Training Springer Spaniels - Using a Muzzle

Published: 12th February 2010
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When listening to people about obedience training springer spaniels as well as other breeds, one point that is frequently raised is if muzzles for dogs are a good idea or not. Is is cruel to muzzle a dog? Is a muzzle completely necessary? And can good obedience training cancel out the necessity of a muzzle? Here we will look at these points and provide some common-sense answers for people facing this dilemma.

when you are able to train a dog from a very young puppy, you can create preventative strategies to deal with aggression or excessive aggression as the dog gets older. This would take the form of making sure that you socialise your dog properly and regularly as well as firmly establishing your authority as master.

In some cases, though, there are dogs which get into a frenzy of excitement too great to heed a command from the pack leader. It is not that the do not hear or understand, more it is an inability to control the adrenalin rush and act accordingly. If this happens frequently it is often a good plan to have the dog neutered (as it tends to be more of a problem with male dogs). When a dog has a particularly high level of testosterone in it's system it can then have a problem controlling itself in these circumstances. When testosterone levels have reduced - which in older dogs can take a year or more - the dog will tend not to display these aggressive attributes.

There are also breeds of dogs, like spaniels and pit bull terriers, which have a genetic predisposition a phenomenon known as 'rage disorder'. A dog can be behaving completely normally one moment and then, as quick as a flash, turn into an aggressive, dangerous animal without any warning. Owners of animals which display these character traits need to take responsibility to ensure that their dog does not attack anybody or any other pets.

The short-term fix is to get a muzzle. Are dog muzzles cruel? No, providing that the owner ensures that the muzzle is the correct fit for the dog and is aware of what the dog can and cannot do whilst wearing it. In fact, in some countries, certain breeds have to be muzzled in public by law.

There are various muzzles available but they tend to fall into two types; rigid muzzles which completely enclose the dog's snout and soft, elasticated muzzles. The former are usually made from thick leather, metal or plastic and completely prevent the dog from biting anything. In addition, however, the dog can not eat or drink while the muzzle is attached so care has to be taken over the length of time a dog is wearing one. The latter, elasticated muzzles bind the upper and lower jaws. With these, it is possible for the dog to open its mouth so can drink and eat but the pressure from the elastic makes opening the mouth wide enough to cause serious injury impossible.

An owner needs to use some intelligence to decide when a dog is wearing its muzzle. definitely if children or strangers are coming to the house or when out for walks are sensible occasions to put it on the dog. Also putting a muzzle on a dog when going out into the garden is often a good idea so that the dog gets used to the idea that the muzzle is one or he doesn't get let out or do what he wants to do. I once had a very obedient dog, for example, who would get aggressive about coming back inside when called. A muzzle meant that any amount of aggression at this point was negated, making it easier for me to train him that I was boss at these times.

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