some dogs have a habit of eating non-food items, which can be dangerous or even life-threatening. A basket-style muzzle can prevent dogs from ingesting harmful objects while still allowing them to breathe, pant, and drink water.
It’s important to note that muzzles should be used responsibly and as a temporary measure in these situations. Dogs should be properly introduced and acclimated to wearing a muzzle to ensure their comfort and safety. By understanding the various uses for muzzles, we can help combat the stigma surrounding them and promote responsible dog ownership and safety for both dogs and people.
Tips for Overcoming Muzzle Stigma
As a dog owner and a muzzle advocate, educating others about muzzles and their benefits is essential to help reduce the stigma surrounding them. Here are some tips on how to educate others about muzzles:
- Share your experiences: Talk to friends, family, and other pet owners about your personal experiences using a muzzle with your dog. Explain the reasons why you use a muzzle and how it has helped in various situations. Social media is a GREAT place to shout about this by the way!!
- Provide accurate information: Educate others about the different types of muzzles available and how to use positive reinforcement training to help a dog feel confident in their muzzle. A great basic instruction comes in the form of basket muzzles and soft muzzles, and their appropriate uses. Explain that muzzles are not just for aggressive dogs, but can also be used for various reasons, such as preventing ingesting harmful objects or ensuring safety during grooming or veterinary visits.
- Emphasize responsible dog ownership: Stress the importance of responsible dog ownership, including proper training, socialization, and understanding your dog’s body language. Explain that using a muzzle is one of the many tools available to help ensure the safety and well-being of both dogs and people.
- Address misconceptions: Be prepared to address common misconceptions about muzzles, such as the belief that they are cruel or that they prevent dogs from breathing, panting, or drinking water. Explain that when used correctly and with the right type of muzzle, dogs can still breathe, pant, and drink comfortably.
- Share positive stories: Share stories or examples of situations where a muzzle has been beneficial, such as preventing a dog from biting during a stressful situation or allowing a reactive dog to participate in training classes safely.
- Promote empathy and understanding: Encourage others to put themselves in the shoes of a dog owner who uses a muzzle for their dog’s safety and the safety of others. Highlight that using a muzzle is often a responsible decision made with the best intentions for everyone involved.
- Be a role model: Demonstrate responsible muzzle use with your own dog by ensuring that the muzzle fits properly, is comfortable for your dog, and is used in appropriate situations. This can help normalize the use of muzzles and show others that they can be a valuable tool for responsible dog owners.
By educating others about muzzles and their benefits, dog owners can help reduce the stigma surrounding their use and promote a better understanding of responsible dog ownership.
Muzzled dogs are good dogs!
Understanding and overcoming muzzle stigma is so important for responsible dog ownership. For both the safety of dogs and people! And Muzzle stigma just doesn’t help, and creates fear and judgment that just isn’t needed. A Muzzled dog is a good dog, they’re probably just a good dog with a lot of feelings.
Muzzles play such an important role in dog ownership. Educating others about muzzles can dispel misconceptions and highlight their value in ensuring safety and well-being. So let’s create space for accurate information and create understanding! So we can support responsible dog ownership and prioritize the safety of dogs and people in a compassionate and informed society!
If you’re interested in learning more about muzzles and finding the best one for your dog, be sure to check out our Best Muzzles Blog. Discover the different types of muzzles available, their appropriate uses, and how to properly fit a muzzle too. By staying informed and making responsible choices, you can help break the muzzle stigma and ensure the safety and well-being of both your dog and those around them. Happy reading!
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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!
Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!