Dog Gear Review traditionally tests hiking and canicross gear, so you might wonder how muzzles came in the picture. It started with Mia being attacked a few times by off-leash dogs, therefore, developing a fear-based dog reactivity. While we joined training groups, visited group and individual classes, met with behaviorists, it also became clear that muzzle training is probably a good idea since there are too many off-leash dogs around us.
I thought finding the right harness is hard, but I have to say, finding the right muzzle is even harder! After trying a few different types and brands, we realized that we should start writing about our experiences with muzzles as well because so many people struggle with the same.
Many people think muzzles are cruel without knowing much about it. Muzzles can be great tools while training the dog if it is properly fitted, and the owner took the time to introduce the muzzle to the dog slowly. If both of these are true, dogs don't feel restricted in the muzzle. They can drink, pant, sniff, and they get used to it faster than you would think.
We hope that raising awareness with the poster below can make other people understand and accept muzzled dogs. There can be many reasons to muzzle a dog, and different reasons require different types of muzzles.
(The muzzle on the poster is from Mayerzon that we will review soon.)
Reviewing muzzles is hard because every dog and every situation requires a slightly different solution. Something can be a pro for one dog and con for the other one. Even when we are talking about sizing, there are different opinions on how much room the dog should have in the muzzle. The only thing that everyone agrees on is that the dog should be able to pant to cool down while wearing it. However, what pant room means can generate great arguments. If you have a dog with a high-bite risk or are looking for an agitation muzzle, you are okay with a muzzle that provides enough room for a half-pant. We use muzzles for full-day hikes or canicross, in which case it is essential to have enough room for a full-pant in the muzzle.
The other tricky thing with sizing is that although there are great Facebook groups to help with fitting, different photos could make the muzzle look much bigger or smaller. If you look through the images in this review, it's hard to believe they show the same muzzle, so be careful to judge the size based on a few photos. ;)
Unfortunately, the Birdwell kennel muzzle only comes in two sizes, which are called medium and large. The one on Mia is their smaller size, the medium. This muzzle was created for greyhounds, so it would fit best on dogs with a longer snout.
As you see it on the photos, the muzzle is too long for Mia, but she uses all that room to pant; therefore, we don't mind it much. If your dog has a smaller head and the straps end up being too long, they can be cut with scissors to shorten it down, and an ice pick or nail can be used to punch extra holes as needed. Just make sure and heat the nail or icepick with a flame first, so it seals as it punches through. You can also do the same for the end you cut off to make sure the strap is protected.
These muzzles are made from a UV protected extruded plastic that is extremely strong and long-lasting. It is hard plastic, not flexible or soft like the Barkless muzzle that we reviewed previously, even harder than the Baskerville muzzle.
The muzzle comes in 8 colors, and you can pick from 11 colors for the straps! The headstall is made from plastic-coated nylon, which makes it super easy to clean. It is not padded like many other muzzles, but Mia hasn't had any issues with chafing.
Mia is usually sensitive to something rubbing on her nose, but this design worked well for her. For some reason, it did not hurt her snout even if we were out for a long hike, and she had it on all day. With most muzzles on, she usually starts struggling after an hour or so, but she did not try to get this off even when she was off-leash.
If, for some reason, your dog would not feel the same way, you can place a small piece of weather stripping or moleskin/sheepskin inside the top portion of the muzzle to add padding to this area.
Birdwell Enterprises also sells different accessories for the muzzles, like the matching collar on the photos or the Muzzle Keeper. This latter is designed to attach to the strap of the muzzle to secure it.
The downside of this type of muzzles is that the dog could quickly get the head strap over their head even if it's properly adjusted. With this type of muzzles, you want to have a second collar with a safety loop behind the ears to secure the muzzle. Having a security loop under the muzzle would keep the muzzle attached to the dog, but they could pull their nose out - especially a shorter-nosed dog. The under-head security loops work well for muzzles, which already have straps going around the head like a collar - like the Baskerville or the Barkless muzzles that we previously reviewed - but for the Birdwell muzzle, you want to secure the muzzle behind the ears.
An interesting accessory is the so-called Stool Guard. This plastic piece can be attached to the outside of the medium muzzle or to the inside of the large size to prevent the dog from picking up stuff they shouldn't eat while they are out walking or to add additional security for a high-bite risk dog. It might look a little stupid but well… it ain't stupid if it works! ;) The advantage of this solution is that the dog can still easily drink with the stool guard on if you give them a big enough bowl, and you are ready for the water to go everywhere when they lift their head.
The only downside of this solution is that there is no easy way to get it on and off - at least for the medium muzzle. You might be able to pop it in the large muzzle, but you have to use small zip ties for the medium that needs to be cut off if you don't want it on for a day.
We used this muzzle a lot because Mia was comfortable wearing it, and it is also reliable to stay on.
The only con is the time it takes to put it on the dog, especially if you also use the Muzzle Keeper. Another muzzle with a quick-release buckle is probably a more comfortable solution for a quick walk, but setting up the Birdwell muzzle worth the time for a longer walk/hike.
The most important thing for us is that the Birdwell muzzle did not rub Mia's snout or nose at all, and she can drink and take treats with it on while it is strong enough to prevent a bite. It is easy to clean since it doesn't have padded parts, therefore, it doesn't soak in the water or mud.
• Bite-proof factor: basket muzzles are generally not the best if a dog is high bite-risk, but the durable plastic provides as much safety as possible with the design. If your dog is a high-bite risk, you can also add the Stool Guard to the front.
• Prevent the dog from eating things from the ground: Even without the Stool Guard, it is harder to eat stuff from the ground because the muzzle is not flexible. If your dog is determined to eat things up, I would add the stool guard for sure.
• Safety collar loop: it doesn't have a safety loop on the muzzle, but they sell the Muzzle Keeper separately, which secures the muzzle behind the ears.
• Overhead security strap: it doesn't have one, but this was designed for longer nosed dogs, which would have a hard time getting it off - especially with the Muzzle Keeper. I tried to pull the muzzle off, but it was impossible.
You can buy the muzzle on Amazon or can reach out to Birdwell Enterprises through their website where they sell muzzle accessories and other products as well. Also, feel free to reach out to them if you are looking for a replacement part, they do sell them separately, so you don't have to buy a new muzzle!