Owner Reports on the Use of Muzzles and Their Effects on Dogs: An Online Survey

Scientific Journal Articles

Specific situations and legal requirements in some countries require dogs to wear a muzzle on a regular basis. Ongoing discussions within different national authorities are trying to balance the safety of the public against welfare of dogs when being walked. However, detailed information on an ideal type of muzzle, muzzle fit, introduction techniques to wearing a muzzle, and effects of muzzle use on the physical condition and behavior of dogs is very limited. Hence, this study collected data via an online survey on the frequency and circumstances of muzzle use and observed effects on dogs when wearing a muzzle by also incorporating training techniques and muzzle types used. Of 1,862 respondents, only 21.6% indicated their dog never wears a muzzle (average age: 5.8 3.6 years). Around half of the owners stated that their dog wears a muzzle only when mandatory by legislation (47.8%) and/or when necessary to prevent a bite (47.5%). Public transport and crowded public places were situations where muzzles were used most often. Although basket-type muzzles (made of BioThane, plastic, wire) were used most often, only 71.3% reported a fit not clearly impairing dog welfare. The muzzle introduction technique (habituation, short training, intense training, no preparation) used significantly impacted on adverse behaviors observed when wearing a muzzle for the first time and on the ongoing behavior when muzzled such as trying to pull the muzzle off, rubbing the nose against objects, or freezing. Using food during muzzle training significantly decreased levels of passive avoidance during fastening and increased the likelihood of dogs actively putting their nose into the muzzle. Negative effects on the behavior when wearing a muzzle were reported by 19.6% of owners and labeled with the terms ‘insecure, apathetic, dull, passive, distressed, anxious, unwell, agitated, nervous, tense, sad, or miserable.’ Changes in the dog behavior were perceived as an advantage with respect to inability to access food (41.9%) and when used for veterinary visits (30.9%). Observed physical damage of either fur or skin and effects on thermoregulation and the ocular or gastrointestinal tract were reported by 161 (12.9%) owners. The results of this survey indicate a need to educate dog owners on muzzle fit and training protocols to reduce negative effects on dog welfare. In addition, potential alterations in intraspecies communication, other social behaviors, and welfare need to be explored in more detail.

Arhant, C., Schmied-Wagner, C., Aigner, U., Affenzeller, N. (2020). Owner reports on the use of muzzles and their effects on dogs: an online survey. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 1-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2020.07.006

Photo: iStock.com/Tetiana Garkusha

View Resource
Topic(s): Behavior, Intervention, Pet Families, Problem Abnormal Behavior