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  • Writer's pictureHelen Wilson

Should I muzzle my dog?

Dog wearing a muzzle
Taz looking very happy in his muzzle and yellow jacket

Not everyone agrees with using a muzzle. Some feel its cruel, or won't use one because the dog doesn't like wearing it.

Some people won't use it because there's a stigma attached to it and they don't want to be seen as a bad dog owner.

I was just like that. I thought it was mean and I thought people would judge.

But I learned the hard way.

Life before rescue

Before I go any further, I'll give you a bit of background on Taz.

I found Taz when searching for rescues on the Oldies Club website. I was looking for an older dog as I knew a puppy wouldn't be right for my life at that time.

Taz was rescued in 2017. Apparently there were a number of dogs taken from the same property. Mostly female dogs, some puppies and Taz, who was fully intact (unneutered).

The rescue centre said that Taz was likely used as a stud for breeding

Taz & Ruskin - partners in crime

Taz always had a distrust of people and he was never completely confident around dogs he’d not been properly introduced to.

However, put a puppy in front of him and he was a huge softie. He’d happily lay on the floor, belly up and let them clamber all over him. If he met a dog as a puppy, then that dog was his best friend for life. They could boss Taz around and even get away with stealing his toys.

It was obvious he'd had lots of interaction with puppies

The meet and greet

The first day I met Taz he was very underweight and reeked to high heaven.

They weren't really sure of his breed. It was thought he was Rottweiler/Labrador mix. But we had to wait for him to put weight on to be sure.

His poor condition at this point, goes some way to explaining the emotional and physical trauma he experienced later.

He’d been in the rescue centre for 4 weeks before I brought him home.

His new forever home

Taz seemed to settle well. He found his spot on the sofa and slept well at night. He also quickly figured out my routines, so he knew when it was time for walkies or time for dinner, and made sure I was never late at doing my duties.

I had taken time off work to help him settle and get used to everything. But, when I did go back to work he really started to struggle. I’d come home to a very stressed and exhausted boy.

He was suffering from separation anxiety. Being left alone must have triggered past trauma, causing him to panic.

His behaviour on walks started to get worse too. He barked and lunged at anything that moved. I thought getting him out more and coming into contact with more people and dogs would help him settle. I was so wrong!

The attack

Fast forward a week and the worst happened. Taz attacked someone.

It was a horrible bite and still to this day I feel sick to my stomach when I think about it. The person had to be taken to hospital and (as should be the case) the police were informed. I expected that they would take Taz away under the Dangerous Dog’s Act 1991 and I was preparing for the worst.

For the next 2 nights I didn't sleep. I felt awful for the person he had bitten and at the same time I felt I had let Taz down. I kept going over and over the “what ifs”.

When the police came to visit, I was surprised at how understanding they were. The person he'd attacked did not want to take things further. I honestly couldn’t thank them enough!

The police also informed me that from that day on, whenever in a public place, Taz must be muzzled and on lead. Something I wish I’d done from the beginning.

Now when anyone asked me if they should muzzle their dog my first thought always goes back to that day.

As dog owners it is our responsibility to keep our dogs under control. A muzzle is a great training aid and is necessary to keep people and other animals safe if our dog is a potential bite risk.

I wish I’d muzzled him when his lunging and barking first started. Wearing the muzzle he would have never bitten anyone. I would have felt better knowing he couldn’t cause any harm to anyone, and if I was more relaxed and confident on walks, it would have helped him to relax and stay calm too.

But the muzzle is not the solution to the problem.

I knew with Taz, that I couldn’t just stick a muzzle on him and hope for the best. He needed a lot of help and training with someone who understood his deep-rooted behavioural issue.

That’s when I contacted a qualified dog behaviourist…and that’s when the hard work really began.

For more information on finding a dog behaviourists see my next blog by clicking the button

For advice on the type of muzzle to use, and how to train your dog to wear a muzzle, keep an eye out for furure posts

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