What’s the first thing many people think when they see a muzzled dog? Muzzles aren’t just for aggressive dogs; in fact, they have many uses. I’ve known several dogs that need them to prevent coprophagia (eating feces), to keep them from items such as rocks, to stop dogs from injuring themselves, and to prevent bites or nips. Recently, I realized why muzzle training Luna and Leda was so beneficial when Luna had to have surgery to have an oral mass (acanthomatous ameloblastoma) removed.
Before I get into the main purpose of this article, I want to offer some advice. First, it is always best to introduce your dog to a muzzle before it is needed. In an emergency, this may not be possible, but overall, it is best if your dog is comfortable wearing a muzzle before you need one. Next, always get your veterinarian’s advice before using a muzzle for medical purposes. I know veterinarians would rather you ask than to have to repair a procedure. Third, make sure the muzzle you are using fits and suits the purpose. Basket muzzles are generally preferrable because a dog can comfortably pant, drink, and even eat, but it is important to make sure it fits properly. Finally, do what is best for your pet in any situation.
The instructions from Luna’s surgeon state, in all caps, to always keep her Elizabethan collar on, including at night. Her surgeon warned me that there is a very small amount of tissue remaining after the surgery, so repairs would be very difficult or maybe not possible. During the phone update, I asked if it would be possible to remove the cone and use a basket muzzle for Luna to do walks. Fortunately, the doctor agreed and gave us permission to walk the next morning.
The next morning, we visited our local Sniffspot. I carefully removed Luna’s cone and put her muzzle on, and she was able to walk around and take in some fresh air. We chose the local Sniffspot to keep her safe. I knew there wouldn’t be other dogs around and that she would have the space she needed to roam (on leash). I also knew that she couldn’t eat grass, grab a stick to try to play, or paw at her sutures.
Luna’s muzzled walk was wonderful. She was already accustomed to wearing it, but having this nice experience was very reinforcing and will improve her future encounters with the muzzle. It was also reinforcing to me. The training I put into teaching her to wear it benefitted us both.
Muzzles are an important tool that have many uses for our pets. In an emergency, like a broken bone, they can protect medical staff, or even yourself, from being bitten. They can help us prevent problems with coprophagia and pica (eating inedible items).
If you’re looking for help with muzzle training your dog or finding out more, feel free to reach out.