We started to look into muzzles after Mia was attacked a few times by off-leash dogs within a few weeks and started to develop a fear-based dog reactivity. While we joined training classes, met with behaviorists, and started working on the problem, it became clear that muzzle training is probably a good idea, since there are too many off-leash dogs around us whose owners cannot call their dogs back when we ask them to do so. While we know that Mia's reaction was reasonable from her perspective based on her previous experiences, it doesn't change the fact that it is our responsibility to keep other dogs safe while she will understand again that there is no need to freak out if an unknown dog runs up to her.
You would think finding the right harness is hard, but believe me, finding the correct muzzle is even harder! After trying a few different types and brands, we realized that we should also start writing about our experiences with different muzzles because so many people struggle with finding the right one and understanding the differences between them.
Muzzles can be used for a wide variety of reasons.
There are dogs eating rocks while out walking and end up in surgery to remove them. Some dogs play too rough with others. Some dogs get scared easily and will redirect the aggression to whatever is closest to them.
Some owners want to muzzle train their dogs in case an emergency happens, and they have to rush to the vet with a painful injury that could make any dog bite. It can help reduce the stress of an injured dog if they are already familiar with the muzzle, and the vet is not the first time they have to wear one. Muzzle training can also come handy if you have to clean and bandage a cut or broken nail, which will be a lot easier without the dog “helping” in the process. It's also great to prevent the dog from immediately licking off a creme that you had to apply for whatever reason.
Mia is much better behavior-wise nowadays, but we still use the muzzle in high-stress situations where we can't avoid other dogs, or on playdates with known dogs just to be sure she is making the right choices. In general, having the muzzle helps us feel more comfortable since we don't have to worry about an accident. This also allows Mia to stay calm while she can keep having positive experiences around dogs.
…is the people around us who either think muzzling a dog is cruel and ruins their life, or assumes she is a vicious and untrained dog whose owner failed and we shouldn't have dogs. We faced these stigmas almost every day. This is especially sad because many dogs around us should wear a muzzle to ensure everyone is safe around them in every situation. Still, their owners are not considering this due to the same misconceptions.
Since we moved to a city, it became clear that people don't know what to do and not do around muzzled dogs. Some try to bring their dogs over to say hi despite the muzzle, the “No Dogs” text on Mia, and me trying to avoid them actively. Others make negative comments on using a muzzle, and stop to advise without context. All these put unnecessary stress on our walks and makes it hard to enjoy our time outside.
The muzzle is a great tool to protect the dog from eating up things, and also to protect others while the dog is in training. There are two keys to muzzling: it has to be correctly fitted, and the owner has to take the time to introduce the muzzle to the dog slowly. If both are true, dogs don't feel restricted in the muzzle and don't mind wearing it.
Many think dogs hate muzzles because they put one on their dog once, and they hated it. The truth is that it's not something that you can snap on the dog and expect them to go back playing happily, it is a process to get them used to it with lots of treats and patience. At the end of the training, most dogs gladly put their nose in the muzzle when you hold it up, expecting something fun to happen.
What does a puppy do when you put the collar and the leash on them for the first time? They will hate it and try to get rid of it. For some reason, we don't think that's cruel. We accept that it is a necessity. We know that they will get used to it once they associate it with going for walks and having fun. Muzzle training isn't different from the dog's perspective and is necessary for many of them the same way. In a properly fitted muzzle, they can drink, pant, sniff, play, and get used to it faster than you would think.
To summarize, muzzling is not cruel. Muzzling is a way to provide the best life and exercise for many dogs who would not be able to enjoy their times out otherwise safely. Seeing someone with a muzzled dog doesn't mean they failed to train the dog, or that their dog is vicious. It only means that they are being responsible for knowing the limitation of their dog.
Due to all these misconceptions, we put together a poster to reach as many people as possible. We believe that most of the judgment coming towards us when we walk Mia with the muzzle is coming from not understanding the topic, and this can only be changed if we talk and post about it.
We hope that raising awareness for muzzled dogs can make other people understand and accept them, which would make everyone's life easier.
Since many of you asked about it, you can now download the poster in higher quality from this link. Feel free to use and share it with giving credits to Dog Gear Review (you can also tag us on Instagram and Facebook with @doggearreview).
You can check out the reviews of the muzzles in this post by clicking on the “Muzzle” filter on our Review page.