Does Your Dog Need a Muzzle?

I have four dogs, two small and two large.  None of them are vicious or aggressive, at least not in my opinion.  Lately I’ve seen some very cool looking custom painted muzzles, and I’d love to have one just for the cool factor.  I haven’t felt like I could justify the expense based on need, so I’ve been doing some research.   It turns out that there are lots of reasons to use a muzzle with most any dog.  This post summarized my research on the matter.

The first and most obvious reason for using muzzles is to protect other people from being bitten by the dog.  Along those lines, there are important legal requirements and implications to consider.  Some dog-bite laws are very strict. For example, in Seattletan muzzle trans, WA, if a dog bites or menaces more than one person, bites one person in a way that the person needs stitches, or bites more than one dog, that dog is deemed ‘dangerous’ and must be put to sleep or leave the Seattle.  Tennessee, where I live, is a “strict liability” state, which means the laws pertaining to dog bites create civil liability for the owner of a dog who attacks a victim if the animal was not under “reasonable control” or was “running at large.”  There are several exceptions to these laws, including exceptions for military and police dogs who injure a person while in the scope of official duties, dogs that are adequately confined on the owner’s property, and dogs that bite as a result of being provoked by the bite victim. These laws vary widely from state to state and city to city, so it’s best to check your state and local laws that pertain to dog bites.  Keeping dogs on your property can also have an impact on your homeowner’s insurance policy.  Some insurers won’t provide coverage at all for homes with certain breeds.  It’s always wise to check with your insurance company about such things to ensure you’ll be covered should the need arise.

Another important consideration is the safety and well-being of the dog.  Some dogs tend to snap when having nails clipped, being brushed, or being vaccinated. A muzzle is a good idea with a dog who is likely to bite when being handled by a groomer or veterinarian.  This helps ensure the dog gets the full benefit of whatever handling is required.  A muzzle can also be used as a safety aid for a dog’s fear or aggression training program.  The muzzle allows the trainer and handler to be more confident and comfortable when working with a fearful or aggressive dog, which makes the training far more efficient and effective.

Police K-9 units use what are called “agitation muzzles” during times when aggression is being encouraged–as in the training of a police service dog. These muzzles are built stronger and can be worn for extended periods of time. They’re designed to allow the dog free movement of its mouth to allow barking and the bite reflex; they even allow the dog to drink water or eat training treats

Other good reasons to use a muzzle with your dog include:

  • As an alternative to an e-collar (a plastic cone that fits over the dog’s neck and head, also popularly called the “cone of shame”), a muzzle will stop a dog from chewing, licking, or otherwise irritating her allergic skin or a healing wound. But unlike the e-collar, a muzzle won’t catch on doorways and furniture, and will also allow the dog to sleep more comfortably than is possible with an e-collar.
  • Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety are prone to destructive chewing and ingestion of inedible materials. A muzzle can prevent much of this behavior and allow the owner to feel more comfortable when the dog must be left alone and unsupervised for short periods of time.  However, don’t use the muzzle in place of proper restraint (crates, kennels, etc)when the dog will be left alone for more than a few minutes.
  • When introducing a new dog into the family, a muzzle can make the process much easier and less traumatic for all involved.
  • If your dog doesn’t like kids but you must have children in your home, a muzzle will protect the child from a nervous bite.  Note that a muzzle should never be used as a substitute for proper supervision of the dog and the child.  The muzzle, in this situation, serves as a backup safety device.
  • If your dog dislikes strangers at first and needs time to get comfortable around them, a muzzle can provide your visitors comfort knowing they won’t be bitten.
  • A muzzle will stop your dog from eating foreign material it finds on the ground during walks and outdoor playtime..

If you’ve got questions, concerns or other comments, I’d love to hear them.  Feel free to contribute to the discussion via the comment area provided below.  And thanks for taking time to read this article.

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