Muzzle Stigma

If you have ever seen a muzzled dog,
what was you first thought?

How do you feel about muzzles?

If you have ever had to muzzle your dog, or have ever taken your dog into public while wearing a muzzle I am sure that you have experienced some version of the stigma that comes with the use of muzzles.

We have as well, but we wanted to know We have as well, but we wanted to know why.

We wanted to see and understand the reasons why in a controlled way and, as always, try to shine a little light on muzzles with the information gathered. So the Muzzle Misfits founders went on a search, posting on multiple social media platforms and in many Facebook groups, asking one simple question:

“Why are you anti muzzle/don’t like muzzles?”

Our goal in asking this question was to get an idea of what the public thought about muzzles and why some people were adamantly against muzzles being used as well as how people viewed muzzles.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Ashleigh Teasdale

Here is what we were told:

· “When I see a dog in a muzzle, I automatically think the dog is a biter or mean.”

o There are many reasons that a dog may be wearing a muzzle and the majority of reasons actually are not because the dog is a bite risk. Often times, the dog just needs space.

o Here are some of the many reasons a dog may wear a muzzle

PHOTO CREDIT TO: IG thekareliantails

· “I train my dogs from a young age not to bite.”

o There are many dogs trained from a young age not to bite that still wear muzzles.

o Muzzles are not only for bite-risk dogs and, unfortunately, even for those who are sometimes situations happen that we cannot control where our dogs may need a muzzle. The most relatable being during an emergency situation.

PHOTO CREDIT IT: Samantha Lovett

· “If a dog is properly socialized with love and comfort, they never require such extreme measures.”

o This unfortunately is not true. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to have certain traits, no different than being predisposed to look a certain way with particular breeds. Some owners do everything “right”, with all the love, socialization, training, that they can and still end up needing to muzzle their dog due to genetic temperament traits. Here is a few stories from people who did “everything right” and still needed to muzzle later in life.

o Dogs also cannot communicate when they are afraid, anxious or in pain, and sometimes may bite in order to communicate this or to stop the “cause” of the pain. Unfortunately this often happens when a dog is injured or sick and a muzzle may be needed in order to treat the dog safely.

o We have written an article regarding dogs who were “raised right” who still wound up needing a muzzle due to genetics or environmental reasons that were no fault of the owner; we will be adding to it regularly as new entries come in.

PHOTO CREDIT IT: Chloe O’Donnell

· “The owner is lazy and either doesn’t have time to put in the work or doesn’t want to put in the work to not need a muzzle.”

o Muzzles are often used as a part of training or management. Some things, despite training, can only be managed and cannot be completely trained out. This can be very frustrating to owners, and upsetting, but a proper muzzle can help the owner and the dog regain their freedom while being safe and responsible. Some aggression/reactivity can only be managed, but not 100% eliminated no matter how much work you put in to training but keeping a muzzle on can allow your dog to still live a normal life and go out on walks, and on leashed adventures with their families while still being safe and responsible.

o There are also dogs with health issues that eat anything and everything, called pica. This is a behavioral disorder that cannot be trained away, but is a life long disease of sorts. Wearing a muzzle allows the dog to live a normal life out and about, while still being safe and keeping the dog from ingesting things that it shouldn’t; things that could cause a great danger to the dog’s health and potentially its life.

o Many muzzled dogs use muzzles as part of their training/management and is part of a very dedicated owner’s tool bag to give their life the best life, while continuing training and/or management.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: IG wildpupsophie

· “If a dog required a muzzle it shouldn’t be in public.”

o A dog who is muzzled is typically not a threat to the public when under control. A muzzle, in fact, makes dogs generally safer when around others because it is hindered from biting or completely unable to bite (depending on the muzzle) and typically shows the owner is responsible for their dog.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Erin Smith

· “The dogs look miserable when they wear them.”

o This is why proper training and conditioning is important. A dog who is not used to, or comfortable in, a muzzle will often try to get it off or look uncomfortable. With proper training/conditioning a dog often is more than willing to put on and wear their muzzle. Properly fit, a muzzle does not hinder anything about the dog’s life except the ability to bite. Muzzled dogs can play, drink, accept treats, and have a great time like any other dog.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Machalla Warwaruk

· “When I see a muzzled dog, my natural reaction is fear.”

o This is a very common reaction and is often misguided. It is still a good idea to give any dog space if you do not have permission to interact with it, but a muzzled dog shouldn’t be feared when under control.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Chloe O’Donnell

· “Dog doesn’t deserve to be caged with a muzzle.”

o It is not about deserving or undeserving. Muzzles often give many dogs much more freedom and the ability to enjoy more time with their families by keeping the the dogs who wear them, as well as other animals and humans, safe. Muzzles can help keep dogs from isolation when they have behavior problems that need to be worked through or managed, and often help keep dogs from regressing to worse behavior or just being cooped up all the time.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Becky Harding

· “Other methods/tools would be more effective than a muzzle.”

o Muzzles are used to keep the dog itself as well as other animals and humans safe. Some dogs are reactive/aggressive and need training, in order to do this training safely the dog may need to be muzzled to make sure that no accidents happen. Some dogs are selective-reactive, meaning only certain dogs/humans/actions make the dog react and its not always guaranteed; in these situations muzzles are a great tool to continue training and socialization while being prepared. Some dogs suffer from Pica and will eat things it shouldn’t, this is a life long behavior that cannot be trained out, so other methods/tools are not effective; while constant supervision in these cases are ideal it is not always guaranteed and cannot always risk the dogs health.

o Muzzles are also often used as a safety precaution to keep the dog itself safe while participating in certain sports, such as Lure Coursing.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Michalla Warwaruk

· “They can’t play or enjoy life while muzzled.”

o With properly fitted muzzles, dogs can do everything they normally would be able to except bite. They can still run, play, drink, pant fully, accept treats and so forth. A muzzle really doesn’t interrupt this when properly conditioned to wear one.

o For some dogs a muzzle allows them more freedom, and to be able to live an amazing life that without a muzzle would border on the impossible; meaning a muzzle can actually increase some dogs’ overall quality of life.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Lucy Bunni

· “You’re taking away their ability to defend themselves.”

o People often assume it’s unfair if the dogs are muzzled and it’s not a fair fight. That’s your job as the owner and it’s your job to advocate for them and protect them. Muzzled dogs are not helpless; if you have ever been it with a proper fitted bite-proof muzzle I am sure you have the bruises to prove this, paired with an owner to help them a muzzled dog can defend themselves just fine.

o It is also important to note that, if you have ever seen or been involved with a true knock out dog fight, it’s far easier to break up one latched dog than two or even multiple dogs. Due to the muzzle causing it to be easier to break up the fight there is less is often less injury to all dogs involved as well as less injury to those who are trying to break up the fight.

o The muzzle will also keep the dog legally safe if anything were to happen, especially with those breeds who are already discriminated against.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Erin Smith

· “Increases breed stigma when certain breeds wear them.”

o There will always be breed stigma, and unfortunately this is a very personal opinion on if it does or does not increase the stigma attached to certain breeds.

o Often times if someone were to see a Pit Bull muzzled they would have different emotional responses than if they were to see a muzzled Poodle.

o We should all respect each dog no matter the breed, but be open minded and not fall into common stigmas without knowing facts.

o While certain breeds have genetic traits that may make them more reactive/aggressive, have a higher prey drive or even more aloof with humans, it is important for us to recognize that not every dog in every breed will adhere to their breed traits and that there are many reasons -not just bite risk or aggression reasons- that a dog may be wearing a muzzle.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Natalie Musico

· “Muzzles are only good for dogs trained to bite like guard/protection dogs, or aggressive dogs.”

o Dogs trained for bite work or protection properly, should not be utilizing a muzzle for unpredictable aggression. If it is needed for unpredictable aggression or being a bite-risk, the dog was not trained properly or was not a good candidate in the first place and should not have been trained in that work field.

o Dogs can be highly trained and still utilize muzzles regardless, or a muzzle may be used for dogs trained in this field for different reasons (including training exercises) but for unpredictable aggression or being a unpredictable bite-risk – no.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Muzzle Misfit’s Founder Shalene

· “Muzzles are only for when biting is an issue.”

o Muzzles have multiple purposes for aggression reasons and also not for aggression reasons. It is a tool that can be used for endless reasons to keep the dog safe in multiple scenarios. Feel free to read more on our page to learn about the different reasons muzzles are used.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Muzzle Misfit’s Co-Founder Ashtin

· “If the dog needs a muzzle to stop eating things it shouldn’t, the owner is lazy and should work on training a solid leave it.”

o Leave it only works if catch that the dog is interested in something prior to it eating it. This unfortunately does not work with sneaky dogs, who rush and eat something interesting as fast as they can, or dogs who wait until you aren’t paying attention.

o This also does not work for Pica. [insert details about pica]

o That said, even if you are working on training a strong “leave it” those sneaky or quick scarfing dogs, still may need something extra to keep them safe in the meantime while training so that they do no ingest something that they shouldn’t or from self-rewarding the unwanted behavior.

o It’s not often really thought about but unless you keep your dog inside, or in a fenced in yard (and even then it depends on your area) there are all kinds of things that a dog may come across on a walk or even in a parking lot (such as at a vets or pet store). Things like chicken bones, trash, roadkill, random food, in some areas baited dog treats (with poison or items that could hurt your dog) etc left on the sidewalk, road, in the park or parking lot. Its not always easy to avoid these things.

PHOTO CREDIT TO:

· “Its not natural, the only time a dog should wear on is if its not safe around others.”

o Yes, wearing a muzzle may not be “natural” to a dog, but neither is wearing a collar, harness or leash; however, just like with a collar, harness or leash, muzzles can be introduced positively and become no different than a collar, harness or leash. Just another thing to wear that does not disrupt their daily life, and is enjoyable/non-intrusive to wear.

PHOTO CREDIT TO: Muzzle Misfit’s Founder Shalene

What To Do If You See A Muzzled Dog:

Imagine you are a a pet-friendly store, or walking down the street and see a muzzled dog in the store walking with it’s owner, what do you do?

Simple:

o Do not make a scene or make snide remarks. Be polite.

o There is no need to fear a dog who is under his owner’s control just because he is wearing a muzzle. You do not know why the dog is muzzled, what the dog’s history is, or what the owner is doing with their dog. So treat it as if it were just any other dog.

o As you should with all dogs, not just those who are muzzled, do not approach or attempt to interact with the dog without permission.

That’s it. Continue to enjoy your day, and allow the owner and their dog to enjoy their day as well.

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