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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Everyone,

Wrote a past post about our newly adopted dog Rocky. He is such a great and goofy little guy with us but is still getting used to strangers. So far my mom has been able to hand feed him treats, he still gets very barky when she moves, and we are going to slowly introduce him to more people one at a time once he gets a little more comfortable. I have been looking into training methods and aggression, we think it is a mix of fear/nervous aggression that he has towards strangers.

Any way, I have come across some sites that recommend muzzle training for fear or nervous aggression dogs. They say it takes away the option of them using their mouths which makes people feel better and teaches them not to use their mouths in the future. Rocky only wore a muzzle once, unfortunately he sprained his ankle and had a trip to the after hours vet, just in case he nipped since he was barking at them.

My question is, is this a good training method? I want some input, I know it will make some of our family members feel better about meeting him, a few of them get very anxious with his barking and he in turn reacts to that anxious energy. Anyone out there use muzzle training on their dog before? I do not know if it seems a little inhumane or not.

Thank you all for your input!!
 

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iHello! :)

I'm muzzle training my dog right now! I would say yes it's a very good method (if you introduce the muzzle to the dog correctly) and makes everyone involved safer. No one can get bitten and your dog can't get himself in trouble. There important part of muzzle training is to desensitize the dog to it slowly, in steps. You need to make the muzzle a great thing in the dogs mind. Muzzle = food, walks, whatever the dog wants/likes. Also I highly recommended a basket muzzle over a vet style mesh muzzle. Basket muzzles allow the dog to pant, drink water, and take treats. I'm using a baskerville ultra, and would definitely recommended it. If you desensitize your dog to it, he shouldn't find it punishing at all and will even get excited about it because you've paired it with food and things he enjoys.

I feel like there's sort of a stigma around muzzles that they are this scary, bad thing when in reality they are great tools. My dog is reactive/fear aggressive with other dogs, and at the vet, and her muzzle allows her to be in situations where she might feel she needs to bite/protect herself without being a danger to anyone or herself. I can also safely desensitize her to these things without worrying about her biting someone.

Some useful links:
The Muzzle Up! Project | Keeping dogs and their humans happy and safe
http://www.bwar.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/0809-CONDITIONING-MUZZLE.pdf

Videos on desensitization to muzzles:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_I3c-J7HNxs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FABgZTFvHo
 

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I think teaching a dog to feel comfortable wearing a muzzle is a great thing. Especially for dogs who are nippy, fearful, or otherwise inclined to use their teeth...but really, it's a great thing for any dog!

A muzzle should never hurt or make a dog uncomfortable. It's important to pick a muzzle that fits comfortably (I really like the Baskerville Ultra, which is made of rubber and is easy to feed treats through). It is also important to introduce it to the dog in a way that helps him learn to enjoy it. A really good demonstration of how to that is in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FABgZTFvHo

However, all that being said, I don't think that a muzzle alone is an effective way to help a dog feel less afraid. For one thing, if the muzzle is not 100% comfortable for the dog, it may make him more afraid (because he feels worried about the weird thing on his face AND the scary stranger). Even more importantly, helping a dog overcome his fears means never putting him in a position where he's so scared he feels like biting. That might mean putting more distance between him and scary people, keeping him on a leash near you (far away from whoever scares him) and feeding him treats just for being near the person, or several other options. By staying within a dog's comfort zone, we can help them learn good things over time. So a muzzle is a great safety measure, but effective training needs to go beyond that.

The website Care for Reactive Dogs has good basic advice on helping dogs get over fears. The Fearfuldogs.com website is also very good, and has lots of important advice about respecting your dog. A more comprehensive practical guide can be found in Nicole Wilde's Help for Your Fearful Dog book, which I recommend! A good trainer can help a lot too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hello! :)

I'm muzzle training my dog right now! I would say yes it's a very good method (if you introduce the muzzle to the dog correctly) and makes everyone involved safer. No one can get bitten and your dog can't get himself in trouble. There important part of muzzle training is to desensitize the dog to it slowly, in steps. You need to make the muzzle a great thing in the dogs mind. Muzzle = food, walks, whatever the dog wants/likes. Also I highly recommended a basket muzzle over a vet style mesh muzzle. Basket muzzles allow the dog to pant, drink water, and take treats. I'm using a baskerville ultra, and would definitely recommended it. If you desensitize your dog to it, he shouldn't find it punishing at all and will even get excited about it because you've paired it with food and things he enjoys.

I feel like there's sort of a stigma around muzzles that they are this scary, bad thing when in reality they are great tools.

Some useful links:
The Muzzle Up! Project | Keeping dogs and their humans happy and safe
http://www.bwar.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/0809-CONDITIONING-MUZZLE.pdf

Videos on desensitization to muzzles:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_I3c-J7HNxs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FABgZTFvHo
Thanks Autumn for the information! My other question is once he gets used to being around people is it possible to take the muzzle off? Obviously not right away but if we notice after time he is more relaxed with people in our house and sitting down would it be ok to take off the muzzle or would he immediately go back to his barking and growling? He was a stray and they believe he may have been abused so we are trying to get him to trust people again. With us it is not a problem just people he doesn't see everyday.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I think teaching a dog to feel comfortable wearing a muzzle is a great thing. Especially for dogs who are nippy, fearful, or otherwise inclined to use their teeth...but really, it's a great thing for any dog!

A muzzle should never hurt or make a dog uncomfortable. It's important to pick a muzzle that fits comfortably (I really like the Baskerville Ultra, which is made of rubber and is easy to feed treats through). It is also important to introduce it to the dog in a way that helps him learn to enjoy it. A really good demonstration of how to that is in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FABgZTFvHo

However, all that being said, I don't think that a muzzle alone is an effective way to help a dog feel less afraid. For one thing, if the muzzle is not 100% comfortable for the dog, it may make him more afraid (because he feels worried about the weird thing on his face AND the scary stranger). Even more importantly, helping a dog overcome his fears means never putting him in a position where he's so scared he feels like biting. That might mean putting more distance between him and scary people, keeping him on a leash near you (far away from whoever scares him) and feeding him treats just for being near the person, or several other options. By staying within a dog's comfort zone, we can help them learn good things over time. So a muzzle is a great safety measure, but effective training needs to go beyond that.

The website Care for Reactive Dogs has good basic advice on helping dogs get over fears. The Fearfuldogs.com website is also very good, and has lots of important advice about respecting your dog. A more comprehensive practical guide can be found in Nicole Wilde's Help for Your Fearful Dog book, which I recommend! A good trainer can help a lot too.
Thanks for the information! We do put him on a leash when my mom comes over and she knows not to go for him but to let him come to her instead. I think with time he will become better with people, he actually barks a little less when she comes into our home. Just trying to get rid of the chance of biting, because you never know what a dog is going to or people for that matter either. He is also very reactive on walks he will bark at people if they are even across the street.
 

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Don't neglect looking at the Careforreactivedogs.com site that was posted above. There is also a facebook page for that site and one for reactive dogs, if you're into FB.

You'll know when he's ready to be without the muzzle if you use the site listed above. Once your dog has a new emotional response to people, using desensitization and counter conditioning, you can teach a behavior you want, such as go to your bed. This is a stepping stone toward him being with guests but not in the middle of everyone. It may be that he will never be completely comfortable with people he doesn't know. If that's the case, that's ok too. Keep him safe and your guests safe and did I mention you should read the CAREforreactivedogs.com site? :)
 

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'
Thanks Autumn for the information! My other question is once he gets used to being around people is it possible to take the muzzle off? Obviously not right away but if we notice after time he is more relaxed with people in our house and sitting down would it be ok to take off the muzzle or would he immediately go back to his barking and growling? He was a stray and they believe he may have been abused so we are trying to get him to trust people again. With us it is not a problem just people he doesn't see everyday.
Honestly, I can't say. I really depends on the individual dog and their level of fear/aggression. Some dogs may have a full ''recovery'' if you want to call it that, and others may always need to be muzzled or managed in certain situations. My dog will probably always need to be muzzled at the vet and I'm totally fine with that since it keeps her and everyone safe.

Edit: I'm not sure if I was clear about this in my last post, but a muzzle is just a tool to keep everyone safe, and it shouldn't be the only thing you do with a fear aggressive dog. The muzzle is there so the dog can be counter conditioned/desensitized to the things he is afraid of safely.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Don't neglect looking at the Careforreactivedogs.com site that was posted above. There is also a facebook page for that site and one for reactive dogs, if you're into FB.

You'll know when he's ready to be without the muzzle if you use the site listed above. Once your dog has a new emotional response to people, using desensitization and counter conditioning, you can teach a behavior you want, such as go to your bed. This is a stepping stone toward him being with guests but not in the middle of everyone. It may be that he will never be completely comfortable with people he doesn't know. If that's the case, that's ok too. Keep him safe and your guests safe and did I mention you should read the CAREforreactivedogs.com site? :)
I am actually printing out all the information on the website as I type this so I have it whenever I need it! Thank you!
 

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In my opinion muzzling should be a last resort. If your dog is fearful stifling one of the few ways he has to express himself is not going to make that any better.

Muzzling isn't really training, rather it's giving up on training and deciding to managing the symptoms rather than the problem.
 

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In my opinion muzzling should be a last resort. If your dog is fearful stifling one of the few ways he has to express himself is not going to make that any better.
My dog needs to go to the vet, she needs shots, she needs to be checked out if she hurts herself etc.. I cannot train her quickly/thoroughly enough to prepare for when she might need to go to the vet in an emergency. The poking and prodding makes her very uncomfortable and she has snapped at a vet tech before when she was terrified/cornered. I use her muzzle and lots of good treats to make the vet less scary for everyone.

I don't agree at all that the muzzle is a last resort. All dogs have teeth and they will use them when they feel necessary. The muzzle just prevents anything tragic from happening or an animal having to be put down/taken from it's owner. I feel muzzling your dog is MUCH more preferable to them biting someone and having to be put to sleep.

Dogs cannot be managed 100 percent of the time and sometimes something your not prepared for happens, and a dog or a human gets bitten. Muzzles prevent this.

Also my dog is still plenty able to express her discomfort even when muzzled through growling or her body language so I would not agree it stifles the dog and stops them from expressing discomfort.

Muzzling isn't really training, rather it's giving up on training and deciding to managing the symptoms rather than the problem.
This is just not true at all, I use a muzzle and haven't given up on my dog in any way. I am actively training her to be more comfortable in situations where she is afraid, and the muzzle helps me by making situations safer. It doesn't sound like the OP is giving up at all either, in fact they seem to be seeking ways to train their dog and keep everyone safer.
 

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I didn't say you had given up on your dog but it is what it is, it's managing the effects of poor behavior rather than trying to modify that behavior.

A muzzle adds stress and discomfort, of course the dog will find a way to show that.

Muzzles are just tools for controlling dogs, they're not a training technique. That doesn't make them bad, anymore than it makes a fence bad.
 

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In my opinion muzzling should be a last resort. If your dog is fearful stifling one of the few ways he has to express himself is not going to make that any better.

Muzzling isn't really training, rather it's giving up on training and deciding to managing the symptoms rather than the problem.
Absolutely not true for those who understand that some dogs need to be kept from possibly biting while they're being trained. Every dog should be conditioned to wear a muzzle. You never know when that will be invaluable.

A muzzle is not to stifle feelings and it doesn't. Keeping a dog from having a bite history by using a muzzle is smart. It's also smart to keep visitors safe while counter conditioning and desensitizing a dog to what it fears.

If you have time and an interest in learning. Read this: The Muzzle Up! Project | Keeping dogs and their humans happy and safe
 

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I didn't say you had given up on your dog but it is what it is, it's managing the effects of poor behavior rather than trying to modify that behavior.

A muzzle adds stress and discomfort, of course the dog will find a way to show that.

Muzzles are just tools for controlling dogs, they're not a training technique. That doesn't make them bad, anymore than it makes a fence bad.
Would you suggest someone just let their dog bite someone? :eyeroll:
 

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I didn't say you had given up on your dog but it is what it is, it's managing the effects of poor behavior rather than trying to modify that behavior.

A muzzle adds stress and discomfort, of course the dog will find a way to show that.

Muzzles are just tools for controlling dogs, they're not a training technique. That doesn't make them bad, anymore than it makes a fence bad.
A dog properly conditioned to wearing a muzzle is not stressed. No one has suggested the muzzle is a training technique. :eyeroll: You really should do some reading on the subject.
 

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I don't consider wearing a muzzle much more different than a leash. All dogs should be comfortable wearing one. Some dogs might need it in some situations, others might not. And in sometimes it's a legal requirement for all dogs (transportation, access to some buildings etc). A dog that is properly muzzle-trained has more freedom than a dog that isn't. And it's so easy to train that anyone can do it.
 

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Sancho is muzzle-trained, Teo wasn't.
I think every dog, from Chihuahua to Great Dane, should be trained to accept the muzzle in certain situations.
they don't have to love it, but they have to accept it.
A lot of Public transport companies won't take an unmuzzled dog as passenger. Vets, their assistents and groomers are more relaxed when handling the dog and so are less prone to making mistakes and the dogs can't eat poison or other things they find in the woods.
there are loads of reasons why trainig the dog to tolerate the muzzle will make certain situation easier.
Especially for a easily spooked dog (like my Sancho for example) the muzzle can be a big reassurance, that the dog won't go out of his way and start nipping at the vet.
A well trained and well fitted muzzle won't make the dog feel stressed.
Of course most dogs will show stress signals at the beginning of the training, but that is the same, when getting them used to a transport box or a leash. Dogs generally feel often first uncomfortable when contained.

when chosing a muzzle don't take one of these

they not only make it difficult for the dog to show calming signals (which can lead to stress) , it is also more difficult for the dog to heckle with this, which can lead to overheating and it can be more difficult for them to breath with these things. They're also not so safe, since some dogs can get them off.
these nylon things are only made to wear for a short time, like a short visit to the vet, but not for a longer time.
the dogs can also not drink with them, which i find not so practical.

Take either a good quality plastic one (Baskerville), thick leather or a metal muzzle, like K-9.
 
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