When you have an aggressive dog, one of the first things you think of to help you manage them are soft muzzles.
Of course, aggression (or reactivity) is not the only reason that you might be looking to secure your dog’s mouth, perhaps it’s vet visits, groomers appointments, or other stressful situations. And you might have come to the conclusion that these are an appropriate for your furry friend.
And it’s a big but…
But as a professional dog trainer, I don’t really advise you use them.
I really want to do is discuss these tools with you, and why I do not recommend a soft dog muzzle outside of very specific situations and it’s why they don’t make the best muzzles list.
If you’ve already decided that this sort of muzzle is not something you’re interested in, then you might want to go check out the best dog muzzles list instead.
What Is A Soft Muzzle?
A soft muzzle is also referred to as a groomers muzzle or an emergency muzzle. These are one of several different types of muzzles (like wire basket muzzles) that exist to help dog owners mitigate bite risks. Soft muzzles tend to be conical shaped nylon “strap” that secures around your dog’s muzzle to prevent your dog from opening their mouth. Sometimes the cone will have velcro to adjust the fit, and then have adjustable straps (a head strap) that secure around the back of the head, usually secured with a quick-release buckle.
What Is A Soft Muzzle Not?
You’ll often see these types of dog muzzles advertised as “Anti-bark” or “Anti-Chewing”, but no muzzle is for this and it should never be used as a device to prevent barking or chewing. If you’re struggling with barking then you’ll need to address the problem instead, and similarly with chewing. Usually these are done for reasons, whether it’s nervousness (such as separation anxiety) or through boredom. Consequently, a soft muzzle is not a long-term solution.
As a rule of thumb, it’s better to tackle the source of the problem than the symptom – much like the plumbing.
Why Would I Need A Muzzle?
Well, if you have a reactive dog who might be a bite risk the right muzzle is a fantastic tool whilst you move through behavior modification and tackle an underlying problem. Alternatively, you might have a dog who falls under Breed Specific Legislation and not necessarily for aggressive behavior. Or you might be trying to prevent your dog from eating things they shouldn’t (such as non-food items) when you walk.
Or, it might be for extra security.
Do Soft Muzzles Work For All Sorts Of Dogs?
No, some dog breeds such as brachycephalic dogs (e.g. pugs, frenchies, pekingese etc) have such a short snout that finding the right fit is virtually impossible, and what you’ll find is that to mitigate bite risks from these sort of dogs is a full face mask (yes, they look astonishingly like something Bane would wear…), but they’re effective.
When should you use a soft muzzle?
Soft muzzles really need to be rebranded to “Emergency muzzles”, because the only time that these should be used is for additional security with an injured dog in an emergency situation, and should be kept as part of a first aid kit. Even the friendliest dogs can bite when they’re in pain as a preventive measure. Even then I would strongly suggest that this is not the best solution and that desensitising a basket-style muzzle (such as a baskerville muzzle) with positive reinforcement, so resist the urge to just put it on the first time. It’s a good idea to take it step-by-step.
How Do You Use An Emergency Muzzle Safely?
- Keep it on for short amount of times
- Use it for injuries
- Use it for stray dogs
- Be aware they can often still nip
- Go to the dog park etc
- Use it on a dog who might vomit
- Use it when it's hot
- Refuse to give drinks
- Ignore warning growls or body language
- Use it to stop chewing
- Use it to stop barking
- When left alone
What Do I Recommend Instead Of A Soft Muzzle
The good news is that whilst emergency muzzles are fine for emergency situations, if you’re looking for the best option to mitigate dog bites, and keep your dog safe; these are much safer options, ensure they’re a good fit, and remember, even though there’s a lot of stigma with muzzles, they are an excellent way to advocate for your dog, and they’re a great tool that makes you a responsible dog parent.
What Emergency Muzzles Do You Recommend?
This mesh muzzle is what we keep in the car for a "Just in case" and you'd be surprised how useful its been - mainly because I'm the person all my neighbours call when they're not sure if their dog has an issue or they can't get to a vet. It has both velcro and nylon straps to secure the dog's mouth, and it's highly adjustale.
This one is adjustable and soft, it's nice, but please don't believe the (frankly) awful marketing. They're not for dissuading chewing or barking, they're literally for emergencies only.
Note: Be aware that in an emergency, even having a non-stretchy bandage or piece of fabric to create a figure 8 around the dog’s mouth? Is a much better alternative than getting bitten.
Having an option for pain is wonderful, but I’d still aways suggest finding a comfortable fit and desensitising a dog successfully to a muzzle before the need is there.
A Muzzled Dog Is A Good Dog
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that our dogs, as friendly as they are, can bite. This isn’t even always done from meanness, panic, or aggression, sometimes it’s just pain. When it comes to soft muzzles, then remember they’re for emergency only and not behavioral issues or dogs with a bite history. For those dogs? Find the right size muzzle, and go through the step-by-step process of properly training it.
If you need help picking a proper muzzle for your dog? Then check out the Best Dog Muzzles.
Need help? Book a bark day!
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!