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Dog muzzles: when, why and how to use them – american kennel club

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The idea of putting a muzzle on your dog can be unsettling. Can he breathe, drink, or pant? How long can a dog wear a muzzle? Is it physically painful? Is it cruel? What are the situations where a muzzle might be useful, or maybe even necessary? What is the best type of muzzle to use? So many questions can arise around this emotionally-charged topic.

dogs with black muzzles


Dog muzzles may look controversial, but most canine experts agree that at one point or another there will probably be a situation when an owner needs to use a muzzle, for the safety of the dog, a person, or both. Therefore, even if you never have to rely on one, it’s a good idea to understand why, and when, you should use a muzzle. There are also different types of muzzles, and making sure it fits properly will ensure safety and effectiveness.

cute dog muzzle


The first time you put a muzzle on your dog should not be the first time you need to put one on: Below we'll also show you how to train and prepare your pal for wearing a muzzle.

muzzle dog


  • When is it Appropriate to Use a Dog Muzzle?
  • Emergencies
  • Such as an injured dog who may bite due to severe pain or fear.

    There is a risk of biting due to a threatening situation

    If your dog is aggressive and has bitten another dog or a person in the past, this behavior must be addressed proactively with a behaviorist, veterinarian, and/or trainer. However, if there is a specific occasion when you’re worried in advance that your dog may bite because he feels threatened, the temporary use of a muzzle should be considered.

    Grooming sessions

    When properly desensitized (hint: it starts in puppyhood), most dogs are accepting of grooming procedures. However, some just never seem to get used to it, so a muzzle may be a safe bet, especially when the dog is not familiar with the groomer.

    When required due to breed specific legislation

    Unfortunately, some states or provinces have breed specific legislation (BSL), which requires certain so-called “dangerous breeds” to wear a muzzle when not on private property. Read about the AKC’s position on BSL and what we're doing to offer alternatives.

    What Should I Not Use a Muzzle For?

    Do not use a dog muzzle for barking, chewing, or other ongoing behavioral problems. There are two important reasons for this:

    A muzzle is only meant to be used for short periods of time, not extended ones, since most inhibit drinking, eating, and panting.

    Since barking and chewing are, by their nature, ongoing issues, a muzzle is not a solution-it doesn’t replace consistent training and behavior modification. If your dog is barking excessively, there is a reason for it. Separation anxiety, boredom, sounding the alarm, territorial barking, attention seeking. Any one of these (or other) causes should be analyzed and addressed. Likewise, chewing can have numerous causes that will not go away on their own.

    Also, never use a muzzle for punishment. It will not fix the underlying problem, but it will make your dog fearful and anxious when you try to muzzle him in a legitimate or emergency situation.

  • Types of Muzzles for Dogs
  • Basket muzzle
  • This muzzle may look like the least humane choice, but the opposite is true. Depending on the exact style, it may allow the dog to drink and pant more than other options, which, for obvious reasons, is important. A wire basket muzzle is recommended for preventing bites, and for large dogs. A plastic basket muzzle is a better option for small dogs.

    Soft muzzle

    Made from fabric, such as nylon or mesh, or leather, soft muzzles are actually less comfortable and potentially more dangerous than a basket muzzle. They can prevent your dog from panting, which is the only way he has of dispersing heat. Panting is the canine version of sweating.

    Homemade muzzle

    This is recommended only when there is no other option available, such as an emergency, when a dog has been injured and there is a risk of him biting. A homemade muzzle should only be used temporarily. You can find instructions online for improvising a homemade dog muzzle with a roll of gauze, a piece of rope, or even a pair of pantyhose, but using materials such as these isn’t ideal. A leash can also be used as an emergency muzzle. (See video below.)

    To avoid having to resort to a homemade option, keep a muzzle in your canine first aid kit.

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