dog bites

Should my dog wear a muzzle?

Should my dog wear a muzzle? I’m worried that people will think my dog is aggressive and I’m a bad dog-owner! Find out here how to teach your dog to love wearing a muzzle | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #dogmuzzle, #dogmuzzletraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

This is a question I get a lot. And it usually comes from people who really, deep down, know the answer. They just can’t bring themselves to take this step.

So first off - if your dog has bitten anyone or anything, or you fear he may bite - have sense and muzzle-train him. This is not only for safety, but also for the health of your heart-rate and possibly your bank balance, if things go badly wrong.

There are many useful occasions for a muzzle - a vet or groomer visit for an anxious dog is one. Far better for your dog to be used to his muzzle and arrive already wearing it, rather than be man-handled by staff putting a strange one on him. 

Then there’s the slug-muncher and stone-eater - and harvesters of other unmentionable stuff that some dogs take a fancy to! Rather than try and catch him and nag the whole time, just prevent it.

If you don’t want something to happen, don’t let it happen

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Some dogs can cope with people outside the house, but visitors inside the house terrify him. Give yourself and your dog a break by muzzling him before your guests arrive. Once you relax a bit because you know your friends and family aren’t going to be shredded and spat out on the carpet, your dog will have a better chance of relaxing too. Of course the dog must be happy to be there - not just forced in on the basis that he’s no longer dangerous!


But people will think my dog is nasty!

Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. (Maybe they do already.) If they’re strangers, do you really care? And if they’re friends, you can explain to them. 

One surefire thing about a muzzle is that it tends to keep people away - which is just what you want! They think your dog must be dangerous and therefore move their dogs and children aside, as well as themselves. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that your dog is actually the safest of all now! But this is a good outcome. Your anxious dog doesn’t need people/children/dogs in her face.

If you feel anxious yourself about muzzling your dog, think how you’ll feel if you relax your vigilance for a moment and your dog bites someone! Would that be worse? Definitely. Bite the bullet and just do it.


What sort of muzzle should I get?

There’s quite a variety of muzzles available. 

• Cloth muzzle: this is the sort that vets may put on a dog for a few moments while they treat her. It should never be on for long - or be put on an unsupervised dog - as it prevents the dog from panting or drinking, and is therefore dangerous. It’s also not advised for brachycephalic dogs (squashed-nose dogs, so popular at the moment) as they already struggle to breathe and these cloth muzzles have proved fatal in some cases for these dogs. So on no account get this one!

• Basket muzzle: what you need is a basket muzzle that allows your dog to open her mouth fully, to eat, drink, pant, and not feel constrained. But these vary hugely, and you need to get the right one for your dog.

Should I muzzle my dog? I’m worried that people will think my dog is aggressive and I’m a bad dog-owner! Find out here how to teach your dog to love wearing a muzzle | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #dogmuzzle, #dogmuzzletraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

• Baskerville muzzles: perhaps the commonest. They don’t allow full opening of the mouth. The inability to pant could have serious consequences for a dog who needs to lower her body temperature. 

• Baskerville Ultra muzzle: is often the go-to muzzle as it’s widely available. But this doesn’t mean it’s the right one for your dog! They have an optional head-strap which can be useful for keeping the thing on, but they are really designed for brachycephalic dogs and are too short for longer-nosed dogs. See Lacy in hers. She hated it - you can see that in the photo. Any larger and it would have fallen off her face. 

 • Leather custom-made colourful muzzles: very expensive and they look pretty constricting to me. It looks hard to get treats in at the right moment (essential if you’re working on counterconditioning an anxious or fearful dog). But I know some people like them.

• Racing greyhound muzzle: my favourite, and the one Lacy is wearing in the other pictures. Made to measure, available in loads of colours, incredibly lightweight, it allows full opening of the mouth for even a gasping racing dog, treats are easy to administer, and most important - Lacy is very happy to wear it. She comes forward and puts her face in, as opposed to running and hiding as she did when she saw the Baskerville Ultra.

Bottom line: your dog should find the muzzle comfortable, it should be easy to slip on, secure, and allow your dog to drink, pant, eat treats, and possibly play.


Muzzles are ugly

They don’t need to be! You can decorate your dog’s muzzle any way you like. You can see I “girlified” Lacy’s black muzzle, and I’ve added a little fleece to the top of her pink racing muzzle in case it chafed. It never did, but I felt it was kinder to cushion it as sometimes she will be wearing it for a couple of hours at a time. 

You can use paint, stickers, ribbons, sparkly stuff (make sure it can’t flake into your dog’s eyes or nose) - anything that shows that your dog is loved.

 

I tried a muzzle once and my dog hated it and kept scrabbling at her face!

Wouldn’t you? If someone slapped a cage on your face without asking? 

Just as with any bit of dog gear - harness, collar, coat - you have to acclimatise your dog to this slowly. The idea is to associate the new thing with a steady flow of treats until your dog can’t wait to put her nose in! 

Start by treating her for just looking at it; then for sniffing it, then for touching it with her nose … and so on. Those three steps alone may take you three days or more! Go at your dog’s speed, don’t try to rush. 

The key is that your dog should always have the choice to move forward to interact with the muzzle. You’re not grabbing her and whamming it on!

There is an excellent how-to video in the Resources below. Do watch it then work through it step-by-step. Once you’re at the stage of putting the muzzle on before a walk, your dog will associate it with treats and a walk. 

This is the perfect ending - as long as your dog likes walks! If not, then have a look at some of the other Growly Dog posts here.


There is no stigma in being a responsible dog-owner!

Your muzzled dog will be able to enjoy group walks again! Find out here how to teach your dog to love wearing a muzzle | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #dogmuzzle, #dogmuzzletraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Don’t think you are appearing a bad owner if your dog is wearing a muzzle! You are being a responsible owner! You are acknowledging that your dog has difficulties in certain areas of her life and you are aiming for the best possible outcome. Never be ashamed of this. 

Muzzling your dog may allow him valuable off-lead time. This does depend on the level of his anxiety and the amount of behaviour modification training you’ve put in place. You must always think safety first. 

As you can see in the photo, a group walk can be made possible for a muzzle-trained dog. Ensure your dog is happy with the space between her and the other dogs so she doesn't feel trapped.

And it doesn’t mean the end of fun for your dog! I know dogs who wear the same muzzle as Lacy who can still play with their beloved toys as they can press down on the ground and get a grip on its “handle”. So a ball on a rope is the ideal solution for the toy-mad dog who needs to wear a muzzle.

Store your dog’s muzzle in a prominent place near your leads and harnesses. Put it on your dog proudly! Be glad of how much relief it brings you. And know you’re doing the right thing.

 

 

Resources

Muzzleupproject
Teach your dog to wear a muzzle with Chirag Patel
Racing muzzles
Doglaw - excellent dog-specific legal advice for the UK

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How Can Your Family Dog Teach Your Children Empathy?

Can your dog teach your children empathy? Oh yes! And so easily. Plenty of ideas and resources in this post | FREE EMAIL COURSE | Dog training, new puppy, puppy training, dogs and children | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

“You have to share.” 

This is a concept we all want our children to learn. Preferably before they become known as the mean kid at playschool. 

Nagging your child whenever he has something - but wants to keep it to himself - is not the way we want to interact with our family. Being told to share can push a reluctant sharer the wrong way and increase his feelings that his possessions are being threatened.

And it can backfire. Witness toddler Connor who wanted a taste of his mother’s glass of wine. When told no, he gathered up all the authority a 2-year-old can muster and said, “You have to share.”

So, to dodge this particular minefield, how about bringing in a helper who will teach your child the joy of sharing without any pressure - or even parental input?

Your Family Dog!

There she is, waiting in the wings, always happy to oblige with a bit of company.

Careful introductions

You have doubtless put plenty of effort into ensuring that child and dog got off to a good start - starting early in pregnancy acclimatising your dog to baby gear, sounds, smells (see Resources below for help with this). 

Puppies and children need no-pressure interactions from the start. Plenty of ideas and resources in this post | FREE EMAIL COURSE | Dog training, new puppy, puppy training, dogs and children | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Exposure to each other should be limited and always actively supervised. The child should never be allowed to badger the dog, and - of course - you never leave any child alone with any dog, not even for a moment, not even while you answer the phone. Always take one of them with you.

You’ll need to teach the dog a default  Leave it - check out the step-by-step book here - so that boundaries (toys, food, beds) are clear and there's no confusion. And your baby will need to learn the same trick! It’s part of learning respect for others and their space and things. 

Oh, and no cutesy pictures of the baby crawling on or hugging the dog please! A little study of Dog Body Language will show you how close many of these babes you see on the internet are to a bite.

Toddlers and older children

So, having carefully worked through all that, the pay-off is that your small child should already have a firm relationship with your dog, enjoying the fun she brings to play, and the comfort of a soft, fluffy friend to commune with when in need of company or reassurance.

You can encourage your child to include the dog in his plans. You can encourage him to think of her needs. 

Puppies and children are a mix made in heaven. But things could go badly wrong! Check out the ideas and resources in this post | FREE EMAIL COURSE | Dog training, new puppy, puppy training, dogs and children, dog biting child | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior, #dogbiteschild | www.brilliantfamilydog.com
  • “What’s Maisie having for dinner?” Your child can help prepare her something he knows she likes, and learn to see to her needs before he gets his own supper.

  • “Where’s Maisie going to sit?” you may ask when being shown a splendid “treehouse” in the hedge. This is probably just a muddy hole with some branches over it - but it’s an important construction! And there may well be a place for your dog built in to the plan already.

  • “Shall we bring Maisie?” You can discuss how Maisie may feel about the proposed outing, and whether she’d be happier coming or staying at home.

  • “Do you think Maisie would like to be left alone to sleep now?” Oh how important this one is! Maisie has a right to her own privacy, and will need to sleep at least as much as your baby does. You can juggle the waking and sleeping times so that there are only very few times when both are active and need that constant supervision from you. An under-rested dog is just the same as a fractious overtired toddler - she can’t cope when she needs to be asleep and is being poked and prodded. Don’t test your dog’s patience!

Spontaneous Sharing

Sharing his treehouse, his games, his excitement, his sadness - and sometimes the food he doesn’t want to eat, secretly dropped into Maisie’s waiting mouth below the table - will give your small child a way to express himself and his feelings without the complications of human interactions or sibling competition. 

If he doesn’t want to feature the dog in one of his games or imaginings right now, then she’ll be happy to doze in her bed till she’s needed. No offence taken.

He will learn the pleasure of sharing in a simple, natural way - without us having to keep telling him.

Putting the dog’s needs first, helping her with the things she can’t do herself, and appreciating the things she can do so much better than he can - having her find lost shoes, for instance - will teach your child empathy faster than any other way I know.

The Darlings in Peter Pan had Nana. You have your own nursemaid. Put her to work for you!

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