In Praise of Muzzles

The muzzle is a really useful trick up any good dog trainer’s sleeve, yet it is often disregarded as a cop-out. There are a number of styles of muzzle on the market. The Nylon Muzzle – this is a made of nylon material which closes with velcro. It prevents the dog from opening his mouth wide enough to bite anything but in so doing prevents panting. It is only suitable for trips to the vet or grooming and shouldn’t be left on for any length of time. These are not suitable for short nose breeds but they do come in a range of sizes. Locally made so quite inexpensive. Leather strap muzzle – This muzzle is made from a series of criss-crossing straps sometimes with buckles to adjust the proportions. When fitted correctly these can be effective and the dog can pant and drink. You need to watch for wear and damage to the leather. They are not suitable for short nosed breeds and come in a limited range of sizes. Locally made so not too expensive – there is quite a range of quality so do be aware when purchasing. Solid Leather Muzzle – This muzzle is made from a solid “box” of reinforced leather or sometimes ABS plastic with leather straps to go around the dog’s head. Small holes are punched in the materiel to allow for breathing. These muzzles are sometimes used when training dogs for attack work. They are not safe to leave on for any length of time as there is no air flow around the mouth which could lead to overheating. These muzzles are made for large breed dogs only. Metal Basket Muzzle – This muzzle is literally a basket made from chrome coated metal. It has a webbing strap to attach around your dogs head and a soft piece of webbing to prevent the muzzle hurting the top of your dog’s nose. The basket style allows for the dog to pant and drink. The metal does eventually rust and the muzzle is heavy. Plastic Basket Muzzle- This muzzle is a molded plastic basket which has webbing straps and a felt nose band to prevent rubbing. Made in a large variety of sizes and shapes to accommodate most dog’s noses. Dogs can pant and drink with them on and they are durable and light weight. Plastic basket muzzles are all imported and are therefore relatively pricey. Where does the muzzle fit in as a training aid. Surely it is only used when all else fails? There are a number of situation where the use of a muzzle is recommended and in some cases not just prevent a bite but allow a problem behavior to improve. Most dogs who show aggressive behavior are in fact scared. These dogs often inherit their fear from their parents. Their owners unwittingly reinforce the fear until it becomes a coping strategy. Many of these dogs have missed out on early socializing and were kept isolated during their fear imprint phases. These lunging frothing dogs who throw themselves around when on the lead at the mere sight of another dog in the distance are really hoping that their display will allow them to avoid confronting the other dog. In fact given half a chance they would rather run a mile than sink their teeth in – but the lead prevents escape. Sometimes having the owner behind them to ‘finish their battles’ adds to the display. Often for these dogs, fitting a comfortable muzzle and allowing them off the lead in a safe area allows them the opportunity to really use their body language to prevent a confrontation. They might bark, realize there is no one to back them up and then submit to the other dog, or sidle off without greeting them. The muzzle gives the dog the freedom to work out how to deal with the threat while moving around freely. Some over confident young dogs use aggressive displays to seem more assertive. Kind of “Hold me back I’m going to bite him!”. With a muzzle fitted for safety, you can literally let him go to sort it out (with a safe confident older dog) to realize he is out if his depth and bring him down a rung or two. Once the dog is fitted with a muzzle, people tend to react differently to it. For dogs who are fear aggressive with people, they are used to getting a reaction when they lung, bark or snap. The muzzle gives the person the chance to show confident signals to the dog which calm the dog and diffuse the aggression. I know I feel a whole lot better having a muzzled dog lunge at me than an unmuzzled one! Back to our fearful dog who has a handler who has tried to “help” him to be more confident.The more the handler fusses and soothes the more stressed our fear biter becomes. The muzzle gives the handler the confidence in the dog to relax and stop reinforcing the fear. A muzzle is also useful when introducing dogs to each other if you are unsure of how they may react e.g. introducing a new dog or puppy to your home. Fitting a muzzle is also a great way to allow a dog who isn’t t 100% reliable with other dogs to have some freedom and the chance to be around other dogs. The more socializing he gets, the better his social skills will become. If your dog is constantly attacking other dogs with his muzzle on, you need to put him back onto the lead and work on his tolerance levels around other dogs and his focus on you. No dog can lunge without looking first and if his eyes are on you he cannot get into trouble. For a referral to a reputable ┬ábehaviourist, send an email to

35 Responses to “In Praise of Muzzles”

  • Sally Grindley-Ferris says:

    We live on a game farm and we have noticed recently that our jack Russell x has started chasing the animals. I think the basket muzzle would be best for him. not too concerned at the more expensive cost but need something he can manage to pant and drink through. Where can we purchase one we have spoken to the vets here in Port Alfred with no joy. Thank you Sally

  • Brad says:

    Where can I buy a plastic or leather basket muzzle suitable for a pitbull in johannesburg or nelspruit?


    • julie says:

      Hi Brad
      A good vet shop should be able to help you. Ask for a Baskerville muzzle. The new Ultra is the best of all.

  • michael says:

    I am looking for a muzzle for a rottweiler – that will allow him to drink and pant. I live in Gordon’s Bay. Any suggestions? Thanks.
    Regards, Michael

    • julie says:

      Hi Michael

      I have a Baskerville plastic basket muzzle for you at our club. Do you ever come to Cape Town?


  • Dorette says:

    Hi. We have a big breed boerboel that we were thinking of getting a muzzle for. Will mostly be used for vet trips [because of his size they are a bit cautious] and help with training. What type of muzzle would you recommend and where can i get one. We live in Cape Town Northern Suburbs.

    Thank you

    • julie says:

      Hi Dorette

      You need a Baskerville Muzzle which you can purchase to order through any vet shop. There is one designed for a Rotti which should fit your Boerboel

  • Di says:

    I am looking for a soft muzzle – probably the inexpensive nylon version – for my Golden Retriever to wear for short walks on the beach. Reason being that he is becoming addicted to eating the ever-present kelp on the beach which does not dissolve in the gut and can lead to costly vet procedures to remove. Would this be a way of addressing the problem? Where will I find such a muzzle in Cape Town? We live in the Fish Hoek area. Thank you.

    • julie says:

      Hi Di

      The nylon muzzles don’t allow your dog to pant so really are only safe for short periods like when grooming or at the vet. A safer
      option would be a basket muzzle which you can order through your local vet shop.


  • maresa says:

    Hi! Where in Cape Town Northern suberbs can I buy a size 5 ultra baskerville muzzle for a Weimeraner? Ulternatively, what online shop would sell it and deliver to a remote rural location?

  • Anash says:

    Hi, could you please help me. I have two Siberian Huskies who make a lot of noise (barking and high pitched screaming) when taken for walks or when seeing other dogs. Would a muzzle be recommended to prevent them from making so much noise? and if so which one would you recommend?

    Thank you in advance.

    • julie says:

      Unfortunately a muzzle will not do the trick but a halter might help. You can come and purchase halters from us or get them from your local vet shop.

  • Birgit Davies says:

    we have a small border collie type dog. She does not like Jack Russels and bites them. Do you have a mussle that lets her breeze on the walk and also is comfortable for her?
    Best regards

  • Lesley Melvill says:

    Our Australian Cattle Dog wears a Hilti nose lead but is now required by the estate to wear a muzzle. What type and size would be best for him?

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      A baskerville muzzle is the most comfortable as it allows your dog to pant and drink. A size 6 should fit. You can order through your local vet shop.

  • Margie says:

    Hi Julie,

    I have an older rescue Ridgeback, who has been with me for three years. He is now not at all aggressive with people, but when I first got him he would snap if anyone reached towards his face. While he has been with me he has had no contact with children. As he was a stray, I do not know what his history with children was prior to him moving in with me. Early in January my niece and her two and a half year old daughter will be spending a weekend with me. In order that we all have a relaxed visit I think it will be wise for me to get a muzzle for Ben, but I would like him to have the muzzle that will be most comfortable for him. From the posts above it seems like I should be looking at a Baskerville muzzle. What size would I need and can I buy one from the Cape Province Dog Club?

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      HI Margie

      A muzzle is a good idea and yes a Baskerville is the kindest. Do consider though that any aggression he shows could still be very
      traumatic for the child even if he is muzzled. You will have to manage him very carefully. You are welcome to come down to the club on a Saturday
      and Liz can help you with a muzzle. Julie

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Hi Margie

      A muzzle would be an excellent idea as it give you peace of mind. You can come down to the club on Saturday afternoon and we can
      help you with the appropriate size.

      • Margie says:

        Thank you, Julie. If I have understood the info on the website, the shop will be open tomorrow, 31st, and I will come by. At a local pet shop I have tried a size 9 Baskerville, meant for a German Shepherd, but it seems a bit snug around the neck and side of the head. I would appreciate the expertise of someone with experience. Do I need to bring cash, or does the club take cards?


      • Margie says:

        Thank you, Julie. I will come by tomorrow, 31st. At a local pet shop I have tried a size 9 Baskerville, meant for a German Shepherd, but it seems a bit snug around the neck and side of the head. I would appreciate the expertise of someone with experience. Do I need to bring cash, or does the club take cards?


        • Julie Tobiansky says:

          I have just discovered that we are out of stock of the larger sizes – sorry about this. You will have to go to a vet shop instead.
          The muzzle needs to be a snug fit at the back of the neck and the sides of the muzzle but the nose must not be squashed. In a Baskerville, there
          is a removable piece at the tip of the muzzle which you can remove if your dog’s nose is being squashed. If the muzzle does not fit snugly, your dog will get it off in 2 minutes.

  • natasha says:

    Hi which pet shops in the Cape Town area sells muzzlers my German Shepherd is 11 months and he does not like other dogs. Also leashes that gives your dog a bit of roaming space.

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      You can purchase long leads from us – we keep 3m and 5m. For muzzles – we can order for you. Come and chat to Liz in our dog shop on a Saturday afternoon.


  • Rhoda says:

    I have an eight year old GSD female who is aggressive to other dogs when walking especially on the road. In parks she is calmer but still inclined to rush up to other dogs and if smaller than she is, attacks. So I have to keep her on a lead constantly. She is a strong dog and I find it difficult to hold on to her when she is in attack mode. I need a muzzle in order to walk her comfortably. Please tell me where I can purchase one that will allow her to breathe and lap water easily. Her nose measure from under they eyes is 11cms and circumference of nose is 35 cms leaving space both ways. What size should I look for please?

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Best would be a Baskerville muzzle which allows your dog to drink and pant. You can order through your local vet shop.

  • Savanna says:

    Hi I’m looking for a muzzle for my boerboel cross bull mastiff he had an operation on his ear and now he needs drops in his ear but no one can touch it I’m in the northern suburbs in cape town if anyone knows where I can get one asap please let me know thanks

  • corinne says:

    Good day,
    i have a great dane and a swiss shepperd eating my lambs. what muzzle do you recommend for each?

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Best to go onto one of the online pet supply stores and look for Baskerville muzzles . These allow your dog to pant and drink.

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