When muzzles are marvelous

We are opposed to mandatory muzzle laws based on breed, but we do not oppose muzzles themselves. Muzzles can be an effective training and management tool. While some owners balk at using them because of the reaction of others, we support the efforts of groups like The Muzzle Up Project to remove stigma around the gear.

Muzzles should be properly fitted and of the “basket” variety to allow the dog to pant and drink. Some people feel that grooming/fabric muzzles are less intimidating but they are not meant for a walk – imagine having your jaw forced closed for more than a couple minutes at a time! There are also some fun conditioning exercises you can do with your pup to associate the muzzle with good things. Check out the Muzzle Up Project page and talk to a trainer if you think a muzzle might be a good tool for your training toolbox.

If you see a muzzled dog on the street, don’t be too quick to assume they are dangerous. Assume they have an owner who is brave and responsible enough to take steps to keep them safe. A dog might be wearing the muzzle because he eats dangerous things off the ground, because he is fearful of people/dogs/bikes, because he gets overly excitable and mouthy, because the handler can’t trust other people to provide a respectful berth of space, because of BSL, or because of many other reasons.

We recommend leaving a respectful amount of space in case the dog is reactive (as you should with any dog you don’t know), but try making friendly eye contact and smiling at the owner. If they respond and indicate that their dog is friendly, maybe they would even like to say hello. Take Jackson, pictured here. He adores people. Like really, really, REALLY adores people. He also has dog friends but if a strange dog rushes up to him uninvited, he panics and may feel the need to defend himself. In areas where this might happen (like the hallways in his condo), his mom elects to muzzle him. Neither of them mind the muzzle itself, but they get tired of the dirty looks, the avoidance, and comments ranging from “how can you have a dog like that?” to “that’s so cruel.”

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