Saturday, June 13, 2009

To muzzle, or not to muzzle...

Ah, the muzzle. The question of whether to use or not use a muzzle is often a complex one. Should you or shouldn't you? When should you if you do? Many of these questions are often answered for you by someone in your group or just by how you"feel" about the muzzle. Many people feel bad about muzzling there dogs and outside of the greyhound community there is often quite a negative stigma about muzzling.

Personally, I am pro-muzzle. We use the muzzle as a tool of sorts to keep our hounds and others safe. No, none of my dogs are aggressive, but they are dogs. With dogs, stuff happens. These dogs have had muzzles on and off for quite a while. No, they are not always thrilled about it. We have 2 champion muzzle rubbers. Anna and Dax will rub their heads on whahever they can to show they want them off, but it's for their safety. I am not into taking any chances with the safety of my hounds.

We generally muzzle in only a few situations:
1-When we are not home or are outside for a prolonged period of time. Basically, when the dogs are unsupervised.
2-When the dogs go out in the yard, unless we are outside with them.
3-Whenever a new dog is brought into our home. All hounds are muzzled and remain so until everyone seems cool and the foster is okay with the cats.
4-In the car.
5-In public if other people are being irresponsible about their dogs.

Those are, in a nut-shell, when we use the muzzle. Now, you may ask why. Let's start with when he hounds are unsupervised. My greys have lived together, as a trio, for almost 2 years now. Everyone is generally civil. BUT, Dax is a bit of a growly face. It is just how he is. We had a food incident, with both of us present, between Berry White and Dax a few months after Dax arrived. Dogs will be dogs, and you just never know what they will do. We also muzzle when they are alone to protect them from stuff in the house. Our home is very greyhound friendly, but you never know what they might decide they want to chew on. I live with 3 reformed chewers, but they have lots of toys and they can be destructive. The muzzle keeps them from getting into trouble, or at the least, makes it less likely. We also muzzle in this situation to protect the cats. Berry White was cat correctable, and actually gives us the least trouble despite his prey-drive outside of our home. Dax was also correctable and took some work. I am still not 100% that he would not get one of the cats, as he will still occassionally go for a chase and stalk them. And then there is Anna, who, at her first group, tested totally cat safe and she is 99% of the time. She is also silent 99% of the time. Well, we were reminded 2 nights ago why we muzzle when they are home alone. We were in bed. Berry White was in the bed and the other two were on the floor on dog beds. I don't know what happened, but, all of the sudden, Anna starts barking aggressively and has one of our cats cornered under stool in our room. We diffuse the situation before Dax got involved. Everyone was fine, but I don't want to know what could have happened if we weren't there.

Next, is muzzling out in the yard. Sometimes we let them go unmuzzled if we are with them, but generally muzzles go one before the back door opens. They even wait for them to be put on. My hounds play hard. Berry White and Dax are both quite mouthy. They run, they chase and they nip, all a perfect mix for someone to get mad and for their to be a fight. We take no chances. It also allows us to minimize the poop and grass eating by using muzzles with stool guards. This concept extends over to situations like play days. Any time there is a group of greyhounds running and playing together, there is always the chance for rough-housing, and I would use a muzzle.

The third muzzle situation is with new dogs in our home. We have a foster introduction routine. My hounds are muzzled and put outside. The new hound is muzzle and showed around the house. Then we bring the new hound outside and they see the yard and meet our hounds. It is not totally uncommon for their to be some grumbling amongst the furious sniffing that comes with meeting a new dog. Everyone is muzzled, so there is very little concern of an incident. Once everyone has calmed, we all go in. Muzzles stay on until it is clear the new hound and ours have settled and that the new hound does not see the cats as food. This time period can vary from a few minutes to a day or so. It mostly depends on the foster hound.

The next muzzle situation is in the car. The dogs are in a confined space, sometimes for a long period of time. They step on eachother, bump eachother, roll on eachother and are not always thrilled about that, so grumbling becomes inevitable. I do not want a scuffle to start while we are driving down the road.

The final muzzle situation is out in public around irresponsible dog owners. This actually mostly depends on which hound I have. Berry White is really the only one we have an issue with other dogs. He thinks every other breed is something to be mouthed. He is not aggressive, he just wants to use his mouth instead of his nose to meet them. We do a good job of keeping him under control, but that have been instances where it has become difficult due to the behavior of others, and we put the muzzle on.

So, I hope I have not made it sound like I have these 3 bully, aggressive greyhounds, because we do not. We are just very cautious. Our first group was very much in support of using the muzzle as a training and safety tool and that stuck with us and works for us. It may not be what is the best for everyone, but it is for us. The muzzle is not a bad thing. The hound might not be thrilled, but it isn't going to kill them and it is way better, and cheaper, than a trip to the e-vet and stitches!


Brittaney said...

I just have to throw out the comment that the picture I used remains one of my favorite pictures I have taken of any of my hounds or our fosters. I often wish she didn't have the muzzle on, but it works. The dog is Chloe, our very first foster hound. Her look, up over her shoulder at me, if just priceless and totally shows her personality.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

I'm a fan of muzzles! We have 6 greyhounds, so we use them in the yard. Possum saved, poop eater reformed, and no stitches!