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'I'd put a muzzle on that'. Should I?

ruralliving19 · 08/04/2019 11:39

So, bit of background, I'm new to dog owning and 2 months ago adopted a 1 year old collie, who has made great progress in the two months I've had her, although we still have lots to work on.

Some examples of progress:

  • when we first got her, she was very reactive to all other dogs; now, she can still be reactive but she can socialise with other dogs if introduced carefully to calm dogs, she goes to dog daycare twice a week and on a group dog walk twice a week with no problems.
  • when we first got her, she was very reactive to all strangers; now she only barks at people with walking sticks, people who approach her when she doesn't want to be approached and the door and she never growls at people now.
  • we have trained her to sit, wait, paw, spin and come and her recall is great unless she spots food or she is barking at another dog, when she ignores us completely
  • she allows us to handle her paws, muzzle etc with no complaints, she's very affectionate and clearly listens to us and wants to please us

    The things we still need to work on are food obsession (she is a scavenger and will eat any kind of food she can get her paws on), jumping up on us when we come home and residual reactiveness to other dogs when on lead and sometimes off and to some people when on lead.

    Anyway, that's the background. Yesterday, I was walking her and an old lady opened a door and came out of a house we were walking by and surprised her. She barked and strained on the leash to try to reach the old lady. She wasn't growling and she couldn't reach the lady because I had shortened the lead as soon as I spotted the door opening. But the lady was obviously a bit shaken and said 'I'd put a muzzle on that if I were you' as she walked off.

    So, my question is, should I muzzle her until she stops being reactive altogether? If so, should I muzzle her all the time she is on lead? I just know she'll hate it and I don't believe she'd hurt anyone, but is it the right thing to do? (The worst she has done is growl/air snap at another dog/person, she's never actually attacked.)

    At the moment, I only let her off lead if we're at the park and I can't see any other dogs around. If I spot one coming, I get her on the lead as soon as I see them but on three occasions, she's run off towards the other dog before I could get her on lead. On one of those, she circled the dog, barking and ignoring me until I grabbed her harness and pulled her away. On another, she circled the dog, barked and air snapped, ignoring me until I grabbed her harness and pulled her away. On the third, the dogs circled each other and eventually sniffed each other and seemed to make friends. On the basis of that should I keep her on lead all the time? I've tried a long training lead but she runs so fast she knocked me over!
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OverFedStanley · 08/04/2019 16:03

I muzzle train all my dogs. If puppies when they are very small if rescued as adults we muzzle train them. (I also train them to be happy with a buster collar and other things).

So I would absolutely say muzzle train. It is a great confident game and muzzle training alone can help a reactive dog to get more experiences and build their confidence. It is a long slow process built into a game using jugs and cones Smile Collies love to push a football with a muzzle and the whole muzzle experience is the best game ever. Muzzle comes out and fun games start.

If however you only introduce the muzzle in scary situations eg when the dog will react you will have a dog that is stressed the minute they see the muzzle and this will backfire.

A dog in a muzzle can still cause an awful lot of damage so do not be lulled into the feeling that my dog has his muzzle on he can do no harm - he can a muzzle bruise can kill a small dog and cause pain to adults.

Muzzles have a place but they are not the answer to all reactivity.

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Doggydoggydoggy · 08/04/2019 12:49

That said, if she approaches other dogs and ignores you then yes you definately do need a training lead clipped onto a harness!

I have mine off leash BUT she ignores the vast majority of dogs, she only tends to attempt a greeting if the other dog is super close and looking interested in her.

She will recall away from other dogs pretty much instantly if i feel I need to intervene.

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Doggydoggydoggy · 08/04/2019 12:46

I would say no.

I’m an ex muzzle user and the biggest thing for me is public perception, I found it very hard to deal with.

If you have good verbal control over her and you trust her not to savage anyone I would say no.

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AvocadosBeforeMortgages · 08/04/2019 11:50

Strangers in the street aren't the best source of dog advice Wink

However, there could be a couple of advantages to muzzling

  • stop the scavenging
  • allow you to relax while on walks, which often has a positive impact on the dog
  • signal to other dog owners that it may not be friendly (ideally to be used in combination with something yellow that says "keep your dog away" or equivalent).

    You will need to go through a period of muzzle training first (lots of guides online) so she has positive associations with the muzzle.
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