This is something I am seeing a lot on social media.
People who have spent months acclimatizing their dogs to the muzzle are being slated; accusations of dog abuse are being thrown their way, claims that muzzling a dog is “torture” and that the owner is a disgrace.
Hold on. Let’s just take a step back here.
A muzzle is a training tool. It is used to keep the dog, and others, safe. How exactly is that abuse…?
The most recent case I saw was a wonderful APBT owner. Her dogs had gotten into a fight that meant they both needed surgery, and so now (with the help of her trainer or behaviourist, I forget which) they’re re-introducing the dogs very slowly and very safely. This means that during training sessions where they are together, the dog that attacked (I believe it was resource guarding) is muzzled.
The owner has conditioned the dog to liking the muzzle; the muzzle is wrapped in fleece to make it as comfortable as possible, and is even jazzed up in pretty colours so it doesn’t look as threatening.
I’m sorry, but how can you not see that this dog needs to wear the muzzle (for her sake and the other dog’s safety too) and that the owner has done everything perfectly?
Muzzles are not abusive
Trained properly, dogs can learn to be totally happy with wearing a muzzle. A good muzzle (ie the basket type ones) do not restrict air flow, and the dog can pant, drink and take treats with it on.
The only thing a muzzle does is prevent that dog from physically being able to bite.
A muzzle is not a go ahead to let your aggressive dog off lead, that is stupid. Off lead aggressive dogs, even when muzzled, can hurt other dogs, and can most certainly terrify other dogs and their owners. Not to mention that the muzzled dog is still under a helluva lot of stress.
Muzzles are to be used in training sessions, whilst you counter condition the dog to what they are scared of. They are to be used in emergency situations, such as if your dog is injured and may snap at the vet. They are to be used as a back-up plan, for example if a dog is scared of children and you never know when a child might run up to you on a walk, even with you screaming at them to stop.
Again, a properly muzzle trained dog does not mind the muzzle!!!
I’d also like to add, when you see a photo of a good dog owner and their dog is wearing a muzzle, THAT DOG DOESN’T SPEND ALL DAY WEARING IT! It’s a tiny fraction of the day that a dog wears a muzzle, and it for their safety!
Finally, muzzled dogs aren’t monsters.
Muzzled dogs are dogs with responsible owners trying to keep everybody safe, and who acknowledge that their dog has a behavioural issue (it doesn’t like other dogs, it’s scared of the vet, children bullied it in a past home and now it snaps at children etc etc etc) -they are most likely putting a lot of time and work into it.
I want to wrap this post up talking about Hank, remember ‘save Hank’?
Recap: Hank was a dog deemed to be an APBT in Ireland, and who was taken from his owners. Thankfully he was put on the exempted list, but now legally whenever out in public he must be muzzled.
His owners, I feel, did not help the muzzle movement. At all.
When Hank came home, they immediately started taking him out and about wearing the muzzle, with zero training. Needless to say, Hank hated the muzzle. 98% of dogs who get a muzzle slapped on them will hate it, and fight it.
Hank’s owners were directed to appropriate training sites (eg. the Muzzle Up! project) and given lots of advice about muzzle training many times. I posted a fair few times when I saw how utterly miserable Hank was in his muzzle.
They chose not to do this, and instead took Hank out, forced into a muzzle, with Hank refusing to walk, lying down, scraping his muzzle on the ground etc. They then posted many photos of Hank doing this, with captions blaming the muzzle and saying how cruel it was he had to wear one.
This did a GREAT disservice to the muzzle movement. All Hank’s supporters could see was that Hank was sad because of the muzzle, the muzzle wasn’t needed it was the stupid law that put it there, and thus the muzzle was torturing him, abuseive etc.
BS. The muzzle wasn’t the problem, it was Hank’s owners rushing him out into the world wearing it that was. If they’d kept him home and acclimatized him slowly to it, it would have been a different story.