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Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons?

Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 7:21 pm
by connie
The subject of muzzles came up this week, for two reasons:

One, Dee does not really know how to play, and when other dogs are playing she will break it up and be pretty snotty. She doesn't do that with the dogs in her family, she goes and gets her bunny bear (a stuffed toy) and chews on it and stays out of the Rowley/Beau/Alex rough-housing; but a week ago at Manners class she waded into a play session between Alex and Bertie (another Lapphund) and put Bertie down. I didn't like that, and what I liked even less was that the next time Alex saw Bertie, and Bertie invited him to play, ALEX put Bertie on the ground, borrowing Dee's bullying behavior even with Dee not there.

That's not going to happen again, I really don't like dogs who act like jerks, and when my dogs do it, I need to fix it. :cussing:

But, the muzzle: last weekend at the fields by the Ag HS, where people run off-leash dogs, we met a dog -- he was probably Lab/Pit mix, or predominantly so -- who was bopping around with a muzzle on. A nylon muzzle, not tight enough to interfere with his breathing or sniffing, but a muzzle. I said to his owner, a woman in her 40s, 'so, what's up with the muzzle?' and she replied, cheerfully, 'oh, he's been a jerk to a lot of dogs and I just don't take any chances anymore. People were starting to leave when they saw us here.' My dogs and I walked with her and her muzzled dog, and were joined by several other people and their dogs, for about half an hour. (Again, this is an off-leash group, an informal dog park.) The muzzled dog seemed to be having a good time: he did some posturing, but nothing more, and no other dog engaged with him beyond a casual greeting. Alex play-bowed to him and they ran a bit, but by and large the muzzled dog was just chilling with the pack of humans and dogs.

Now, I don't know what that dog did to earn himself a muzzle, but it started me thinking and wondering why muzzles seem to be out of favor now. I get that they might be a way to bypass behavior modification training, but what if they're just reasonable reactions to behavior that can't be changed? Not everything can be fixed, and with rescue dogs that have who-knows-what in their history, maybe it's kinder and simpler to just say 'okay, you wear a muzzle and you can still go on outings' and the dog adjusts.

I doubt that a muzzle is indicated for Dee -- she simply won't be off leash around other dogs playing, that's on me -- but I'm certain that I will never be able to change her behavior toward other playing dogs. Something occurred in the first 16 weeks of her life, I would bet money, that gave rise to this behavior in her. Perhaps she lost her littermates or her mother. Dunno. And I'm happy that she doesn't go after the dogs in her family. But if I were to put a muzzle on her, would that be a failure on my part?

Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons? Just curious!

Re: Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons?

Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:53 pm
by maxs_mommy
Yes, I would. If Max could play well with dogs (he can't, all the BAT in the world won't make him comfortable playing with dogs. Ever.) and all that stood in the way was his mouth, I'd muzzle. It'd be a happy time, almost a predictor of good things to come but I'd use it. I don't think there is anything wrong with it. There is nothing wrong with knowing your dog's needs and limitations and if using a muzzle means the difference between access or denial of a fun activity I'd use it every time. If you're using a muzzle to control a dog who isn't comfortable in an optional activity to begin with, that's a problem.

Re: Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons?

Posted: Wed Mar 14, 2018 7:40 am
by emmas_mom
Yes, as long as the dog enjoyed the activity and as long as I would always be right there in case she became the recipient of an attack. There is a woman in my town with a pitti-boxer mix who muzzles him on walks for the same reason as the woman you met - he had been a jerk to some other dogs (not all) and she just didn't want to take chances, for her own dog's sake as well as for the sake of any other dog he might go for. She's a great owner, very responsible, and her dog is a sweetheart most of the time. I think some of the reason for her decision is due to the negative press any attack by a dog remotely looking like a pitti would receive, not to mention our litigious society. But the dog loves his walks, doesn't mind the muzzle, and has even playbowed to Maggie with the muzzle on.

Re: Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons?

Posted: Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:12 pm
by connie
Agree, it would never be used to make the dog accept an occurrence that he finds intolerable. For things like that -- nail trims come to mind -- I'd rather do desensitization over time. This would just be to take the bully out of the dog, in social settings. And I wouldn't bother doing it with Dee, because she doesn't WANT to socialize with other dogs, she wants them to get out of her face, and since she can never be off leash outside of her own yard (because she will bolt off after a squirrel, a mouse, a cat, a raccoon ... and come back when she's good and ready, whereas I like to leave with the same number of dogs I brought to the event), she is just removed, via leash, from any scenarios where she wants to offer her Rip Your Face Off service to another dog.

Years ago my mom had an OES named Buddy, and Buddy could be a bloviating butt-head sometimes. (He was a puppymill dog, so who knows why he had that streak.) He had great fun bullying smaller dogs in the local park, and at last my sister, who took him for his outings, put a muzzle on him. Wow, what a change! Still there was the active, social Sheepdog; gone was the Bloviating Butt-head who thought it was funny to chase another dog and body-slam it to the ground. Butter wouldn't melt in Buddy's muzzled mouth! He was a model citizen! He never showed any ill effects from being muzzled, no other dogs picked on him, he never had to defend himself (at 88 pounds, he was generally the biggest dog present), and my sister escaped the stigma of having an a-hole dog.

In fact, considering some of the truly ill-mannered dogs I have met in various places, I wish more people would buy their dog a nice muzzle! That horrible Groenendael tried it on with a friend's SAR Lab the other day, and the Lab gave it to the Groenendael pretty good -- the owner of that obnoxious dog refuses to control him, she says 'it's natural behavior' but she sure leashes him when she sees me and my dogs, after Alex and Rowley chased down the mad humper Groenendael last year and Alex threw a shoulder into him while Rowley administered a muzzle grip that conveyed a message quite clearly. It's BS that my dogs had to do that; her dog was way out of line. He would look good in a muzzle!

Re: Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons?

Posted: Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:25 pm
by Amanda
Grrrr... I typed a nice long response and it disappeared when I hit submit. Will come back later to retype.

Re: Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons?

Posted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 5:26 pm
by SherriA
I think muzzles get a bad rap. They're useful tools if used responsibly. As you say, if that's all it takes for a dog to be able to safely enjoy an activity he likes, then it seems like a no brainer to me. If other people question it, that's just an opportunity to educate.

Re: Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons?

Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 11:14 pm
by UpwardDog
Absolutely I would though it would be a basket muzzle, not a fabric one . If a fabric muzzle is loose enough to allow panting, it's also not going to be terribly safe either. If a dog's behaviour is troubling enough to warrant a muzzle, I'd probably like him/her also to be on a leash or long line. Rosie was once taken down HARD and held down by a Very Serious, Very Scary by a rottie in a muzzle who ran straight to her from the parking lot catching us all unaware. An attack can be painful and pretty traumatic without a bite. I was also horrified to see how much damage a dog can do even with a baskerville muzzle on when a dog was badly bitten by a dog in a muzzle in Ontario this year.

Re: Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons?

Posted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:15 am
by connie
Yikes, Heather! A muzzle wasn't enough for that Rottweiler, I'd say!

I don't think an aggressive dog is safe around other dogs even when muzzled. The trick is to know what's an aggressive dog, and what's a dog who simply enjoys bullying. My sister's OES never met a dog larger than himself, so his tendency to knock other dogs down was never checked by any of his victims; however, he wanted nothing to do with the dog once he'd knocked it down, he didn't want to engage, attack, or anything else. He was a big candy-ass with a really unfortunate enjoyment of bullying. Very likely his origin in a puppymill was a factor. Once that muzzle went on him, though, he never sought out an encounter with another dog, the bully went out of him like air out of a balloon. That's a case where a muzzle really helps. The Rottie who beat up Rosie, not so much!

My Dee probably had a fairly rotten start in life, and like Buddy the OES, her initial reaction to other dogs is 'dominate them, neutralize them' -- I might actually dig out a muzzle and put it on her! The problem is, Alex takes instruction from Dee, and will follow her VERY STUPID directions when she gets into that mode, and I am not going to have Alex engage in bullying. So I'm thinking about bringing a muzzle into the equation for Dee, but my Manners trainer (Yin/Ailsby/Garrett philosophy) is against it. We'll see ...

Re: Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons?

Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:08 pm
by Trademarkbark
My terriers are muzzle trained for racing. They have no issue and actually get excited to see them, because it means race time. I think people don’t like them based upon looks alone. They don’t understand their purpose.

Re: Would you ever muzzle a dog for behavioral reasons?

Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2018 1:59 pm
by connie
I agree, they have a connotation of 'dangerous dog' which is not even close to the reason they are used, very often.

I wonder if a dog will become less emotionally charged while wearing a muzzle. I understand dogs like Buddy the OES and my Dee, who react/react/react and then find themselves way over threshold and discharge energy by physically bullying -- but a muzzle on that type of dog actually seems to prevent the buildup of emotional energy. They don't seem to work themselves into a swivet that then needs the release of physical action, like knocking down another dog. Interesting.