Are muzzles cruel?

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.

Thanks google!

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.


6 thoughts on “Are muzzles cruel?

  1. Completely agree. A lot of people don’t understand what a muzzle is and immediately think the dogs mouth is strapped shut, nose is restricted etc not realising that if it’s fitted properly it’s nothing more than a barrier between its teeth and your hand. We have never needed a muzzle on any of our dogs but my friend currently has a german shepherd that has been brought in from some horrible conditions and has to be muzzled when at the vets or out and about because he hates men. Even men he has now known for over a year he will go for them with no warning growl. Would you want that coming at you down the street? And would you want him put down because his owners didn’t bother with that safety precaution and he bit someone? No, no one would.

    I think there is a lot of misunderstanding if it’s not a simple lead and collar. Our golden retriever was the loveliest dog alive, she would probably have taken all the abuse in the world and never have tried to bite anyone but we used to walk her in a halter because she pulled too much on everything else. We had loads of people ask why she was muzzled. A halter doesn’t even look like a muzzle!

    • Hahaha I’ve heard a lot of people get told their dog is muzzled / aggressive when they use a halter. I don’t understand that at all, they look nothing alike!!

      I like to muzzle train my dogs in case there’s ever a situation they’d need to wear one. Kasper is fearful of both the vets and men, and whilst neither has ever been anywhere close to the extent where he’d need a muzzle (he’s never so much as lifted his lip at a vet, even when he cut an artery he was fine), I want to know he can wear one in an emergency. Muzzle training is probably something I should start with the other three actually, I’ve no idea what Charley is like at the vets for example…

      • That’s good planning, not something I’d have thought of but yes, more people should do it just in case. I haven’t had a dog since I moved out of my parents so it’s not been something I’ve had to think of but probably wouldn’t occur to me. Not an easy business, this pet owning!

  2. THANK YOU! I have always felt horrible for having a muzzle for our dog, Bella. I have her wear it when we go to the vet because she is VERY protective of me and will go at the vet if we are all in the same room together. However, he takes her back with the muzzle on, takes it off when I am out of sight, and he has no problems. We also use the muzzle on her when we attempt to trim her nails — although those days are long gone as I don’t have a trimmer that will cut through her thick nails anymore, so we must go to the vet for that. I also use the muzzle when at the vets office when she is going to be around other animals. As previously stated, she is overly protective and I, as a responsible pet owner, don’t want her biting another dog or person.

    • Muzzles are a training / management tool, and just like almost any other they can be abused…but when used for sound reasons by a good dog owner, they’re marvelous. What breed is Bella? If she enjoys training I highly recommend teaching her to use a scratch board, my pups love it and it helped with Kasper’s nails when I couldn’t trim his…he has the worst THICK black nails, his paws are awful to trim XD

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