Are your dog walks a stressful affair? Do you find yourself anxious before you even leave the house, gripping on to the lead with all your might, and hoping to dear dog you won’t bump into any people or dogs?
This is the life of an anxious or reactive dog owner - we know it very well here at My Anxious Dog.
Our community of over 10,000 anxious dog owners have discussed muzzles a lot over the years so we thought it would be helpful to share their experiences with you.
If you’re mulling over whether to muzzle or not to muzzle - this blog should help you immensely.
Benefits of muzzles for anxious and reactive dogs
Dogs wear muzzles for a variety of reasons, they’re not just for dogs who are a bite risk. Our community of over 10,000 dog owners shared some of the reasons and benefits they enjoy thanks to choosing to muzzle their dogs.
- It keeps my dog safe
- Prevents my dog from being able to bite or nip anyone
- Relieves worry about my dog being put in a position to bite and being destroyed
- Visual deterrent to people to give us space (and keep their dogs away)
- Made counterconditioning training possible in closer proximity to dogs and people
- Protects my dog from out of control off lead dogs or people who come to close
- Makes vet visits safer for everyone
- Keeps visitors safe until our dog is comfortable with them (we use a lead too)
- Helps me feel calmer on walks
- Stops scavenging and eating things they shouldn’t
- Allows safe nail trimming and grooming
In addition to the reasons and benefits shared by our community, dogs may also wear muzzles due to:
- Breed specific legislation
- Overexcited dogs who play inappropriately at times
- Dogs with high prey drive who may injure wildlife
Here's what just one of many of our anxious dog community had to say about muzzling her dog. She was far from alone in this sentiment!
More Freedom. Less Stress.
There used to be a big stigma around dogs wearing muzzles, but I’m delighted to say that this is changing. Much like how awareness for #dogsinyellow has grown, understanding around the benefits and many reasons that dogs wear muzzles is growing too.
Muzzles aren’t cruel, quite the opposite. A muzzle when properly introduced can be a wholly positive experience for both you and your dog.
When you know that your dog can’t bite anybody or eat anything they shouldn’t, you are more relaxed. This feeds into your dog’s emotional state and in turn can help them to feel more relaxed too.
If you’re no longer worried about your dog being put in a position that may lead them to bite, you can enjoy more freedom together.
- For some people and dogs, that means off lead freedom which otherwise wouldn’t have been safe.
- For others it means freedom from being approached by people and dogs thanks to the visual deterrent a muzzle delivers.
- It might mean having visitors over without worrying what might happen.
The situation and freedoms will vary by dog, but the biggest benefit of muzzles is the freedom from stress and what if’s….. Particularly where other people and dogs are concerned - we can’t control their actions, but we can protect our dogs.
Why muzzle training is important
It’s really important to be patient and positive when introducing your dog to a muzzle. Don’t rush it: take your time and go at your dog's pace.
If time spent being around a muzzle and eventually putting their snout into the muzzle is a positive experience, in time your dog will associate the muzzle with happiness!
I muzzle trained my dog Bella using squeezy cheese which made it a very exciting occasion for her. Whenever the muzzle comes out, so does the cheese - and this makes Bella very happy indeed. You can get your own squeezy reward dispenser here.
You can also use squeezy meat pate, baby food pouches, or small training treats to help you muzzle train your dog.
Here’s a short training game demonstrated by Niki French from PupTalk which is a brilliant way to start your muzzle training and make it fun for you and your dog.
Choosing a muzzle that allows your dog to take treats comfortably is really important. So, let’s explore how to choose a muzzle that fits well, is comfortable for your dog, and doesn’t impede their freedom.
Choosing the best dog muzzle
There are lots of different types of muzzle on the market for your dog. It’s really important to choose a muzzle that
- Fits well and doesn’t rub
- Allows your dog to pant
- Allows your dog to drink
- Enables your dog to take a treat
Wearing a muzzle shouldn’t stop your dog from doing normal dog things. Your dog should be able to run and pant, drink when thirsty, and eat treats through their muzzle (unless you’re using it to prevent scavenging).
Types of dog muzzle
The most common types of muzzles are fabric and baskerville/basket style muzzles.
Soft fabric muzzles are not recommended. They are restrictive and don’t allow your dog to drink, pant, eat, or express themselves. They’re what we’d call an aversive experience for your dog - and we want your dog to feel completely happy and comfortable in their muzzle.
Baskervilles are a basket style muzzle which when fitted correctly can allow your dog to do normal dog things like drink, eat and pant.
Dog behaviourist and founder of The Muzzle Movement advises that you pay particular attention to pant room when choosing a muzzle. She shared with us that “baskerville muzzles very rarely provide enough pant room.”
Getting the right muzzle size
As well as being able to drink, eat and pant - your dog should be comfortable wearing their muzzle so that it’s not a negative experience.
Choosing a muzzle that’s made from a material that doesn’t rub is important. You may also want it to be waterproof so your dog can enjoy time at the beach or in splashing in streams.
Finally, you want the muzzle to be a good comfortable fit that is secure yet not so tight it restricts natural movement.
The Muzzle Movement has a wonderful online shop packed with basket style muzzles and accessories. They’re doing an incredible job advocating for dogs who wear muzzles and offer a lot of educational content for owners too.
As well as having a fabulous size range for dogs of all shapes, sizes and snouts - they have a wide range of bright colours to choose from.
If you’re warming up to the idea of introducing your dog to a muzzle but need a little more inspiration to feel comfortable, I highly recommend giving The Muzzle Movement a follow on social media.
You can follow The Muzzle Movement on Facebook here or on Instagram here.
Other brands you may like to consider include The Muzzle Shop and Bumas.
For Bella, I have both a black and a yellow muzzle. In busy places, I always opt for the brighter colour muzzle because it’s more visible - which means people can spot it from a distance and know to give us space.
When paired with her #dogsinyellow gear, it’s very clear to people to keep their distance which makes our outings together far more relaxed for both of us.