MUZZLES: Much More than Aggression Tools

What is the first thing that pops into your head when you pass a dog wearing a muzzle?  Most people suspect a dangerous animal.  Contrary to popular belief, muzzles are not limited to aggressive behavior.  Pet owners are introducing muzzles to their dogs and cats for various reasons.  Below are a few scenarios for muzzle use.  Also included is information on different muzzles on the market.

SCENARIO ONE:  While at the groomer, your mild-mannered pup growls at the person combing a knot out of its fur. Unwilling to risk a dog bite, the groomer places a muzzle on your dog.  The experience of having his snout shoved into a muzzle is terrifying.  The dog that once pranced into the groomer now has an adverse reaction.  In addition, your dog is reactive to hands placed near his face.

Alternative solution:  A dog introduced to a muzzle in a calm environment will not panic should a groomer or veterinarian use a muzzle during an appointment.

Suggested Muzzles:

(1) Cloth or nylon dog muzzle.  They are lightweight and fit into your pocket or purse.  This type of muzzle is ideal for a visit to the vet or groomer; however, it is not intended for extended periods of time, dog training, walks or exercise. It is designed to hold the dog’s mouth closed which prevents panting and can lead a dog to overheat.

(2) Plastic basket muzzles are also beneficial for visits to the vet and groomer.  Unlike nylon muzzles, the dog can pant in this muzzle.  It does not limit airflow or the dog’s ability from drinking water. You can use it during walks and exercise.

SCENARIO TWO:  Due to an injury, surgery or medical condition, your dog must wear a cone. The cone is cutting into his neck, he has difficulty eating and every time he bumps into you, he scratches your skin.

Alternative Solution: You trade the cone for a muzzle.  A dog that is already desensitized to a muzzle heals without the discomfort of a foreign object tied around her neck and limiting her visibility.

Suggested Muzzle:  A wire basket muzzle – the airflow through a wire basket muzzle is excellent.  It does not obstruct the dog’s breathing and is designed to allow the dog to pant.  The dog can drink water with this muzzle affixed to his snout and she can enjoy hand feeding.

SCENARIO THREE:  Your dog is destructive.  He prefers couches, shoes and pillows to chew toys you have purchased for him.


Your dog eats rocks, sticks, mulch and flowers in your yard. The vet bill for surgical procedures to remove foreign objects from his intestines is draining your wallet. Not to mention the danger this behavior poses for your dog.

Alternative Solution:  A dog who is not crated, yet ingests foreign items should wear a muzzle.  Every intestinal blockage is dangerous.  Even if all walks are on leash, dogs have the ability to snatch something off the ground and swallow it before you react.

Suggested Muzzle: Wire basket muzzle. Aside from the aforementioned benefits, a wire basket muzzle can be worn for long periods.  There are two models: the first includes a strap that runs over the head and around the neck.  The second wraps only around the neck.

Wire basket muzzles are also beneficial for reactive dogs, aggressive dogs, to prevent dogfights and when introducing your dog to other animals.**

Other types of muzzles:

Leather basket muzzles:  Thick, stiff leather muzzles restrict airflow for the dog.  This type of muzzle is used for Police K9 training and is expensive.

Leather muzzles are also available in soft, pliable material.  Since this muzzle is soft, teeth are able to penetrate the leather, which can result in a bite.

Head Halters: this is recommended for transitioning dogs into a muzzle.  It is believed that when pressure is applied, the dog’s mouth will be forced shut. This is not always the case. Many users of the head halters leave themselves at risk for a dog bite.

There is a misconception that a Gentle Leader is a muzzle.  This is not true.  A Gentle Leader is a walking tool. It is designed to prevent pulling and keeping control of your dog on walks. It will not prevent a dog bite.

Measuring your dog for a basket muzzle (wire or plastic): measure length and circumference.

The muzzle should not be longer than the dog’s nose. Choosing a muzzle longer than the dog’s nose will affect his line of vision.

The circumference should be 1-3 inches wider than the nose circumference. This allows the dog’s mouth to open and close.

Fitting a Muzzle:  You should check the fit of the muzzle before every use. Place the muzzle on the dog, gently grasp the muzzle and slowly pull upward until the front feet are lifted one to two inches off the ground (the rear feet remain on the ground). If the muzzle does not slip off the dog’s face, it fits properly.

Troubleshooting:  Although rare, a muzzle can cause a blister to form on your dog’s snout.  Placing mole foam (also known moleskin) on the muzzle will solve this problem. Moleskin is available in drugstores and large chain stores.  It has a sticky side that affixes to the muzzle and is similar to the pads we use for blisters on our feet.

Next month we will share tips on desensitizing your dog or cat to a muzzle.

** Keep in mind that muzzles do not fix aggression problems.  Over time, an aggressive dog will discover alternate ways to exhibit aggressive behavior.  Our certified trainers at Sublime K9 Dog Training can assist you and your dog with behavioral problems that arise.  You can reach us at 631-241-6482.