The biggest problem with muzzles is that people are averse to using them, even when their dog's life may be dependent on one.
Muzzles can prevent and help solve many problems- especially undesired incidents that could lead to tragic consequences, be they with other dogs or people.
Any time your dog acts out on another and you're not using a muzzle, you are taking a chance that the next time it will be worse- possibly enough to kill your dog- even with one incident.
Why would anyone take a chance?
This is a question I ask myself every time someone says they don't really want to use one when they really need it. It doesn't "look good", it makes their dog "look mean". They worry about a bit of fur being rubbed off of their nose or that their dog seems "sad" in one.
None of these excuses will comfort you when or if your dog is put to death because you did not protect them from themselves.
A muzzle is like a seatbelt. You wouldn't think of putting your baby in the car without the proper car seat and strapping it in. Your toddler gets a booster seat strapped in- and all the way through adult hood we wear seatbelts "just in case" we have a serious accident.
Seatbelts save lives whether or not we feel "constricted" with them on. We know the benefit outweighs the sacrifice.
Muzzles should be seen similarly. They will prevent bad behavior from becoming dangerous, so that you can not only work on the behavior to help your dog improve and hopefully get over their issues, but so that you can focus on doing that training rather than constantly worrying something is going to happen.
A tense owner is going to make their dog tense, as the tension goes right down the leash like an electric current- and frankly, incidents will be more likely to happen once you have come to the reality that you don't know what your dog is going to do, but you know it might not be good and may "surprise" you at any moment.
But it is almost never a surprise. The warning signs happen constantly- they are just ignored.
Many people just continue to put themselves and their dog through a perilous obstacle course of impending doom just to do their dog walking routine each day.
They know they can't control the outside world, which is what makes them nervous. An incident could happen at every corner they come to, every person they pass, or any dog who may be off leash (and their owner thinks shouting "my dog's friendly, don't worry" makes it ok). They jump and wince as their dog barks, lunges and reacts at all the stressful stimuli over and over, day after day. But they think they can control their dog and that's enough.
Then one day, they can't control their dog. They can't stop their dog because the leash comes out of their hand; a person tries to pet their dog even while they're screaming, "Don't! He's not friendly"- or worse, they don't say anything and let the unsuspecting dog petter get bitten because "I thought this time it might not happen", even when the same reaction has been seen hundreds of times before.
They so often watch their nightmare scene play out while standing their frozen because they are so horrified and in shock...but they shouldn't be shocked. They knew this was coming- they just ignored it.
People are in denial- even when suggested the simplest of solutions, which costs less than $20 in most cases.
A basket muzzle is a simple, cheap tool which could be their seat belt. This is what will stop the injuries from the serious crash that's waiting to happen every day when they take their dog out...and there is really ZERO reason why one should argue or neglect to put on one their reactive dog- not least of which is for the dog's sake.
No one loves your dog as you do. No one else can see- nor cares about- your dog's good side after he has bitten someone or hurt another dog. It doesn't matter if your dog is good 95% of the time because she will be judged- and possibly killed- for the 5% of her behavior that creates the most serious consequences.
And when it is a severe bite on a person, not only will you very likely be facing a lawsuit, your dog's life may be jeopardy- and you may not get another chance to save them.
It is when a human gets hurt that the stakes go up immensely. Many people require plastic surgery after a dog bite, therapy for emotional trauma and other medical costs that may be included in a lawsuit.
This is where you will pay the ultimate price financially- and your dog will likely pay with their life too. Dogs don't get multiple chances to show they are a safe dog in society, so it's critical you don't ever give your dog the chance to show they are not- especially when you can already see the writing on the wall.
The consequences of injuring or killing another animal are less severe in terms of the cost of a lawsuit- but the emotional cost will be unbearable if you let your dog to ruin the lives of other families.
No one deserves the loss of their beloved family member. Such a situation often costs two lives: the perpetrator dog and the victim. It will never be worth it to allow things to get this far.
The legal side is simpler when an animal is hurt- but this should be no reason to take chances.
The reality is although someone may sue you for the injury or death of their animals, in the eyes of the law animals are property and nothing more. You may be liable for the cost of the other animals' vet care or cremation costs, but in many places there is no recourse for emotional damages when it comes to such an event. A victim cannot sure you for millions because their dog was brutally torn apart in front of them by your dog- but who wants to see that and be culpable?
I unfortunately know this loophole regarding animals as property too well from when my pup, Zelda, was burned to death after a routine dental surgery.
Although veterinarians have malpractice insurance and the circumstances of her death were so outrageous and clearly the result of faulty and negligent care, we were only able to sue for her value and the veterinary costs incurred from trying to save her life (which topped $10,000).
The reality is malpractice insurance is really for when people get hurt in animal situations- not when animals do.
Zelda's value as it turned out was a mere few hundred dollars, because that's what it would cost to replace her if we were to turn around and get another dog like her.
This was generous compared to some court cases where others' beloved dogs have been valued at as little as $15! But no matter the dollar amount, either way it comes down to the cost of replacement, not the sentimental value as a family member- which was a blow nearly as significant as her death was.
It took an entire year of emotionally draining fighting to receive a settlement, and we actually spent $5,000 more fighting for that than we actually received.
We literally paid out of pocket for our dog to die at the hands of others who knew better and made poor, risky choices- which is something no one should ever have to go through.
If there is anything I can do to prevent anyone else from feeling as we did (and still do many years later), I must- which is why I advocate so heavily for muzzles.
The reality is while Zelda's situation is somewhat rare (although not rare enough if you research), this her case is one in a million compared to the number of reactive dogs exhibiting dangerous behavior toward others on a daily basis.
The risk is real and yet people don't take this seriously enough.
Please, if your dog is reactive- even if it has not escalated to something that really scares you yet- there is no reason not to put a muzzle on your dog at the first sign of danger!
There are great resources like The Muzzle Up Project and Method K9's methods seen in social media posts, which will teach you how to acclimate your dog to one and how to use one properly once they are.
Wearing a muzzle shouldn't be unpleasant for anyone, especially for your dog- and many dogs can live happy, fulfilled lives even if a muzzle is a significant part of their day.
Frankly, a muzzle may literally be the difference between life and death for your dog- and facing that, who would really choose death as the more logical option?
People quickly jump to rehoming however as the way to save their dog's life in the end- when this isn't an option for those dogs who have violated the rules of society.
Rehoming is for dogs that are not dangerous, have not done horrible things already and who still have a chance for redemption through training....rehoming is not for dogs who have proven to be a serious liability so that the person can pass that liability on to another- yet too often this is what people ask when they come to us.
They come to us too late because they didn't do what it takes to save their dog- and there's literally nothing we as rescuers can do to change that.
When a dog has gotten to this point, the only one that can rescue that dog is the current owner.
A dog acting badly without a home is a dead one- but a dog like that with a family willing to work with them can be saved.
Rescuers are rescuers because they want to save dogs who can be saved- even if their hope was initially to "save them all". All too often rescuers cannot clean up the messes that people make with their dogs and these dogs pay the price for their owners failures.
Most dogs are put to death because of something someone allowed, rather than simply something the dog did.
Too many tragic incidents go back to something the person could have done to stop such tragedy- but didn't.
Dog owners need to recognize their actions- or lack of- are the number one factor in safety. Not their dog's behavior. It's what they do about the behavior that matters.
Most people love their dogs so much that losing them isn't an option...except too often we hear wearing a muzzle isn't an option because it's inconvenient, "ugly", "scary" or otherwise, "unpleasant".
Seeing your dog in a muzzle is nothing compared to what will happen without.
It will never hurt to put your dog in a muzzles, but it can be exceptionally painful for many if you don't.