Title: Reasons for, and conditioning a dog to use a muzzle
Author: Melvyn Greenberg
Date: 2009/12/02

If one travels through most parts of Europe, from west to east, often a dog is encountered on a walk fitted with a muzzle. The dog may not have been a problem in society but the laws of the countries have stipulated the duty pet owners have towards the community if they wish to own or parade their pet dogs in public. Dog owners do not want to risk the penalty of having to euthanase their companion animal because of a provoked or unprovoked attack on a human. Dogs wear the muzzles with complete acceptance. The muzzle is nothing more than an accessory as a collar or leash would be. A muzzle is not applied nearly enough in South Africa where dog attacks are very high – attacks on people and pets.

Long thought to be a sign of a “bad dog’ muzzles should be more commonly used today on ordinary pet dogs as a reflection of proactive management by a responsible owner. Many people have not given a thought to introducing a muzzle to their precious pets. Many people regard it as barbaric without having a clue as to the practicality and positive effects. A muzzled dog is similar to horse with a twitch – under control! In reality, it would behoove most dog owners to consider acquiring a muzzle and familiarizing their dogs to it before they are ever placed in a situation of having to use one.

Most people would ask “why get a muzzle”?
Some dogs will bite when handled by strangers. A visit to a veterinarian may instill a variety of fears – some unknown, others negative associations. Although most veterinarians accept dog bites as an occupational hazard, a precedent has been set in South Africa where a veterinarian sued a client, and won the case, for being bitten in the face. If any dog owner refuses to allow a veterinarian to safely restrain any pet that may be new to the handlers, strange in behaviour, unpredictable or historically dangerous, the professional may refuse treatment or hold the owner liable for any injuries. A muzzle will defuse all tensions, including the canine patient. It needs to be understood that a muzzle has been designed to fulfill an important function - it has been tried and tested all over the world and proved to be safe! Brachycephalic breeds e.g Pug, Pekingese, Bulldog etc. cannot be muzzled.

Irrespective of the dog’s known temperament, in the event of an emergency when a pet dog is in pain and shock, it can bite. A muzzle can be a lifesaver if the dog has a critical injury and requires urgent veterinary attention. Chances are good that the emergency vet staff might want to muzzle the dog so that a rapid and accurate examination can be done with safety. Any dog involved in a roadside accident will never be approached closely, picked up or handled without biting. Some dogs may allow contact up to a certain point when something strange happens to it e.g. a person touching a broken leg, holding a bruised chest, the confused traumatized dog associating the kind helping human as the cause of the pain etc.

Muzzling a dog during grooming at any parlour allows the groomer to pay more attention to the style and getting it right rather than worrying if the pet is going to maul you. It is impossible to groom a struggling dog. It allows the groomer to get closer and offer a better service without hurting the dog with instruments. It is a much preferred alternative to sedation by a veterinarian.

A muzzle may be applied to discourage a dog from picking up, chewing, eating and ingesting foreign objects. Better supervision, management and training are the ideal methods of dealing with a dog obsessed with picking up inappropriate items.
A muzzle can provide an insurance policy in certain strange situations. As an example, in the case of a dog that has killed cats, being consider4ed by a potential adopter who already owns a small pet dog, a muzzle could be used to ensure safety of the little one during a carefully orchestrated “meet and greet”. Some trainers and animal behaviourists utilize a muzzle on a canine-aggressive dog for meeting other animals, but only after significant obedience training and behaviour modification of pet and owner has progressed to the level that interaction might be worth a try.
A dog found to be vicious towards humans where the concerned owner is seeking the professional assistance of a behaviourist, the use of a muzzle may be a prerequisite during the consultation. In veterinary behaviour departments of some American universities have a policy of “aggressive dogs that come to the behaviour service and present a risk of injuring hospital personnel, other clients or other patients are required to wear a basket muzzle”.

There are a variety of muzzle designs – some are made of soft leather, cloth, canvas or nylon. The firmer versions may be a mesh basl
ket or Perspex case (with many perforations) fitted with leather straps around the back of the dog’s head. People need to practice the correct use of this protective accessory. Dog owners need to be instructed on how to correctly and firmly fit the muzzle, which allows the dog to pant, bark, drink and take treats offered through apertures in the muzzle. People need to be educated in the manner of training their pet to readily accept the muzzle.


Behaviour Tip

When a dog is presented for behaviour problems to a veterinary ethologist or accredited animal behaviourist it will usually have multiple disorders...

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