While I’ll allow that the Hannibal Lecter look will never be in style (not unless you’re into death metal, among other countercultural pastimes), when it’s safety that counts, what's a little muzzle between friends?
Contrary to popular opinion, and in defiance of their appearance, cage muzzles (aka basket muzzles) are not cruel. The versions I like are made of soft and pliable leather or fabric, with metal or plastic applied in ways that keep it both comfortable and functional. The very best have a safety strap that comes up the forehead for comfort and stability.
Not convinced? Here’s my argument in support of the kindness of muzzles:
A muzzle need not be restrictive. Done right, it’s a simple device that fits over your dog’s face snugly enough to keep her from getting it off but loosely enough to permit her to pant, bark and even drink. In fact, a well-fitting muzzle is every bit as humane as any head halter-style lead and WAY less traumatic than the ubiquitous prong collars some trainers are given to recommending.
Consider my own Belgian Malinois, Violet. Violet is nine months old and the daughter of a pair of champion bite work dogs (here’s her mom in action on YouTube). So it makes sense that she might be a tad on the mouthy side.
Of course, I knew of her mouthiness when I agreed to adopt her, so it’s nothing I wasn’t expecting. Hence, why I was well prepared by the time she started chewing (and eating) the furniture. Once this behavior commenced, I took her measurements and ordered the muzzle on Amazon (great selection).
The goal? To keep her from inhaling large chunks of furniture foam (she only had to do it once for me to understand the potential severity of this behavior). Instead of leashing her to my side and taking her with me everywhere I go while indoors (a trick I used to house train her), I now allow her to roam free-indoors –– as long as she’s wearing her “party hat.”
Now, technically, muzzled Violet is still being supervised. So, if by some freak accident she gets her face caught on something, I can be there to rescue her. And by wearing her muzzle around the house, she can’t head straight to the leather sofa and start working on the one spot on its underside she’s already de-foamed. Safety first!
But it’s not just for enhanced indoor supervision. I also recommend cage muzzles like Violet’s for clients whose dogs always manage to find the most disgusting items while on their daily perambulations (used condoms, dead squirrels, Burger King detritus, etc.).
I also recommend them for owners of dogs whose checkered past has earned them a no-tolerance policy with the law. In these cases, a muzzle is a small price to pay for the freedom of neighborhood walks.
Still think it’s cruel?
Cruel is knowing your dog will eat a sock every month, knowing from experience that it’ll have to get cut out of his belly fifty percent of the time… and still not doing anything about it.
Cruel is subjecting your dog to mandatory euthanasia because you can’t solve the fear-based biting problem she displays in your densely populated neighborhood.
Cruel is letting her get a nasty case of garbage gut after she eats roadkill and cat poo on her walks.
Cruel is allowing the appearance and cultural connotations of an innocuous contraption get in the way of your dog’s safety.