Whether muzzles stop dogs from being aggressive is something many dog owners may be wondering about.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if just by wearing a muzzle, dogs could magically transform into calm and peaceful beings just like a baby sucking on a pacifier goes from crying to sleeping?
However, things don't work this way. Just because your dog can't bite doesn't make him less aggressive, a bit safer yes, but not less aggressive. You shouldn't therefore fall into the trap of just putting the muzzle on your dog and thinking all is fine.
Pros of Using Muzzles for Aggressive Dogs
If you want to minimize the chances for your aggressive dog to bite anyone, you should consider using a muzzle.
While muzzles are not a cure-all for aggression, they are useful for preventing bites to people or other dogs. That's after all the main goal of a good muzzle!
A good muzzle works by preventing the dog from opening the mouth and therefore it helps prevent bites. However, dogs still need to be able to open the mouth enough to pant as needed, but without being able to bite.
As much as a muzzle preventing a dog from biting feels reassuring, consider that, a muzzle can be pawed off or it may it break. On top of this, a dog may be still be capable of causing injury even when wearing a muzzle. For instance think about a child inserting a finger inside a basket muzzle.
If your dog is aggressive, a muzzle is therefore just a part of a good management plan.
On top of using a muzzle, you also want to be proactive in preventing triggers and using behavior modification to help improve your dog's behavior.
Did you know? Greyhounds often wear muzzles when racing. Can you guess why? Discover it here: why do greyhounds wear muzzles when racing?
What Muzzles are Good For Aggressive Dogs?
There are a variety of muzzles for dogs on the market nowadays, but not all are created equally. There are muzzles and muzzles.
For instance, did you know that many dogs wear muzzles to prevent them from eating things from the ground?
While the first type of muzzle that comes to mind when one thinks about aggressive dogs is basket muzzle, truth is, the big gaps risk not making them entirely bite-proof. Same goes with biothane muzzles which dogs can bite through.
If your dog is aggressive, you will therefore need to very carefully pick a muzzle that is labeled as being bite-proof. You cannot take any chances so it's best to invest on the higher quality muzzles purposely built for aggressive dogs.
Examples of bite-proof muzzles include wire basket muzzles from Dean and Tyler and some varieties of Jafco muzzles. Consider that children fingers can fit through gaps so you may need muzzles with no gaps (like muzzles with "stool guards") if your dog will be around children.
Important! Always inquire with the manufacturing company to make sure that a muzzle is truly bite-proof before purchasing. Don't just trust what you read online or what people tell you!
Get Your Dog Used to a Muzzle
Ideally, you want to have a dog muzzle-trained before you really need your dog to wear a muzzle badly. Every dog owner should therefore start muzzle training their dogs from early puppyhood so that, when the need comes, their dogs are already OK wearing it.
Muzzle training takes some time as you want to build a strong positive conditioned emotional response to wearing it to the point of your dog being eager to having it put on.
You can start with some easy exercises and depending on the type used, even feeding your dog through the muzzle as if the muzzle was a bowl.
Here is a guide on muzzle training dogs: how to train a dog to wear a muzzle. Even through you'll see a nylon muzzle in the video, you can use the similar methods with other types of muzzles. The goal is creating positive associations.
Should You Use a Muzzle On Your Dog When Around a Baby or Toddler?
A muzzle can be used as an extra layer of protection, but it you're putting on a muzzle so that the baby can pull on the dog's tail and smack his face so your dog can't react by biting, that is a big no-no.
Dogs shouldn't be expected to put up with everything the baby does without wincing or reacting. Rather, it's the other way around, the baby needs to learn how to behave properly when around a dog!
The child can therefore be held by the parents who can show him or her how to gently pet the muzzled dog, while the dog receives tasty treats.
Keeping these sessions short and positive can help keep things pleasant and upbeat without overwhelming the dog.
If the baby/toddler starts being rough, remove the baby/toddler from the dog before the dog feels overwhelmed.
When these petting sessions are over, then the dog should be kept at a distance from the baby/toddler in his own quiet space that the baby/toddler doesn’t have access to.
It must be made clear to the dog that great things happen contingent upon the toddler being around. Have a force-free behavior professional show you how to correctly implement the exercises for safety and correct implementation.
Prevent Rehearsal of Problematic Behaviors
Putting a muzzle on an aggressive dog without working on the underlying issue is looking for trouble.
Even though your dog can't bite, he will still be emotionally charged and he may get to rehearse reactive/aggressive behaviors such as growling, snarling and lunging.
The more dogs get to rehearse these problematic behaviors, the more they put roots and become habit-forming. On top of this, when dogs rehearse reactive/aggressive behaviors stress hormones circulate around the dog's body.
Therefore, it's important to avoid any situations that may cause your dog to react negatively. This is known as "management."
Management basically entails not putting your dog into situations that evoke reactive behaviors and its associated negative emotions. It helps prevent your dog's behavior from getting worse.
Intrigued? Read more about the importance of preventing rehearsal of problem behaviors in dogs.
Changing Your Dog's Emotions
While management helps prevent reactive behaviors, your ultimate goal should be to work on your dog's underlying emotional response so to positively change it.
This can be done through behavior modification such as by using behavior modification methods based on desensitization and counterconditioning.
The Bottom Line
A muzzle can be helpful when your dog is aggressive and fearful. While muzzles may provide you with peace of mind, it's important to consider that they cannot fix the underlying problem that causes your dog to be aggressive.
Your ultimate goal should therefore be to use a muzzle for safety, while having a dog trainer or behaviorist help your dog learn how to cope with his triggers and change his or her underlying emotions about them.