Bites happen. Every trainer goes through the experience of it at least once in their careers. It’s scary, it’s traumatizing – for the owners as well as the trainer – it’s messy, and once it happens, you’re never the same.
In 30 years of working with animals, being bitten was something I never experienced. Then, not quite two weeks ago, I did. Fortunately, it was a small bite that didn’t require medical attention. But it was still traumatizing – not only for me, but for the owners, too. The dog is highly reactive – we knew that; it is why the family called on me in the first place – but until the incident occurred, the dog had never actually attacked or bitten anyone.
I’m telling you about this because you need to be aware that just because your dog hasn’t bitten before, that doesn’t mean they won’t. If the circumstances are just right, your dog could deliver a bite, and the results of that could be very bad not only for the person or animal being bitten, but also for you, the owner.
While every dog should be conditioned to a muzzle for general safety reasons, muzzle conditioning is crucial – and highly beneficial – for reactive and aggressive dogs. Not only does the muzzle discourage people from getting close to your dog and keep people and other animals safe, it also helps the dog to better control their own impulses, especially around their triggers. It eases some of the stress the dog goes through when they’re around their triggers, which in turn provides the dog with a sense of safety and security.
Combined with strong, calm, confident leadership from you, a muzzle can be one of the most powerful and positive tools in your training tool belt. It also provides your dog with a much better quality of life, in that he can experience the world from a safer state of mind. He knows you’ve got his back no matter what’s going on, and that helps him relax and enjoy life.
Muzzling your reactive dog is not an inhumane action to take. If anything, using it is a tremendous act of love and compassion for your dog.
Muzzle up, have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.