Muzzles in dogs: what type is best, and how to use them properly. Pete the Vet on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

To listen to the podcast  about dog muzzles, click on the the play button at the foot of this page.

Dog muzzles

Muzzles can be an important part of managing dogs: indeed, under Irish law, all so-called restricted breeds (and their cross-breeds) must be muzzled in public (the truth is that they rarely are, but that does not mean that people have permission to flout the law).

These eleven breeds are

 

  • American pit bull terrier
  • English bull terrier
  • Staffordshire bull terrier
  • Bull mastiff
  • Dobermann pinscher
  • German shepherd (Alsatian)
  • Rhodesian ridgeback
  • Rottweiler
  • Japanese akita
  • Japanese tosa
  • Bandog

 

The law is a farce. I see more muzzled greyhounds than muzzled breeds of these types.

It is important not to just stick a muzzle on a dog, with no prior training. If you do this, the dog will just learn to be frightened of the muzzle and to associate it with negative experiences.This is likely to make it difficult to put the muzzle on the dog the next time.
As a vet, I know plenty of dogs that are impossible to put a muzzle on, because they have learned to associate this with bad experiences.

So instead, you should use a specific technique to teach the dog to associate wearing the muzzle with positive associations (see video here)

This involves combining treats and praise with using the muzzle in a low stress environment.

If you have one of these breeds, or if you have a dog which you may need to muzzle from time to time, it’s worth doing this.

Using muzzles at vet clinics

As a vet, I often  see scared animals that need urgent treatment, and the dogs need to be muzzled to ensure the safety of the humans giving the treatment.

These days, we will often use sedation as well, but sometimes the use of a muzzle is unavoidable, even if the dog hasn’t been trained to be used to it.So which one should you use?

Occlusion muzzle (also known as  a cone muzzle, usually made from black nylon material)

Occlusion muzzles are designed for very short-term use (60 seconds). These types of muzzles prevent dogs from panting and opening their mouth, which can  cause panic in an already stressed dog.
A dog that has a bad experience like this may show increased fear-aggressive behaviour when next in the veterinary practice.

    

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Basket muzzles 

These are plastic mesh type muzzles that have a bigger vertical space inside them, so that a dog can open their mouth and pant
These are far more humane for longer use and dogs are more likely to accept them.
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Baskerville Ultra muzzle

The Baskerville Ultra muzzle are a specific type of basket muzzle designed to be worn long-term. Dogs can eat, drink, and be exercised wearing them, whilst they still prevent biting. This means dogs will not hyperventilate, making them less likely to panic. These muzzles are perfect for muzzle training: they have big enough gaps in the mesh-like plastic to be able to put treats through them.
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Why is it important to muzzle train?

Ideally, muzzle training should be conducted at a puppy class to ensure that dogs have positive associations and enjoy wearing muzzles from a young age. If a dog has made the choice to put their nose into a muzzle, they are more likely to feel in control and in a happier headspace. In practice, dogs that enjoy wearing muzzles will be in a better emotional state, and procedures are likely to go much faster.
Dogs that already have negative associations with muzzles may require longer desensitisation and counterconditioning sessions to change their perspective of the muzzle.
Muzzle trained dogs will anticipate good things when they wear a muzzle; consequently, building positive associations with their vets. 
Instead of increasing fear and anxiety in dogs, muzzles should be used to instill a feeling of comfort and relaxation in patients.

Questions from listeners

The following questions about pets were asked by listeners:
  • My cat is breathing really heavy the past week, would that be due to this hot weather. He is a healthy little fella and drinking loads of water, is there anything I can to cool him down in this hot weather. Tks Lisa
  • To the delighted of my kids we have a hedgehog in our garden he just suddenly appeared, can you advise what to give ‘Spiky’ to eat and drink ? Karen
  • I have a Jack Russell with a summer allergy. I have 5 Jacks but only one suffers. Very bad scratching. Up to date with spot on. Used Bravecto pill last year but didn’t really help and its 30 euro for 1. I gave him Antihistamines and a steroid allergy cream for humans which has helped a bit. Any other suggestions please. Clare
  • My 4 year old cockapoo took a tiny funny spell last week, she seemed to have lost her balance, was unable to get back on her feet for a while, back legs shaking etc, 2 mins later, right as rain. Could you ask Pete what might have been wrong here?

To find out the answer to these questions and to listen to the podcast, click on the play button below.

Listen to the podcast:

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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