I have met a few people who I thought would benefit from being muzzled periodically, but the perspective here however is on dogs!
There is a popular misconception that a muzzled dog is therefore a “bad dog”.
When we see a dog wearing a muzzle, do we intuitively tend to make the assumption that it is therefore a “bad dog” and avoid any contact with it? Do we ever wonder why it is wearing a muzzle, or do we ever ask the owner why the dog is muzzled, or do we simply accept the “bad dog” perspective?
Perspective is everything, but it can be founded on false or misunderstood information. The perspective of the “Titanic” was that it was unsinkable. Need I say any more?
Naturally, a dog that may bite should be muzzled as necessary, but does that make it a bad dog? Perhaps his (we’ll assume a male) bite habit was simply a response to a perceived threat. Perhaps he was intuitively defending himself and used an aggressive “go away or else” posture, which was sadly ignored. Perhaps he was protecting his owner in his own way? Perhaps he totally misread the human body language being presented to him?
There are many potential explanations, none of which minimize the seriousness of a bite but few, if any, justify the “bad dog” label.
A dog that has been trained not to growl or bark*** (i.e. shock collar) is a prime candidate for biting, simply because it’s first warning of discomfort has been discouraged! Take away those warning options and his first action now becomes a bite!
Young children are candidates for being bitten because they may see a dog as a “living furry toy” and have a passionate desire to wrap their arms around it. When was the last time you saw two dogs hugging each other? They don’t!
You may be fortunate to have a dog which will tolerate such advances from a child, but so many other dogs will not be so understanding. Supervision when children are involved is highly recommended, and it is also a valuable education opportunity for the children!
If a bite is experienced, then we need to understand why because once we know why, then steps can be taken to correct the behavior and/or avoid repeating the circumstances.
A dog behaviorist once asked me – “When was the last time you petted a dog which was wearing a muzzle?” I am pretty certain that most people would answer like me – “Never!” It is an interesting response because a muzzled dog is surely the safest dog to approach in that it cannot bite you!
In this (above) context, a muzzle is used to help an insecure dog adapt to a more social environment. Remember that people in general will not approach a dog wearing a muzzle? That is exactly the response desired under these circumstances. The dog will be much happier because strangers will not want to pat his head or otherwise touch him. Over the course of time, it is likely that the muzzle can be removed because the dog now realizes that strangers are not automatically a threat which must be deterred from getting close.
I do not expect for one moment that I have covered all the perspectives on dog muzzling because my experience has been limited to Ray but, for newcomers to this Blog, our beloved Ray did have to wear a muzzle for a time. Some professional help from a dog behaviorist, and our Humane Society dog trainers, gave us the “tools” necessary to address his aggressive habits!
Was he ever a “bad dog”? Not really. He just had a background which gave him a strong distrust of people (men in particular), and became very aggressive if approached by a stranger. He was reacting to circumstances based on his life experiences… and isn’t that what we all do?
*** A dog that barks a lot should be acknowledged as barking for a reason. Punishing it for barking does not take away that reason (throwing the deck chairs off the “Titanic” would not have prevented it from sinking!). Better to identify the reason (professional help may make it quite easy), and then a behavior change can be considered.