Putting a muzzle on a dog can create some controversy. We are here to tell you that muzzles are not a bad thing, they do not make your dog a “bad dog” for needing one. They can be used for multiple reasons, and not just to prevent biting. They are a safety measure that ensures people and dogs stay safe. There are different kinds of muzzles. We are going to explain the different kinds and why we use them.
Let’s start with a basket muzzle. This particular muzzle is a good one to use if you have a dog that notoriously eats non-food items. It does not fit snugly on a dog’s snout, so they are able to open their mouth, just not enough to ingest anything. We have clients that understand that their dog is fearful at the vet and they come in with a muzzle already on! One particular dog comes in wearing his basket muzzle because he had an incident at home and his owners are taking every precaution to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Also, our hospital manager had her dog wear a basket muzzle around her house while introducing a new cat. She did not want the dog to hurt the cat while they were getting to know each other. The dog didn’t mind at all, and was even able to drink from his water bowl while wearing the basket muzzle.
Basket muzzles can also be used in training for behavior modification. A trainer can use this muzzle and slip treats in it as rewards. This is not a quick fix for bad behavior, and owners should work with a professional trainer to get advice and tips to modify any unwanted behavior.
The most common muzzle we use in hospital is a nylon muzzle. It goes over the dog’s snout, leaving the nostrils open, they’re able to open their mouth slightly and it clips in the back of the head. If a dog gives us a warning growl during their exam, that will usually warrant a muzzle. We have to keep in mind that a dog is an animal, and animals can bite when they experience fear or anxiety. By muzzling them, we are preventing a possible bite from happening. One reason being: once a dog bites a person and breaks skin, there is a rabies quarantine period (10 days for dogs up to date on their rabies vaccine, 60 days if they are not up to date), followed by a 10-day post-bite visit to the vet. No one wants to have to bring their fearful dog back to the vet so soon!
We also have a muzzle for brachiocephalic dogs, or dogs with “smushed” faces, such as pugs, French bulldogs and Boston terriers. This muzzle fits their face without covering their nose out. It fits their small, round heads well. The picture below is not the best, but that’s because we didn’t have a great model for it.
Again, we muzzle for protection, not because the doctors and techs are afraid of your dog. We’re not shaming your dog or trying to make you feel bad. Seeing a person get bit by a pet is not only sad for both the person that received the bite but also for the dog. Most bites happen due to fear. We work very hard to try to keep stress at a minimum for these pets. We will do whatever it takes to make a dog comfortable. We don’t ever want our clients to feel sad or angry when a muzzle is needed. Unfortunately, we have seen dogs bite their owners while here because they are so fearful. If you are here for an appointment, and your dog requires a muzzle, remember: it’s not a bad thing. And ask questions. We are happy to discuss why it’s necessary.