Confused About Dog Muzzles? Here’s What They REALLY Mean!
You see a dog in a muzzle. What do you do?
- Move to the other side of the road/sidewalk
- Assume the dog is mean
- Think the owner is bad for doing that to their dog
- Nod at the owner in appreciation for making you and their dog comfortable
Most of you picked A, B, or C, right? Don’t feel bad! None of the answers were wrong, but the first three do show an unfair representation of dog muzzles and owners who choose to use them. Not every dog who wears a muzzle is viscous! Some owners feel the need to put their dogs in muzzles for completely unrelated reasons to biting. Today, we’re going to tackle some of those reasons and undo some of the myths surrounding dog muzzles. .
Are Muzzles Cruel to Dogs?
Muzzles can be a sign of cruelty, but it’s all about how the owner is using them and how the dog reacts to them. While they most certainly can be and are used to restrain terrified dogs or ones that are prone to aggressive behavior, they are (thankfully) not used that way by the average dog owner.
Dogs can be trained to be very happy with their muzzles. It’s not different from training them to like their leash, harness or collar, or doggy sweaters! All you need to do is give them a ton of positive reinforcement so they understand that the muzzle is a good thing for them.
However, there is a huge stigma attached to dog muzzles that they are both cruel, and used on cruel dogs. Unpacking that unfortunate stigma is something dog owners face every single day.
So, Why Use a Dog Muzzle?
The truth of it is simple: all dogs can bite. They don’t have to be mean or bad dogs – some dogs are simply more reactive than others or skittish in certain situations. They can be used as training techniques to protect the dogs and others around them until the dog is comfortable with these triggering situations.
For example, a shelter dog may not like being around other dogs, but loves walks. You can’t predict you or what you’ll run into on a walk, so a muzzle may be a good alternative until they’re properly socialized.
Another example would be at a vet! It’s not uncommon for dogs to hate their vet – they don’t bit out of meanness, they bite because vets poke, prod, and hurt them! It’s a scary experience and dogs often can’t protect themselves any other way. This does not make them a bad dog! It just means they’re unhappy and uncomfortable, which is completely understandable. Your vet will totally understand if your dog has a muzzle on and it may even make the appointment less stressful for you dog. No bite risk = faster appointment, after all!
Finally, a muzzle is a good way to introduce dogs to new situations or animals, especially if your dog is prone to stress and anxiety, or has a tendency to hunt animals when left alone. It keeps them safe, while protecting everyone and everything else around them. For example, (and this may seem unbelievable, but we promise it is 100% true), one of our employee’s relatives has a pug who likes to go after pigeons. He’s gained quite a reputation in the office as a bird killer! If your dog has the same tendency and it is hurting their health (if they eat the bird, the bones can do some serious damage!), then a muzzle may be a good short-term solution.
Will People Assume My Dog is Mean if They Wear a Muzzle?
Unfortunately, yes. However, this is just one of the stigmas that dog owners have to work at undoing. It’s the same for undoing the negativity around pit bulls, or thinking Golden Retrievers can be around kids without any training because they’re “naturally good dogs.”
Rest assured though, professionals will not judge you. Vets and trainers will likely think you’re doing yourself and your dog a favor for using a muzzle – especially if you’re actively working on stopping the muzzle-causing behaviors.
There are some things you can do to help make your dog seem more approachable – if you want that. You can decorate their muzzle, make it more pretty and appealing instead of a metal cage or leather bands. Some companies, like Bumas, will even custom-design a muzzle in whatever colors you choose – which helps tremendously, if you’re nervous about the Hannibal Lecter look.
So What’s The Bottom Line?
Muzzles look scary. We get it! Just know that protecting your dog is more important than making them look cute. The public may be more fearful for you pup, but as long as you love them, who cares?
On top of that, when used right, muzzles are not cruel. Muzzles don’t have to be scary or unpleasant for your dog, and they can be incredibly helpful in a variety of different situations. So embrace them, when they’re needed!