To Muzzle, Or Not To Muzzle, That Is The Question

Opening Our Mouths About Their True Purpose

 By Vjosa Isai

The confused, round eyes staring back at you and the furry head flinching away in protest at the sight of a muzzle make it that much more difficult to go through with putting it on your dog for the first time.  This heartbreaking, guilt-ridden scenario is one many pet owners have experienced and questioned. Have I made the right choice? Does my dog understand why? What will people think of me and, especially, my dog?

Between the dog’s pouty resistance, navigating how to purchase the right type, fear of the judging gaze of others, and other general misconceptions about muzzles, owners can sometimes feel defensive when they’re told it’s time to muzzle-up their dog.

But experts like Andrew Wood, owner of the Forest Hill Dog Walkers and Pet Services company in Toronto, say that it’s important for owners to think of the muzzle as an expression of love for their dog who may be displaying signs of aggression or rough play.

“If you really love your dog, let’s put aside the emotion and be honest with yourself and try to address these issues,” he said.

When it comes to recommending the use of a muzzle to some owners with aggressive pets, Wood said, “People take stuff like that very personally, and it’s unfortunate because it’s not a personal matter.”

However, when Wood recommends a muzzle to owners whose pets have been regularly ingesting harmful items outdoors, he said that owners rarely object to putting on a muzzle.

“But if you say it’s because your dog is aggressive, they very quickly become defensive,” he said. This defensiveness can be closely linked with the stigma surrounding muzzles. Pet owners and muzzled pets may become the subject of fearful stares and shame-filled whispers while out for a mid-day stroll.

But for the sake of the safety of your pet and others, it’s important to focus on the benefits of the muzzle rather than the fleeting moments when you get the odd stare from a passerby. You are doing this for the right reasons. And while your pet may not understand why this is being done, you are doing this out of love for them.

But another element that can inhibit owners from getting a muzzle on their dogs is not being sure of how to choose the right one.

Wood said that it’s important to consult a vet or trusted expert at your local pet store for tips on choosing the right style and fit. He said it’s important to consider muzzles that are highly breathable and allow for the dog to stick its tongue out and drink water, particularly for dogs going on walks or extended periods of time playing outdoors. Other more restrictive muzzles should be reserved for shorter uses, like going to the vet.

Fitting for a muzzle is also crucial, as it can cause severe discomfort and even pain to your pet if it’s too tight. A common thing to look out for is to make sure the muzzle does not rub on the dog’s nose area, Wood said.

In the few times that Wood has asked a client to use a muzzle on their dog, he said the response was positive and the owners understood the importance of fostering a safe environment in what he considers to be a pet-friendly city.

I think Torontonians share in common…that desire to connect with one another, to meet on friendly grounds, to put aside all the other things going on in the world, and bond through our pets.”