For some people, the thought of putting a muzzle on your dog (or worse, having a dog that “needs a muzzle”) is an awful one. It’s pretty understandable too. Images and films in the media almost always show muzzled dogs in a negative light. TV thugs’ with their ‘menacing’ terriers, vicious guard dogs and Police K9s ready to take down anyone without a second’s hesitation. The funny thing is that getting a muzzle for your dog is actually a great thing, and it doesn’t always have to be associated with aggression.
What is a dog muzzle?
Dog muzzles are management devices generally used for the prevention of bites or ingestion of inappropriate substances. They go over the dog’s snout (aka its muzzle) and cover its mouth. It is important that they circulate air well to minimise interference with the dog’s breathing and heat regulation. Muzzles for dogs can be made from a number of materials including leather, nylon, plastic and wire.
Why muzzles are a great tool for your dog
Let’s start with the obvious. If your dog has a history of aggression and reactivity or has shown sketchy behaviour in the past, muzzles are a necessity. Unless you plan on keeping your dog locked away for most of its life, chances are it will have to encounter its ‘nemeses’ again at some point down the road. Unfortunately, you can’t teach your dog to be comfortable around their trigger (be it strangers, children, other dogs or whatever it is that gets them worked up) without exposing them to it. Getting a muzzle for your dog allows you to make progress toward their rehabilitation while keeping everyone safe – including the dog.
Perhaps you have a new rescue with an unknown history? It can be irresponsible to allow the unknown dog (with unknown fears and experiences) to meet children, strangers, and even the other pets in your home, without taking safety precautions. Introducing new dogs to new experiences using a muzzle allows you to have peace of mind that no one will be seriously harmed when meeting your recent addition.
Similarly, you may own a dog that you’ve had for a while, but you know that their temperament is not quite bomb-proof, and you’re not sure how they’ll handle an upcoming novel experience. Getting them comfortable with a muzzle means not only can you introduce them to these new situations safely, but you’ll have less anxiety about it too (which means less tension projected to the dog – a huge contributor to poor dog behaviour!).
Muzzles can be a deterrent
Instinctively people avoid dogs with muzzles. This is actually a bit comical when you think about it because a dog wearing a muzzle is probably far less capable of conducting serious damage than pretty much any other dog you encounter. In addition, owners who are responsible enough to get a muzzle for their dog may be a bit more cognizant of their own dog’s behaviour and limits.
Dog walkers can become frustrated with other negligent owners who let their uncontrolled dogs rush up and obnoxiously greet them on walks. As a result, some like to use muzzles to indicate that people should keep their ill-mannered pets away (even if their own dogs aren’t dangerous).
It’s not uncommon for owners to muzzle their perfectly safe, stable dog purely for the sake of avoiding having to interact with other people (for example in cases of social anxiety, previous trauma, or just an anti-social mood).
More and more dog owners are enjoying having joint hobbies with the beloved canines. A number of dog sports such as racing (which is not just for greyhounds anymore!) and lure coursing require, or highly encourage, that your dog is muzzled for the duration of the activity. This doesn’t mean that the dogs who compete are aggressive, it’s merely a safety precaution and helps keep events running smoothly.
It could save your dog’s life
Is your dog known for chewing or eating things he shouldn’t? While many dogs do grow out of inappropriate chewing, and most risks at home can be mitigated with crate training and suitable chewing outlets, sometimes the solution is not that straightforward. In more extreme cases a muzzle can be a useful tool to help protect your dog from himself while you work on manners and obedience. Some owners struggle with pica, a medical condition in some dogs that causes them to seek out and eat inedible objects such as rocks and gravel. This can lead to grave consequences and expensive surgery bills. If you enjoy taking your dog outdoors, but worry about his dangerous eating habits, a muzzle will allow you to keep enjoying your quality time without having to heavily restrict his freedom or watch him like a hawk (allowing you to enjoy yourself too).
Sometimes it’s not up to you
Most vets and groomers will muzzle your dog if they feel uncomfortable. If this is your dog’s first time wearing a muzzle, they will forever associate the scary contraption that went over their face with the experience they just had. There’s a lot of poking, prodding, pinching, and general intrusion by a stranger – how would you feel? Introducing your dog to a muzzle prior to these outings means that you get to show them that muzzles are a pleasant thing, and lead to positive outcomes.
Some states and countries require that certain breeds, and crosses of these breeds, be muzzled at all times when out in public. Whether this is right or fair is a separate issue. The fact of the matter is that sometimes we don’t get to dictate how we manage our pets – having a muzzle can stop being a mere option.
How to choose the right style of muzzle for your dog
While mostly used by law enforcement, this style of muzzle is also available for civilian use. Owners who participate in protection training with their dogs are common buyers of this muzzle style, as they are incredibly durable and have great air flow. If sized and fitted correctly, police style is wonderfully secure – staying in place no matter what. Due to their high-quality construction, police style muzzles tend to be among the most expensive of muzzle types and may be more than what’s needed for regular pet owners.
Basket muzzles are large and boxy with good air flow. They allow dogs to take treats, drink water and pant without trouble. The best basket muzzles tend to be made of wire, plastic, leather or any combination of the above. They are often the ideal choice for most pet owners, as they are durable and safe for dogs to wear longer term, without being prohibitively expensive. If you plan on exercising your dog while he is muzzled, definitely opt for a police or basket style over a soft muzzle.
Soft muzzles are usually made of nylon and are only meant to be used for short periods. Most soft-types prevent the dog from opening its mouth, therefore interfering with heat regulation. They are small, inexpensive and easy to store as a back-up for emergencies. As a result, this is often the muzzle of choice for quick vet or grooming visits. Soft muzzles are generally not suited for exercise.
Regardless of type, some muzzle designs are flimsy or lack sufficient air flow. Be very selective when choosing any muzzle for your dog, as the consequences of using a poorly made muzzle can be dire. If you’d like to see our top picks for the safest, best quality muzzles, read ahead or click here.
How to choose the correct size muzzle for your dog
What you need:
A soft tape measure OR a piece of string + a ruler/hard tape measure
- Find the length of your dog’s snout: measure from the tip of the nose to the start of the eyes (where it begins to slope upward, around 0.5 inches or 1cm below the eye itself)
- Find the circumference of your dog’s snout: measure from the base of the eyes as before, but go right around the snout this time (closed mouth)
Once you have these values, use them with the size guide provided by the manufacturer of the particular muzzle you’re looking at. Many offer size suggestions for common breeds. This can be a useful starting point, but keep in mind that not all dogs within a breed have the same measurements, so stick to whichever category your dog actually falls into.
The best muzzles for dogs
[table id=6 /]
The Leerburg police style muzzle is one of the best quality muzzles on the market, while still being more affordable than other muzzles in its class. Made from high quality, durable leather and riveted throughout for extra toughness, this is an ideal muzzle for your dog if they are engaging in protection training. For those of you with particularly powerful or aggressive dogs that would value the extra security, this muzzle is an excellent option.
The Baskerville Ultra Muzzle is one of the best-selling muzzles worldwide, and for good reason. These muzzles have been designed to prevent bites while still being as comfortable as possible for the dog. They are incredibly secure thanks to ergonomic safety strapping. In addition, they have two extra optional points of attachment to suit your situation – a loop that attaches to your dog’s collar, and a removable safety strap that goes over the centre of the head, between the ears. Baskerville Ultra Muzzles are made of thermoplastic rubber and are therefore wonderfully durable, bendable, easy to clean and won’t rust.
Jafco specialises in manufacturing training equipment for service, military, police K9 and dog sports. Their muzzles are designed to be worn for long periods without causing trouble and their clear plastic muzzle is great for owners who want to be able to see their dog’s expression (therefore allowing you to read your pet more easily). These muzzles are durable, have great ventilation and include leather straps for extra toughness.
Suitable for long-term use, and made extra comfortable thanks to the heavy felt padding, the Dean & Tyler wire muzzles are designed for optimum safety and ventilation. Many owners of broad-headed breeds can struggle to find equipment that fits properly. The D&T wire basket muzzles have 4 adjustable straps and are available in 30 sizes to suit different face shapes. There’s an option for every dog, so be sure to pick the right one!
Made from high-quality nylon, these muzzles are light, adjustable and comfortable to wear. They go on and off easily and include a loop allowing you to seamlessly attach your pet to the grooming table. This nylon muzzle is super affordable and doesn’t leave any marks or scratches.
Is it necessary to get muzzles for small dogs?
All dogs have the potential to bite, and while smaller dogs generally conduct less damage, a dog bite is still a dog bite. Furthermore, any harm your small dog causes would still be your legal responsibility. Our list of muzzle uses above apply to little dogs as much as large ones, and thankfully many muzzle manufacturers accommodate their smaller heads and faces. If you’re struggling to find muzzles for small dogs, the Dean & Tyler wire basket muzzle and nylon styles are a great starting point.
Using a muzzle for barking dogs
It is not recommended that anyone use a muzzle for their barking dogs. Muzzles that prevent a dog from barking would have to keep the dog’s mouth closed. While this can be appropriate in some rare circumstances (for short periods), it is not a solution by any means. As with most dog behaviour problems, barking is often a result of boredom or stress (including fear and anxiety). Contact a professional trainer or behaviourist about a problem barker to you help uncover what the root of the problem is, and find a more comprehensive solution.
Whether you’re looking at aggression, fear, dodgy eating habits or just training for the sake of training, getting a muzzle for your pet could be one of the smartest decisions you make as a dog owner (training them to accept it is, of course, the next step). The peace of mind is entirely worth it, and your dog gets to enjoy new experiences instead of being left behind, or forced into situations where he could hurt himself. Let us hear your stories, do you think ‘muzzle’ a dirty word?