Many owners put their dogs’ safety and their liability at risk because of the lack of education available on muzzle training and safety. One of the biggest safety risks? Ill-fitting, too-tight muzzles.
Choosing the wrong type of muzzle can lead to serious consequences. To quote Pat Miller in The Whole Dog Journal, “Generally, an awful lot is on the line when a dog needs to wear a muzzle. If the product fails to fit properly, injures the dog, or can’t prevent the dog from biting, it’s not only a waste of money – it may cost you a fortune.”
The bottom line: It’s our responsibility as dog owners and advocates to ensure our dogs are not only wearing the proper safety equipment, but are wearing that equipment safely.
When choosing the appropriate muzzle for your dog, ask yourself four critical questions:
1) Can your dog pant?
2) Can your dog eat?
3) Can your dog drink?
4) Is your dog comfortable?
Unfortunately, one type of muzzle fails to address all four questions: the grooming muzzle. These muzzles are tube-shaped and often made of vinyl or mesh fabric, and are not intended to be used for durations longer than 5-10 minutes. Because of the snug fit, dogs cannot pant or drink properly while wearing these them, and can potentially overheat. Also critical, the fabric design does not offer the same level of safety for dogs with a history of aggression as does a basket muzzle.
In order to protect yourself and your dog, Muzzle Up! recommends the following:
– Use basket muzzles, and ensure your dog’s jaws can open wide enough to pant while exercising.
– Check your dog for signs of chafing and discomfort.
– Inspect your dog’s muzzle regularly for signs of wear and sharp edges.
– Do not leave your dog on muzzle unattended.
– Each dog is different, and finding the right muzzle fit can be a challenge. Check the sizing guides provided by muzzle manufacturers and be sure check for fit and safety before using a new muzzle on your dog.
– Make sure your dog’s service providers (walkers, trainers, daycare employees, and groomers) are properly educated about muzzle safety and are using the proper equipment. Dogs should never wear cloth muzzles for long durations, and muzzles should never be used as punishment for unwanted behavior.
Find more information on muzzle safety on The Muzzle Up! Project’s web site.
– Maureen Backman, MS, CTC