Here at EPP HQ, we know that there are many taboo topics when it comes to the welfare of our four-legged friends, dog muzzle training being one of them.
This post, like all the others we share, is purely our own opinion. We understand that everyone is different, and what we believe may not necessarily be the same as each other, but that’s totally OK! Every dog is different, so this approach may not work for you in the same way that it’s worked for us.
Although today’s blog is written from our personal experiences, I hope that it can be helpful too.
I wanted to explain why I chose to muzzle train Enzo and why intend to do the same with Maahi, our new German Shepherd puppy, who joined the family a few weeks ago.
As some of you may or may not know, Enzo was and still can be people reactive. Back in the day, if anyone came within 8 feet of us (yes, we did actually measure the distance), Enzo would enforce his own form of social distancing! He would bark and lunge towards the poor unsuspecting pedestrian if they happened to get that little bit too close for his liking. 😬
This was when we decided to introduce the muzzle.
We muzzle trained Enzo at around 6 months and I have to say, it really was the best thing ever, for us and him! Being a long-haired German Shepherd and a puppy, everyone wanted to touch him, which didn’t help his ‘stranger danger’ issues. However, as soon as I started walking Enzo wearing his muzzle, people avoided us like the plague. People were finally respecting our personal space, which in turn helped to relax my nerves as well as Enzo’s. Although the stigma of muzzles is something we want to try and help combat, it turned out to be quite beneficial for us in those early days of training.
I found that I wasn’t as tense holding his lead anymore because I wasn’t waiting for a potential meltdown and even if he did go bezerk, I wasn’t panicking that he might bite someone. I believe that by muzzling Enzo, I was demonstrating responsible dog ownership and protecting Enzo, as well as the general public.
Even now, five years later, even though Enzo’s outbursts are few and far between, I don’t leave anything to chance or get complacent. If I am taking Enzo somewhere busy or even just walking down a residential road or high street, Enzo is muzzled. A muzzle for me is as essential as a lead and we never leave home without one (we’ve got loads).
I still don’t know why so many people get offended when you suggest that they might want to consider muzzle training their dogs. They’re a great safety tool when a dog is frightened, ill or injured. It’s well known that fear, pain or illness can affect the way a dog feels and behaves, having a dog who feels comfortable in a muzzle can be a lifesaver. And by training your dog on being comfortable wearing a muzzle BEFORE you actually need to use it is far more logical. If you have an ill or injured animal, it's not exactly a prime time for them to get to grips with a brand new tool or approach, leading to stress and resistance from all parties.
Training your dog to wear a muzzle is super helpful and a great asset in a veterinary emergency, to ensure a vet can provide the necessary care quickly and safely for both them and your dog.
You may not think so, but training, conditioning and practicing wearing a muzzle can actually be a fun thing for you and your dog to learn together. With Enzo, I turned wearing a muzzle into a positive thing because Enzo started to associate the muzzle with working, training and treats, he then wanted to wear his muzzle as opposed to being forced to wear it. This then enabled me to safely work on Enzo’s social skills and counter condition him around his triggers.
Though, in classic Enzo-style, it wasn't all smooth sailing right out of the gate. When I was implementing the muzzle training back when he was a puppy, I smothered his first muzzle with peanut butter. This helped to create a positive association with the muzzle but he mistook the muzzle itself for a tasty snack and chewed right through it. But after our initial hurdles, Enzo took to wearing the muzzle without issue and still does now as I mentioned.
Did you know that a properly fitted muzzle will allow your dog to drink, pant, and take treats?
When properly conditioned with positive associations, a muzzle doesn't cause a dog discomfort or fear. Sometimes a muzzle is necessary to keep everyone safe during the training process. Although it does not offer a quick fix, nor is it a lazy or easy way out.
Some dog owners even have their dogs in a muzzle to prevent them from eating things on walks. I have a niggly feeling that this may be the case with Maahi because she’s always got something hanging out of her mouth that she’s found in the garden 🙄
I’m all in for muzzles and muzzle training for your dog. I intend to muzzle train Maahi too as there are a number of scenarios whereby a muzzle can make all the difference. Just because a dog is wearing a muzzle doesn’t mean they’re aggressive or dangerous. Muzzles are useful preventative tools to help keep dogs from engaging in dangerous behaviour with their mouths, and that doesn't mean just biting.
Let's face it, dogs tend to follow their nose, but occasionally that can lead them into trouble.
If you're just getting started or thinking about muzzle training you dog, here are some tips to help:
- Getting the right style and size of muzzle is really important, to ensure that the muzzle is both comfortable and effective for your dog. Muzzle brands will usually provide size guides but don't be afraid to ask for help with this if you're unsure what will suit your dog.
- Be prepared to receive a few comments or disapproving looks when you muzzle your pup. Although it's a shame, it can be part of using a tool that has a negative connotation with it. The assumption might be that your dog is dangerous, even though you may be advocating for very different reasons. Keep these reasons front of mind and ignore the chatter.
- Muzzle don't necessarily solve or remove behavioural problems. Bear in mind that if your dog exhibited certain tendencies or behaviours before they were muzzle trained, you shouldn't expect it to work a miracle. For example, muzzle training doesn't instantly solve dog or people reactivity, but it can help with the management of these things.
If you want to learn more about muzzles you can check out The Muzzle Movement on Instagram. Cara’s account is full of interesting facts, some myth busting, educational posts and even some gorgeous muzzles!