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Questions about muzzling your dog

(58 Posts)
ArkAtEe Sun 10-Mar-19 00:27:43

My dog's never hurt anything except a field mouse he dug up but he is very insecure and will bark/growl/lunge at certain dogs he doesn't know (usually males, it tends to be females he never has a problem with) so he's kept on the lead around dogs he doesn't know.

We're pretty sure he's just insecure/fearful not aggressive as we've successfully managed to bond him with plenty of dogs he's previously hated (with their willing owners of course) but obviously this is not practical with every dog we come across.

So we're thinking of muzzling him as people are always letting their off-lead dogs approach my on-lead dog and there is a 50/50 chance my dog will now be happy about this. I'm just wondering if anyone has any experience with muzzles and if they helped or hindered??

Also, before anyone suggests avoiding places with off-lead dogs -- Walking my dog on the road side is not practical as I have had to rush across busy roads to avoid an oncoming dog and we can't get very far without walking along a main road where I live. At least with parks and fields I can give others a safe distance to pass my yappy dog.

OP’s posts: |
Doggydoggydoggy Sun 10-Mar-19 07:21:33

I have muzzled my dog before.

I would say that first of all while they can’t bite/maul they can still hurt other dogs wearing a muzzle, a hard enough whack can fracture another, smaller dogs ribs.

They loathe wearing them so you have to condition them to it but my dog really really hated it.
Her whole demeanour changed, she would sulk super slowly behind me with her head down as soon as it was put on.

Be prepared for public perception.
Prior to muzzling no one was scared of my dog, put a muzzle on and suddenly people are real uncomfortable with her being nearby, near in mind she doesn’t approach people, just the mere presence of her puts people on edge.

Once the muzzle goes on, people remember...
My dog is getting really good at ignoring other dogs on lead, I took her muzzle off and opted to let her free watching closely with other dogs.
Any hint of discomfort and I call her back to me to heel and block the other dog away from her.
She saw another dog a few days ago that she likes and plays with and was really pleased to see.
She didn’t have her muzzle on and the owner straight away called her dog away.
Presumably because she didn’t want to take any risks with her unmuzzled.

I would also say that uncorrected, don’t be surprised if the aggression gets worse.
Don’t be making excuses that he’s ‘insecure/anxious’, the more you allow this behaviour the worse it will get.

Veterinari Sun 10-Mar-19 07:30:29

I would also say that uncorrected, don’t be surprised if the aggression gets worse. Don’t be making excuses that he’s ‘insecure/anxious’, the more you allow this behaviour the worse it will get.

Anxiety is the emotional state that drives most aggressive interactions in dogs - it’s not an ‘excuse’ and it’s pretty impossible to ‘correct’ an emotional state, though you can of course work to reduce anxiety by building positive emotional associations as it sounds like the OP is doing.

OP is your dog neutered or not?

In terms of muzzles you want a Baskerville ultra or similar. Definitely something that allows panting and drinking
www.petsathome.com/shop/en/pets/baskerville-ultra-muzzle
You’ll need to train your dog to it and can do this using positive reinforcement - lots of videos on YouTube show you how

Doggydoggydoggy Sun 10-Mar-19 07:46:23

Well, I have posted on here a lot about my dog and my problems.

I am aware that the current training style favoured by behavioural organisations, vets etc is positive reinforcement, counter conditioning, ignoring bad, staying within threshold etc.

I am aware that has worked great for loads of dogs, which is brilliant.

My personal experience is that it absolutely does not work for all dogs and for a lot of dogs, mine included, the aggression gets worse over time.

You can stop the anxiety building up if you correct them early enough.
Mine is certainly calmer walking past dogs on lead now than she ever was before.

tabulahrasa Sun 10-Mar-19 07:51:07

So he’s not biting? If they come over I mean?

If he’s not, I’m not sure you want him muzzled while you’re walking tbh.

IME Yes it does mean people are better at keeping their dogs away, but, only sensible people... so you end up only ever meeting the numpties and their dogs.

WhyteNoise Sun 10-Mar-19 08:01:27

You have to train your dog to make positive associations with the muzzle. Don't just put it on and take him out. There's a guy called Zak George on YouTube that has some great advice on muzzling:

youtu.be/yy4Qmt87gIM

adaline Sun 10-Mar-19 08:12:04

I would only muzzle if you feel you have no other choice.

I know a dog who is muzzled because he's a scavenger and will eat anything he finds on the streets. After a couple of expensive vet bills for a sickness injection and a blockage the owners muzzle trained her so she could walk safely and run about off lead without eating things she shouldn't.

Their dog is now avoided on walks and people cross the road to avoid their dog. Nobody (sadly) wants to socialise with the dog because of the muzzle even though the dog has a great temperament and is lovely to be around.

Please have a think about how society views muzzled dogs and think about if you can handle that. Also a lot of dogs hate being muzzled and it can make their aggression worse. Best way is to make positive associations with other dogs - so treat when the dog doesn't react - you will get there eventually.

I only say that because your dog hasn't bitten and I don't feel as though muzzling will necessarily help you.

Veterinari Sun 10-Mar-19 08:50:20

You can stop the anxiety building up if you correct them early enough

No, by punishing the behaviour, you stop the dog expressing that behaviour. They still feel anxious, they just aren’t showing it. Or i’d Really love to hear your scientifically supported rationale for how punishment alleviates anxiety - as would the NHS, i’m Sure.

Positive reinforcement isn’t ‘favoured’ because it’s trendy, but because it’s scientifically validated to get results without negatively affecting welfare. I know that you are a proponent of punishment, and of course punishment can work - but it also risks the dog’s psychological well-being. If you choose to employ those methods then that’s obviously your decision, it’s just not one that is supported by science, animal professionals or welfare organisations for all the reasons outlined in this article

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1558787817300357

DerbyRacer Sun 10-Mar-19 09:17:19

My mum's dog is great off lead. She runs around with other dogs no problem in big open spaces but on lead she is not good so she goes out with a muzzle on when she has to go anywhere on a lead. She adjusted to the muzzle very well and we feel much better walking her with the muzzle on. It has been a positive thing for us.

DerbyRacer Sun 10-Mar-19 09:20:41

I forgot to say I often see dogs with muzzles on. I don't think they are thought of badly here.

DogInATent Sun 10-Mar-19 10:17:09

So we're thinking of muzzling him as people are always letting their off-lead dogs approach my on-lead dog and there is a 50/50 chance my dog will now be happy about this. I'm just wondering if anyone has any experience with muzzles and if they helped or hindered??

We're in a similar position. I thought about using a muzzle (we bought one), but decided that the negative visual clues it would give would make the situation worse. That, and she just doesn't like it (but she may have to get used to it on holidays).

Responsible dog owners will call their dog back when they see a dog on-lead and theirs is off-lead. Most do this automatically. I'll pause on a path and give them time to do this. Otherwise I'll call across to an owner, "Can you call your dog back please?" (and I'll repeat it until they do, by the fourth or fifth repeat there's usually a few choice words being added).

What I have found is that tension travels down the lead. Changing my attitude to "It's not my problem, their's is the off-lead dog" has significantly calmed down our dog and encounters with other dogs are generally a lot smoother. When you worry about every encounter that nervousness is picked up by the dog.

tabulahrasa Sun 10-Mar-19 10:34:14

Re dogs not liking it...

You have to muzzle train first and only be taking them out with it on once they’re happily wearing it.

Rushing that could potentially make any reactivity issue worse.

ArkAtEe Sun 10-Mar-19 10:41:57

Hi thanks for all your responses. A muzzle is just something we're considering but we would never rush into it and we'd need to be very very careful introducing it to my dog as he's overly sensitive to that sort of thing so not even sure it would ever be possible. After three years he's only just not tucking his tail between his legs to get his harness on. You can tell he's still unhappy about it but a treat and promise of walkies encourages him and he does forget about it as soon as we're outside.

We don't make excuses for our dog to other people, only ourselves I guess because we love him. We know he's a shit and that's what we warn people but it is because he's anxious though rather than being dominate. As, like I said, if I can introduce another dog properly then my dog does not need to be dominate over the other dog just needs to see that they aren't a threat. Plenty of dogs I've introduced him too are dominate over him of you believe in that thing and read take note of the signs.

Anyway...

Yes we gave him the snip as soon as vet recommended, we followed all the steps to socialising him etc but one day an off lead dog ran over and bit him on the head as a puppy. Was horrible but luckily it wasn't bad enough for stitches but enough to leave a puncture wound that hurt and scared him. Then he started to become lead aggressive when another dog on our road would pull and bark towards him (big German shepherd Vs little terrier puppy....) And one day he started to pull and bark back and this then escalated to my dog barking at other dogs on the lead.

He's 14kg terrier type so a medium-sized dog so yes I could see how a muzzle could still cause damage to another smaller dog. Not ideal especially as he's never caused damage so I wouldn't want it to be a muzzle that starts us down that path...

I had hoped that maybe a muzzle would allow us to be able to let him off the lead but I figure not! His recall is fine at a distance so I could call him back if we see an unknown dog but the muzzle would be a precaution if a dog randomly popped up out of nowhere but if he could still hurt the dog, he wouldn't be allowed off lead anyway so pointless in that situation.

Regarding training if we see a dog he gets his favourite treat, if he starts to react he gets a stern no and then a treat if he stops. Certain dogs produce bigger reactions than others. And some, no reactions at all apart from wanting to play. Wish I could say it was a specific type of dog but it's not. He's loved some labradors and hates others for example. It must be some vibe the dog gives off. My suspicion is excitable/young males.

OP’s posts: |
GemmeFatale Sun 10-Mar-19 10:45:30

I actually think in this situation any negative perception around muzzles from less educated dog owners would help. Ideally you want to keep those dogs (and humans) away from a nervous dog so if they avoid him so much the better.

Agree with all the comments around training positive associations with the muzzle first.

ArkAtEe Sun 10-Mar-19 10:48:01

Agree it would be helpful if people called their dogs away more after seeing a muzzle. Should be because of seeing the lead but we all know this often isn't the case.

OP’s posts: |
llangennith Sun 10-Mar-19 10:57:44

DIL's terrier can be defensive and aggressive around other dogs so wears a soft muzzle when taken out. Absolutely fine with the other three dogs belonging to extended family. Most people who notice will call their dogs away but the few who don't notice are usually ok if she starts snarling and we apologise. She can't nip anyone while the muzzle is on her.

Doggydoggydoggy Sun 10-Mar-19 11:25:42

To answer the OP, I never said he was dominant.
Most aggression is based in fear and anxiety.

When i said about excuses what I actually meant is that it is easy to apologise for the behaviour, to think to yourself poor little sausage is behaving like this because he’s scared and give sympathy, easy to say to people ‘I’m so sorry, he’s just very anxious’.
Done it myself!

But over time when the behaviour gets worse and worse suddenly that doesn’t matter anymore.
Fearful or not the dog becomes uncontrollable and possibly dangerous.
That is all I meant.

It is no surprise to me to hear the dog is neutered, neutering makes fear aggression worse by removing testosterone which gives them confidence.
Neutered dogs aggressing at males, especially entire ones, is really common, probably because they smell different hormonally and are perceived as more as a threat.

By all means follow whatever training you feel comfortable with.

Praising good behaviour and punishing bad isn’t thought of as a acceptable as anymore, but, there are a significant proportion of dog owners for whom positive training hasn’t worked for and who have seen a more balanced approach change their dogs for the better.

I understand why people defend positive training so viciously, it doesn’t sound nice to punish dogs and the idea of punishing fear seems very cruel.
I get it, I used to be one of those people who thought balanced training approaches were unspeakably cruel.

Anxious dogs often do much much better when they are given clear direction, clear yes and no.

But anyway, I digress.
All you can do is what you think is for the best.

Doggydoggydoggy Sun 10-Mar-19 11:31:09

Oh by the way.

This:

‘Regarding training if we see a dog he gets his favourite treat, if he starts to react he gets a stern no and then a treat if he stops’

Is balanced training.
The sort that I follow that is so dreadfully evil, allegedly.

Read up on body language and only offer the treat before the arousal, while he’s relaxed.

Your ‘stern no’ comes at the rise of arousal, not aggression.
So eyes going from relaxed to hard or relaxed muscles to muscle tensed or neutral tail to high tail.

👌

Veterinari Sun 10-Mar-19 12:08:58

‘Regarding training if we see a dog he gets his favourite treat, if he starts to react he gets a stern no and then a treat if he stops’

*Is balanced training.
The sort that I follow that is so dreadfully evil, allegedly*

No one said it was evil (dramatic much!) but it is scientifically proven to increase the risk of poor behavioural outcomes.

It also doesn't Seem to have worked for the OP

OP this article has some useful techniques and good explanations of why ‘corrections’ Can actually result in worse behaviour (and welfare) over time
www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/4_12/features/Teaching-an-Aggressive-Dog-to-Socialize_5417-1.html

missbattenburg Sun 10-Mar-19 12:13:29

It is no surprise to me to hear the dog is neutered, neutering makes fear aggression worse by removing testosterone which gives them confidence.

I'm just going to clarify this point a bit. Studies have shown a link between fear-based aggression and neutering but they have not shown causation.

For sure, testosterone is linked to increased confidence levels and it is POSSIBLE that the lower levels resulting from neutering result confidence and so increased aggression but this has not been proved.

For example, those studies only looked at dogs at one point in time and compared intact to neutered dogs. They did not study the same dog before and after entering which would have given greater weight to the causation argument. They did not ask any questions about the dog's behaviour pre-neutering.

It is possible the link is something else. For example, that dogs with fear-based aggression may be more likely to be neutered in an attempt by vets and owners to help the problem. Intact males that do not display this behaviour may be less likely to ever be neutered because there is less reason to. In that case, the neutering is caused by the behaviour and not the other way around.

I just think this is worth clarifying because to say neutering definitely increases aggression is a mis-interpretation of the science and I would worry it would lead people to:

- decide against neutering when there may be other good reason to do so
(OR)
- feel guilty for neutering a fearful dog when this may not have contributed to the behaviour

missbattenburg Sun 10-Mar-19 12:15:25

As I have it open (can anyone tell I am easily distracted from a writing an essay here grin) this study also has some nice insight into the link between behaviours and training methods...

pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d74d/e18c65a232ed3ab98a4c82ad5571c9e0318f.pdf

Doggydoggydoggy Sun 10-Mar-19 14:08:19

“No one said it was evil (dramatic much!) but it is scientifically proven to increase the risk of poor behavioural outcomes”

Not in this thread no, but balanced training NEVER gets a good opinion on mumsnet, ever.
The second anyone mentions punishment, corrections, telling off out come the scientific study papers, the screams of dominance theory and how it’s debunked (despite balanced training acknowledging most aggression is fear based), how it shuts down dogs and increases bad outcomes..

It’s funny that every single animal on the planet communicates using balanced principles - ignoring or rewarding positive behaviour and punishing bad but this behaviour, that every animal uses to communicate is somehow detrimental to dogs.

Observe any animal and watch what they do when another behaves inappropriately.
They don’t ignore, they correct.

Purely positive training is very unnatural and doesn’t replicate at all how ANY animal communicates.

The statement

“It also doesn’t seem to have worked for the OP”

Has to be one of the most ironic I have ever read.

Whenever someone posts on here that they have tried positive training for months it’s a barrage of ‘it will work eventually’ or ‘this training takes years’.

When the poster then claims their dog is getting worse, not better, or that they have been training for years they get ‘some dogs will never get better’ or even ‘maybe it would be kinder to rehome or pts’

But as soon as it turns out the OP has been correcting bad behaviour/balanced training suddenly it’s ‘well it obviously not working’
🙄

There seems to be a perception that balanced trainers are busy yanking dogs around on prongs and their dogs spend their days terrified and shut down.

It couldn’t be further from the truth!

Balanced training uses lots of treats, lots of toys, lots of praise.

When the dog misbehaves, just as you would with your child, just as you would with a rude colleague, just as every other animal does, the dog is told it’s behaviour is unacceptable.

That may be through a verbal ‘no/ah’, it may be through a quick touch to the flank, it may be through a split second prong correction or a split second e collar correction.

The dogs are not shut down or depressed, look at their body language.

Can someone abuse the tools used in balanced training?
Yes of course they can.

But you can also abuse dogs with treats through obesity, you can abuse them by letting them pull through flat collars and cause themselves oesophageal damage, virtually any tool has the potential for abuse.

As an aside, the prong collar was designed to prevent oesophageal damage and post Mortems suggest it does this very well.

Veterinari Sun 10-Mar-19 14:26:38

I always find your posts interesting @Doggydoggydoggy - there always so dramatic, full of anecdotes and with a complete dismissal of science and zero understanding of applied ethology, and yet you have complete confidence in that absence of knowledge

There seems to be a perception that balanced trainers are busy yanking dogs around on prongs and their dogs spend their days terrified and shut down.

Yeah it’s weird isn’t it? Tiny tip: unfounded statements supporting abusive practices probably aren’t helping with that perception.

As an aside, the prong collar was designed to prevent oesophageal damage and post Mortems suggest it does this very well

I’d LOVE to see this paper! After all - why train your dog to walk to heel when you can simply spike it’s neck confused

Doggydoggydoggy Sun 10-Mar-19 14:49:11

Riiight, for your information I have read very many peer reviewed studies, many books, spoke to many individuals.

I have spent a lot of time around severely anxious abused dogs and before I got my own dog I was a massive supporter of ‘science based’ training and would come out with the same arguments you do in regards to balanced training.

When I got my own dog I followed ‘scientifically proven’ dog training advice and when I ran into problems was confident i knew of the best way to fix it.

I am not one to ‘dismiss science’, at all.

But when you see with your own eyes it not working and getting worse you start to seek other options.

When you see that other option working and your dog getting less anxious, in all areas, you start to question whether the experts have got it right after all.

Science and knowledge is developing and changing all the time.
Just because purely positive is currently seen as correct doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.

Balanced training isn’t abusive.

Prongs distribute pressure evenly around the neck when pressure is applied.
Unlike flat collars, chains and slips.
The ‘correction’ on a prong is tiny, nothing like a traditional leash correction and more importantly, if you watch a dog being corrected on a prong by someone using it properly you don’t see any evidence of distress.
The dogs are happy to wear them, they honestly are not shut down or distressed.
Watch their body language.

TalkinPaece Sun 10-Mar-19 14:53:49

In Vienna every dog is muzzled in public as they are not allowed on public transport without a muzzle
its a non issue there

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