Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Word About Muzzles...

This is a post that I've been meaning to write for some time, and feel that it really might be necessary to address to anyone who is a dog owner.

In the past six years since I started raising, then dog sitting, training, etc. with dogs, I've become increasingly aware about common problems other dog owners have.  One of which is other people's dog's bad behavior, or even worse, their own dog's bad behavior.  Unfortunately, there are far too many dogs with aggression issues, often acting this way due to their needs being unfulfilled (ex: being confined to a house/yard for almost their entire life with no socialization or outlet for energy).  When owners do take these dogs out, they lash out aggressively at other dogs across the street, causing bystanders to be wary and uptight.  They watch anxiously, trying to walk by with their own dogs, hoping that taught leash holds tight against the animal straining for them.

There was a day when I was walking with Gerta on our usual walk when we were approached by a large gray pit bull, tied about 30 feet away to an owner walking and talking on a cell phone.  Because of the dog's extensive freedom, I proceeded forward, until the owner stopped the dog when it was within 20 feet of us.  She told her caller to "hang on just a second, there's another dog." and told me to wait while she walked up to her dog and pulled it to the edge of the sidewalk.  Here, she proceeded to sit down in the grass, a death grip on the dog's collar, and began yelling threats to the dog that she would beat it if it tried to attack us.  We walked by unscathed, but I was completely outraged by this woman's complete disregard for safety.  Allow me to make a list:

1. If you have an aggressive dog that you are honestly afraid will harm another for whatever reason, you should NEVER walk that dog on a very long leash with one hand while talking on the phone. Had I continued forward and not hesitated, we would have been easily within reach of the dog, as 30 feet of momentum would have pulled the woman right off her feet should the dog had decided to bolt. 

2. (And the point of my post) If you have a dog that you feel is likely to bite or attack another, PUT A MUZZLE ON THE DOG WHILE WALKING IT.  The muzzle will NOT hurt the dog or do it any could potentially save your dog's life.  This will a) prevent the dog from being able to bite, eliminating its potential to have to be put to sleep, b) give you piece of mind while walking the dog, projecting a calmer demeanor to the dog that will guide it to rehabilitation, c) make you more likely to take the dog out to get the exercise it needs without living in so much fear, and d) will make the dog undergo a hormonal chemical reaction, as most muzzles tie behind the head to the pressure points where their mother carried them as puppies that forces them to relax.

3. Yelling at the dog angrily often only eggs the dog on and makes their aggression worse.  Being calm and correcting aggressive behavior at level one (a raised stance or slight growl) will send the message to the dog that it is not okay in your view, the competent leader, to act in such a way to others, and that you, the leader, have the situation under control. 

I feel that this is a topic I can speak from great experience on, especially considering my last post about Shadow.  True, I do not have him wearing a muzzle, but I do have him on a less than 1 foot leash, and watch for any possible sign of aggression (now that I know it exists) to stop it in his tracks, which in itself has proven very effective.  He is also of the fear aggression variety, and would rather run away if the option is given.  However, the instant that this would change, I would buy my own muzzle to put on him while we walk for all of the reasons above.  

So please.  If you or someone else you know has a dog that experiences unpredictable aggression, be safe and considerate of those around you, and PUT A MUZZLE ON YOUR DOG.    Any slight discomfort or embarrassment you might have as an owner is a minuscule price to pay for the life of your dog, or another's.

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