Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Yesterday I saw a Labrador Retriever with a nylon muzzle secured over his face. Before I got a chance to advise the guardian that those muzzles can be deadly to dogs, prohibiting them from even panting properly, he had driven off.

But it struck me, this muzzled dog. Not literally.

The dog was in a car on a day that was comfortable for a dog to be in a car. Yet instead of making sure the windows were rolled up such the dog could not access anyone or thing, he was wearing a muzzle. Perhaps he was a legally labeled dangerous dog and supposed to be wearing a muzzle in which case, good on the guardian for following the law (which folks so rarely do in the case of dogs). I prefer this thought.

I have nothing against basket muzzles used on human aggressive or severely dog aggressive dogs with a history of teeth on skin. A muzzle can save a lives, human and canine.

But they still strike me as sad, as a prohibition against being. They stop a dog from using a most useful part of his body. While his nose gets to continue working, the dog can no longer explore his world through his mouth. With nylon muzzles, a dog can die - I would never advise using one, not even in a veterinary setting. Always a basket. Always.

There are people who believe all dogs should be muzzled. Which begs the question, why bother accepting dogs into our world? It speaks to the fear we have with dogs. It's primal. Dogs may be domestic animals, but they still channel instincts many of us find unpalatable. These instincts generally involve teeth and blood. Deep down, most of us know that dogs are predators. They just happen to sleep in our homes and sometimes walk politely on a lead.

Again, I am not anti-muzzle. I'd love a world in which all of us dog guardians could take our dogs on boats and airplanes and trains and buses and taxi cabs and just have to muzzle them for that temporary transition from point a to point b. I think that would be an acceptable use of a muzzle and it would expand the horizons for dog-human interactions and adventures. And I see no reason to avoid a muzzle if the use of one accompanied with training and management saves a dog's life.

But they still make me sad.

Muzzles - yea or nay?

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