How Do I Choose the Best Muzzle for My Dog?
With the news of the recent American Bully XL ban in the UK, conversations around dog muzzles have been popping up all over social media. The growing discussion has opened the door for dog owners in the United States to consider the benefits of using a muzzle for their own dogs for many reasons, including scavenging, reactivity, and even short-term use for veterinary and grooming appointments.
But with so many different styles of muzzle on the market, how do you choose the best muzzle for your dog?
We have you covered! In this guide, we will discuss the different muzzle types available, what each type is best suited for, and the proper fit of a dog muzzle. Plus, I will share which muzzle we currently use with our reactive dog, Lucifer, and why.
Let’s get started…
Things to Consider When Shopping for a Muzzle for Your Dog
When selecting a muzzle for your dog, there is no singular “best option” that will work for every dog and situation. On one hand, this can be frustrating as it leaves you feeling overwhelmed navigating the wide assortment of options. On the other hand, it means you can purchase a muzzle uniquely suited for your dog’s needs.
Here are a few key factors to consider when making your decision:
There are several materials to consider when shopping for a muzzle, including metal, plastic, rubber, vinyl, leather, Biothane, fabric, silicone, and more.
To determine the best option for your dog, there are a few critical deciding factors:
- Do you need a muzzle that can prevent a determined dog from biting?
- Will your dog be wearing the muzzle outdoors in the elements?
- Is weight a factor for your dog?
- Does your dog engage in “muzzle punching” when wearing a muzzle (ramming into people with the muzzle)?
- Will your dog likely shove the muzzle into the dirt while trying to smell the ground?
It is important to note that most muzzles are not considered “bite-proof.” This means they shouldn’t be relied on to prevent a bite from occurring. If you are muzzling as a safety precaution due to a bite risk, the best options are vinyl or wire basket muzzles.
Ease of Use
Like harnesses and collars, some dogs make fastening a muzzle easy, while others can make the process a challenge. This doesn’t necessarily mean they dislike the muzzle or aren’t properly conditioned to the muzzle.
For example, if our boy Lucifer is overly excited about going somewhere, he sometimes gets the zoomies. He usually will stand still to let us buckle his muzzle, but it’s hard to control the zoomies when they hit! A muzzle with a quick-release buckle will be your best option if that sounds familiar. This is faster to secure than a traditional threaded buckle.
One primary concern for those considering muzzling their dogs is the airflow that they will offer, and for good reason! This is especially important if your dog is going to be active while wearing the muzzle.
Wire basket muzzles are often a favorite for high-energy dogs, allowing for uninterrupted airflow and making it easy for your dog to drink while wearing it. In comparison, leather and Biothane muzzles, especially those designed to prevent scavengers from being able to pick up “goodies” on their walks, generally limit airflow.
Carefully consider your dog’s lifestyle and the situations where a muzzle may be needed.
Are you going to be training your dog when they are muzzled? If so, you may wish to prioritize access to reward your dog with treats. The basic style of plastic and wire basket muzzles make it easy to provide treats. Most vinyl muzzle manufacturers will offer the option of incorporating a strategically placed treat hole.
When selecting a muzzle, we often focus on the situations where our dogs will be wearing the muzzle. But your priorities may be significantly different if you are shopping for a muzzle solely for short-term or emergency use.
Some dog parents will purchase a muzzle to incorporate into their first aid kit. Even the best-behaved dogs may snap or bite when highly stressed or in pain. Basket muzzles can’t be folded down, meaning they will take up a lot of space. Instead, you may wish to use a fabric muzzle that can be easily folded flat for storage.
If your dog only wears their muzzle in high-risk situations, you may regularly carry it yourself while on hikes and outdoor adventures. I often hang a muzzle off my backpack when hiking with our dogs, making it easily accessible if we encounter larger groups of people or dogs along the trail. For this reason, we need a lightweight muzzle that can easily be hooked onto the pack using its buckles or a carabiner.
Of course, your budget is going to be an essential factor. While it would be nice to purchase a high-end, custom muzzle, that’s not always feasible. Luckily, there are several muzzle options that can be bought without breaking the bank. But be careful about “cheap” and poorly constructed options, as they may fail you when needed.
8 Types of Dog Muzzles
Now that you have carefully considered the above factors, you can take that information and search for the best muzzle for your dog. There are several styles to choose from, each with benefits and disadvantages.
Wire Basket Muzzles
Often viewed as the “traditional” option, wire basket muzzles (like the one featured in the image above) are solid and secure. They can’t be folded or manipulated by your dog during use, making them a safe choice for dogs considered a bite risk. At the same time, the large gaps between the wires allow for significant airflow, making them safe to wear for longer periods.
If you dislike the look of a basic wire basket muzzle, you can customize and personalize it to showcase your (and your dog’s) personality. You can have the wire basket powder coated or swap out the nose guard and straps for brightly colored Biothane.
The other recommended option for bite-risk dogs, these muzzles are made from hard, rigid vinyl that cannot be folded or manipulated. They are commonly seen in one of three colors – white, black, or transparent. Large holes around the muzzle allow for ventilation and provide a place to reward your dog with a treat when they are behaving.
Not only are these great for protecting against a bite, but they are also a favorite choice for scavengers. By strategically locating the holes for airflow, the muzzle can be designed to completely limit your dog’s access to anything tempting they may find on the ground while out and about.
Another strong material, leather muzzles are commonly seen being used by police dogs and in Schutzhund training. When properly fit, they provide a high level of protection, which is why they are trusted by Police K9 and Military K9. However, they often come with a higher price tag.
A softer option, Biothane muzzles offer some protection while still being able to fold and bend for comfort if your dog is lying down or sleeping. Unfortunately, the fact that they can be manipulated this way means they can’t be trusted to prevent a bite.
They can be created with varying levels of protection by adding or reducing the number of Biothane straps used. With the added straps across the front, they can be used to prevent scavengers from picking up garbage and other “treasures” they encounter. Even then, however, they should be constantly supervised as a determined dog will still be able to manipulate the muzzle to pick up anything they desire.
Biothane muzzles are a fun option for those who want to show off their personality, as they can be made with many colors and color combinations.
A budget-friendly option that can be readily purchased in set sizes online, plastic muzzles are an excellent option for those who need a muzzle in a hurry. While they usually can’t be ordered with custom sizing, there are ways you can alter the fit to suit your dog better. The most common approach involves boiling the muzzle to soften the plastic and bending it as needed.
These muzzles are also a fun choice for those who want to include style and personality in their dog’s gear. They are available in many bright, bold colors, as well as classic neutrals like black and white.
Greyhound Muzzles & Brachycephalic Muzzles
These labels can be applied to several types of muzzles already discussed, including wire baskets, Biothane, and leather. They aren’t defined by the material used. Instead, they are defined by their unique shapes.
Greyhound muzzles are narrow and long to accommodate dogs with longer snouts. This facial feature isn’t unique to the Greyhound, although they are often the best known. Other dog breeds that could benefit from this muzzle style include the Whippet, Borzoi, and Pharaoh Hound. Just ensure that the shape of this muzzle will still allow your dog to pant freely.
Brachycephalic Muzzles are the opposite, designed for short-snouted or flat-faced dogs like the Pug, Bulldog, Boxer, Boston Terrier, Pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzu, and Bull Mastiff.
If you like the look of a plastic muzzle but are concerned about your dog’s ability to get comfortable or lie down with it on, a silicone muzzle may be an option. They look similar but are made from a soft, foldable silicone or latex material.
Of course, switching to a softer material that can be manipulated as needed means the muzzles are not considered bite-proof.
In most situations, a professional will caution against using a silicone muzzle. This is because they offer very little (or no) protection. However, they are often used during the training phase as they are more comfortable while you focus on conditioning your dog to wear a muzzle.
The most common muzzles you will see in pet stores, especially big box stores, are fabric muzzles, also called emergency muzzles or grooming muzzles. They prevent your dog from biting by holding their mouth closed so they can’t grab onto anything around them. However, in doing so, they also prevent panting.
These are great for first aid kits, short vet visits, or grooming appointments. But they should not be used for any extended period.
What is the Best Muzzle to Stop a Dog Biting?
If your dog is a bite risk and you use a muzzle to prevent them from harming people or other dogs, you will want to stick to “bite-proof” muzzle options. The recommended options are wire basket muzzles and vinyl muzzles.
A plastic muzzle is also an option for dogs that nip, like herding breeds. It won’t hold up to a determined dog during an attack, but it can prevent most small nips successfully.
What Kind of Muzzles Do Vets Use?
Most veterinarians will have muzzles on hand to protect themselves, if necessary, during an appointment or procedure. The style of muzzle will depend on your vet’s personal preferences. The types I have seen most frequently in vet offices are wire basket muzzles and fabric/emergency muzzles.
However, if you have been working on muzzle training with your dog and they are comfortable with their muzzle, speak with your veterinarian. As long as they feel comfortable the muzzle will protect them as desired, most vets will be more than okay with you using the muzzle your dog is conditioned to.
What Size Muzzle Should I Get?
When measuring your dog for a muzzle, there are a few essential factors to consider. The muzzle should be long enough that your dog’s nose isn’t touching the end; however, if they are sniffing something and pushing against it, you don’t want the nose strap digging into their eyes. This could cause an injury to the eyes if your dog becomes excited and tries to get at something.
Second, the muzzle should allow for a full pant. This means your dog should be able to yawn or pant without their bottom jaw being restricted by the bottom of the muzzle. The best way to measure for this is to place a tennis ball in your dog’s mouth before measuring.
Our Preferred Solution: Birdwell Enterprises Plastic Dog Muzzle
In our house, we firmly believe that every dog should be muzzle-trained. In the event of an emergency, anxiety and stress are already high. If your dog is forced to wear a muzzle that they aren’t accustomed to, this will only make the situation more difficult for them. That being said, all 3 of our dogs have been conditioned to comfortably wear a muzzle without being bothered by it.
Our youngest dog, Lucifer, is a fear-reactive rescue. His muzzle training has been taken a step further as he tends to nip if he is scared – a way of trying to protect himself from a perceived threat. For him, we use a Birdwell Enterprises Plastic Dog Muzzle in bright red.
This muzzle fits him beautifully, with minimal customization needed. We did cut back the nose portion slightly to make more room for his eyes. It’s budget-friendly, and purchasing it online means we could start training with it ASAP after deciding that was the route we were going to take. Finally, the hard plastic design has proven incredibly durable, easy to clean (important given our outdoor-heavy lifestyle), and easy to put on.
Final Thoughts: How to Choose the Best Muzzle for Your Dog
A negative stigma is often associated with using muzzles for dogs, but they can be a beneficial tool. Take time to research the best muzzle for your dog and their lifestyle, considering factors like the material, portability, ease of use, and level of protection it will provide.
Most importantly, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every dog is unique, and even if you have multiple dogs in the same household, you may find that a different option best suits each dog – and that’s okay!
Conditioning your dog to wear a properly fitting muzzle that is well-suited to their needs can make a world of difference in their daily routine.
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Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs – Indiana and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.
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