Updated: Jun 26
No! Muzzles are an essential piece of equipment in in the dog behaviour world. A properly fitted muzzle can allow people to safely exercise and socialise their dogs in a safer environment.
Sadly dogs wearing muzzles are subject to judgment.
There are a number of reasons dogs need to wear a muzzle, and none of them mean you have a bad dog! What we do have is a dog that is experiencing the world and an owner who has safe control of their pet.
A well-fitted basket muzzle allows your dog to take treats, drink, and pant comfortably - but not bite.
Muzzle training should always be a very positive experience so the muzzle becomes associated with enjoyable experiences like walks, socialising, activities off lead exercise for example. Training may be a slow process but is worthwhile to allow your pet to safely navigate their environment.
There are a number of reasons why a dog may be wearing a muzzle. If you see a dog wearing one:
Recall your dog in case the dog is fear reactive or dog reactive and communicate with the owner. Ask if their dog is okay with dogs approaching or would they like you to move further away? In many instances you may help reduce the anxiety of a fear reactive dogs owner who can then safely pass without worrying about unexpected confrontation. You may also learn that their dog is perfectly fine with dogs and would love to play, and they are wearing the muzzle for other reasons.
These reasons can be:
Behaviour: Some dogs need a muzzle to safely exercise in public because they may be reactive or aggressive in certain circumstances. An owner walking a muzzled dog is taking excellent care to provide for their welfare needs to enjoy natural behaviour while still considering the safety of others.
Dogs that scavenge on walks: This could result in the dangerous ingestion of mouldy foods, or other dangerous objects like stones, large pieces of wood or rubbish and litter left around (P.s please bin your litter!!)
Dogs that are on a medical elimination diet and are not allowed to eat anything else to check for food allergies
Dogs with medical issues like pancreatitis meaning scavenging high fat treats could cause a nasty flare up. Or dogs with diabetes that need to stop grabbing sneaky treats on walks to help control their blood glucose levels.
Dogs who have a high prey drive and may try to catch little animals or even nip other smaller dogs on walks
Dogs that's are perfectly lovely but have been put under restrictions by Breed Specific Legislation like a Pit Bull Terrier.
The muzzle works as a cue to alert other dog owners or other members of the public walking to give the dog some space.
Another reason, which as veterinary professionals we fully support is that some owners wants to teach their dog to be comfortable and relaxed wearing a muzzle in case the dog must wear one when attending a veterinary surgery. Often a visit to the vets is stressful for dogs and we understand that they may be scared, not feeling well or experiencing pain. This is why sometimes a muzzle is required to keep everyone safe and sound and allow necessary treatment or diagnostic tests to be preformed. A dog that is already comfortable applying and wearing a muzzle helps reduce at least one of these factors which can make a vet visit worrying.
Projects like The Muzzle Up Project and Muzzle up, Pup! The pro-muzzle community are trying to educate of positive muzzle training, appropriate muzzle fitting and a more tolerant association of people who walk muzzled dogs.