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Best Dog Muzzles + Muzzling 101

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Gear By Kayla Fratt 17 min read May 24, 2021 3 Comments

best-dog-muzzles

Dog Muzzle Quick Picks

  • Best All-Around Pick: Baskerville Muzzle | “my go-to muzzle”
  • For Large Dogs: Leather Muzzle | “for dogs with thick snouts”
  • Best Wire Muzzle: BronzeDog | “for pitbulls and similar-shaped dogs”
  • Best For Small Dogs: Alfie Plastic Muzzle | “bright orange plastic that’s less intimidating”
  • Best Custom Muzzles: BUMAS | “made from scratch to fit your dog”
  • Emergency Muzzle: Duck Bill Muzzles | “adorable muzzle for emergencies or short vet & groomer visits”

Muzzles are an important part of many training plans for dogs. When you train your dog properly, she can learn to be as comfortable in her muzzle as in her collar.

Muzzles allow dogs to get outside and enjoy the world when otherwise it might not be safe for them to do so. Muzzles also allow veterinarians, groomers, trainers, and others to do important work that might not be possible without safety measures in place.

Muzzle Misconceptions: They’re Not Just For “Bad Dogs”

Muzzles are a valuable dog training tool and safety precaution, but they tend to get a bad wrap.

Many people see a dog wearing a muzzle and think the worst – that the dog is an uncontrollable monster or is even being trained to attack. No normal dog would wear a muzzle, right?

Nope!

I am very strongly pro-muzzle.

It’s a shame that media has largely portrayed muzzles as a negative, associating them with “scary dogs”. The truth is that muzzles allow dogs to interact in the world when it might not normally be safe, and allow them to make training progress without putting others at risk.

Some owners may choose to muzzle their dog because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even a calm, well-trained dog might be a bit of a mystery around children or puppies – I’m sure you can agree that in an unknown situation, there’s nothing wrong with utilizing a muzzle to keep everyone safe.   

After all, humans wear bike helmets without expecting to get into an accident. The same can be said for muzzling your dog!

My own dog is muzzled for several reasons:

  • for demonstration purposes
  • to give me peace of mind at the vet’s or during medical procedures
  • to stop him from running with sticks in his mouth while hiking

Many of my friends and clients muzzle their dogs not because the dog is vicious, but because their dog might bite another dog if the other dog is extra-rude.

Without a muzzle, their dog wouldn’t be safe to bring on hikes or even on popular walks. But with a muzzle, their dog can safely enjoy the outdoors!

Are Muzzles Inhumane?

Generally, muzzles should not be considered inhumane. A properly-fitted “basket muzzle” is one of the main tools that I use as a trainer to keep my clients safe and keep their dogs happy.

That said, an improperly fitted muzzle can be really uncomfortable or even dangerous for a dog. If you don’t take the time to train your dog to wear the muzzle properly, she’s almost guaranteed to be unhappy wearing it.

There is nothing wrong with using a muzzle. But it’s important to get a properly fitted muzzle and to take the time to teach your dog to wear it properly.

are muzzles inhumane

You should consider whether you’re in need of an everyday muzzle, or a specific-situation muzzle (ex. For visits to the vet or groomers), as these muzzles function differently.

Avoid using tight-fitting groomer’s muzzles for regular use. While a muzzle that clamps your dog’s mouth closed is fine in emergency situations (I’ve used them many times), they shouldn’t be your go-to. Your dog can’t pant, drink, or eat wearing these muzzles and therefore they’re unsuitable for everyday use.

When Should I Use a Muzzle on My Dog?

Dog muzzles can help keep groomers and vets safe, prevent biting in aggressive or fearful dogs, and can stop dogs from eating things that they shouldn’t eat.

You should use a muzzle any time there’s a chance that your dog will feel the need to bite. This can include a wide variety of situations, such as:

Grooming

Most dogs require regular some amount of regular grooming. It’s ideal to teach your dog to tolerate brushing, shaving, and nail trims as necessary.

But sometimes it’s necessary to muzzle your dog to finish a tough grooming job or to keep the groomer safe.

Some dogs are just nervous about being handled by the groomer. In this case, it’s important to just treat the muzzle as a band-aid, not a final solution. Remember that training your dog to tolerate grooming without fear is your main goal!

Vet Visits

Some owners choose to muzzle their dogs regularly at the veterinarian’s office, especially if their dog is a bit nervous about the vet. Many other owners prepare their dogs with basic muzzle training “just in case.”

My own dog is muzzle trained for the vet’s. We don’t use the muzzle often, but we’ve used it before when he needs to get blood taken from his jugular or when he needed staples in his paw.

This allows the vets to feel comfortable doing their jobs while I shower Barley with tasty treats!

To Prevent Biting

Every single one of my aggressive clients is trained to use a muzzle. This allows us to go forward with training safely. It also allows my clients to meet their dog’s needs, like going for walks or even going hiking, without putting others in danger.

They’re also useful for introducing socially awkward dogs or dogs who are on the grumpy side.

To Prevent Eating Inedible Things

Some dogs compulsively eat inedible things. While this might sound a bit funny at first, it’s actually incredibly dangerous.

These dogs can die from rocks in their stomachs, socks in their intestines, and the surgeries that remove these obstructions. Muzzle training these dogs is an absolutely necessary step towards saving their lives.

For Any Unknown Situation

Muzzles are also suitable for situations when you simply don’t know how your dog will react. For any first-time unknowns, the safest bet may be to muzzle your pooch.

For example, meeting & playing with young children for the first time. Maybe you’re pretty sure your dog will be fine, but aren’t 100% confident. Why risk it? Muzzling your dog allows you to let your dog engage in new scenarios while keeping everyone safe.

unknown dog with child

Do Muzzles Work For Aggressive Dogs?

Muzzles only really work for aggressive dogs if they’re basket muzzles or cage muzzles. Muzzles made from fabric or neoprene that simply clamp your dog’s mouth closed still allow dogs to bite with their front teeth! While these muzzles can work in a pinch, they shouldn’t be your only option.

Muzzles work for managing aggressive dogs, but you can’t simply throw a muzzle on your dog and call it a day.

We’ve written all about socializing aggressive dogs here. It’s up to you to do what you can to help your dog feel safe and confident. While muzzles can set your dog up for success and contribute to the training equation, muzzles for aggressive dogs are just part of the picture.

Sure, they prevent the dog from biting – but they don’t make the dog less aggressive! That’s your job.

While muzzles stop your dog’s teeth from doing damage, don’t forget that a muzzled aggressive dog can still bark, growl, lunge, and even “muzzle punch.”

Some owners find themselves wondering if a muzzle makes an aggressive dog more upset. While wearing a muzzle could be frightening or frustrating if your dog isn’t properly introduced to the muzzle, generally a muzzle shouldn’t irritate or upset your dog.

how to put muzzle on aggressive dog

Can I Use a Muzzle to Stop My Dog from Barking?

A properly-fitted muzzle will still allow your dog to bark – so you can’t use a muzzle to stop a dog from barking.

Even a tight groomer’s muzzle will still allow your dog to woof. If you really want to stop your dog from barking, you’ve got to figure out why your dog is barking and you’ll have to treat it at the source.

Read all about how to stop your dog from barking at everything here.

Can I Use a Muzzle to Stop My Dog From Chewing?

You also should not generally use a muzzle to stop your dog from chewing.

Most dogs chew on things because they’re bored or teething.

While a muzzle could conceivably help things in the short-term, it’s better to treat chewing at the source by giving your dog more things to chew on! A dog who wants to chew but can’t because of a muzzle is likely to grow frustrated and will never learn what to chew on instead of the nearest object.

Focus on giving your dog something better to chew on:

  • Bully sticks are a great option for chewers – these treat chews are super tasty and super stinky!
  • Puppy teething toys are ideal for young pooches who could benefit from some gum-numbing. Many of these toys are designed to be frozen so that they can provide numbing relief.
  • Interactive puzzle toys are smart if your dog is just plain bored and could use a little more engagement.
  • Mega-Chewer Chew Toys. Our list of the best chew toys around will give plenty of chomp-tastic chew ideas for owners to experiment with.
grabby-puppy-chewing

Features of a Great Muzzle: What to Look For

Dog muzzles should be comfortable and safe. There are a few main traits to look for when selecting a muzzle:

  • Breathable. Dogs regulate their body temperature by panting. Breathable dog muzzles are safe muzzles. Squeezing your dog’s jaws shut with a tight muzzle can be dangerous and uncomfortable for your dog.
  • Sturdy. Muzzles need to be able to withstand some pawing and movement from your dog.

NOTE: Are there escape-proof muzzles? While there’s not really any such thing as an escape-proof dog muzzle, a well-fitted and sturdy muzzle will allow you to do the training necessary to get your dog to wear the muzzle happily.

  • Spacious. A good dog muzzle should allow your dog to drink and eat treats through the bars. Muzzles that don’t allow drinking or panting aren’t safe for long-term or regular use. They work for short trips to the groomers or vet’s office, but that’s about it.  Muzzles that don’t allow your dog to eat treats are also difficult for training – your dog needs to get his goodies to learn!
  • Well-Fitted. A Greyhound and a Bulldog can’t share the same muzzle. While a few main brands can certainly work for many dogs, you often will need to carefully measure your dog’s snout and even custom-mold the muzzle once you own it. You may need to order extra-small and extra-large muzzles online if you have a tiny or giant canine, as your local pet store might not stock Chihuahua and Mastiff sizes.

NOTE: Keep in mind that broad-faced dogs like Pit Bulls, flat-faced dogs like Pugs, long-nosed dogs like Whippets, and oddly-shaped dogs like Bull Terriers may all require specialized or even custom muzzles.

  • Style. While this should be your last consideration, many owners like to find muzzles that are a bit less scary. The stigma against dogs that wear muzzles is a real concern, and colorful or funny muzzles can help reduce that.

Unfortunately, many of the funny muzzles out there are groomer’s muzzles that clamp your dog’s mouth shut.

Be sure that you’re still getting a breathable and well-fitted basket muzzle, then try to find one that suits your style preferences. You can always paint, decorate, or even make your own DIY muzzle to make it more colorful!

Types of Dog Muzzles

There are two main types of muzzles:

  • Groomer Muzzle
  • Basket or Cage Muzzle

Groomer Muzzles

As you may have noticed, I do not recommend using groomer’s muzzles except when you absolutely have to.

They clamp your dog’s mouth shut, making it almost impossible for your dog to pant, drink, eat, or be comfortable. They’re an emergency tool, and that’s it.

Basket Muzzles

On the other hand, basket muzzles are excellent for long-term use. Some dogs never leave the house without their comfy cage muzzle, just like they never leave the house without their collar!

Basket muzzles look like a basket that fits over your dog’s face. The bars are spaced close enough together to prevent biting, but far enough apart for treat-feeding. A well-fitted basket muzzle easily allows your dog to pant, eat, drink, play, and live life!

Basket muzzles can be made from a variety of different materials, each with different advantages.

  • Wire Muzzles. These are the sturdiest of the basket muzzles – perfect to truly stop your dog from biting. Good wire muzzles often need a bit of padding to keep your pup’s nose from getting rubbed raw.
  • Plastic Muzzles. Depending on the type of plastic, plastic muzzles can range from soft and moldable to very rigid. Most of the affordable muzzle options out there today are made from plastic – but they can be a bit too cheap in some cases, with poor quality. They may not be tough enough for strong and aggressive dogs, but could work for the average canine.
  • Silicone Muzzles. These muzzles tend to be softer than plastic muzzles. Silicone is also broadly considered more food-safe and child-safe than plastic, which some owners might like since muzzles sit so close to their dog’s mouth!
  • Biothane Muzzles. Biothane is a soft, flexible material made from coated webbing. It’s lighter and more durable than leather, but similarly tough. These ultra-comfy muzzles are some of the best on the market.

What to Avoid in a Muzzle

If your dog has allergies or sensitive skin, be sure to talk to your vet about which material is least likely to irritate your pup’s skin.

Avoid fabric muzzles or leather muzzles with limited breathing holes if you want to use the muzzle with any regularity. These muzzles aren’t breathable or comfortable enough for walks, long vet visits, or training purposes.

Best Dog Muzzles: Our Top Picks

Muzzles come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some of the best on the market. All muzzles on this list allow your dog to eat, drink, and pant except for the “emergency muzzle.”

If you’re looking for a scary dog muzzle, opt for a leather muzzle like the large dog option below.

Best All-Around Muzzle: Baskerville

About: The Baskerville Muzzle is my go-to. It’s a heavy-duty plastic muzzle that comes in two main styles: the normal and the “ultra” muzzle. The Ultra is made to fit dogs with slightly broader snouts, like Pit Bulls and boxers. The muzzle attaches to a collar and has an optional head strap for security.

Product

$24.77

Rating

15,690 Reviews

Details

  • SOFT & LIGHTWEIGHT rubber basket design gives all-around mouth protection allowing canines...
  • SAFE & SECURE ergonomically designed safety strapping ensures muzzle will remain securely in place...
  • ADJUSTABLE & COMFORTABLE Neoprene padded lining for added comfort and fully adjustable neck and head...
  • DOG FRIENDLY – allows canines to drink, pant and be rewarded and treated. Perfect for daily dog...

PROS: This muzzle is very well-made and quite versatile. It’s made from moldable plastic that’s very durable and yet comfortable. While other muzzles may look similar, this muzzle has truly great workmanship and is very sturdy.

CONS: Baskerville doesn’t make a muzzle that fits extra-large or extra-small dogs.

Best Muzzle for Large Dogs: Leather Muzzle

About: This Extra-Large Leather Muzzle is made for big dogs with thick snouts, like Great Danes and St. Bernards. The muzzle only comes in black.

Details

  • Well-ventilated, light and durable.
  • Well-fitting, comfortable muzzle is made of high quality genuine leather, riveted for extra...
  • Dog snout measurements: circumference 18"(46cm), length - 4.7"(12cm).
  • Adjustable leather straps wouldn't stratch.

PROS: It’s hard to find muzzles that fit mastiffs and other huge dogs – this muzzle does the trick! Owners were very pleased with how comfortable and easy to use it is.

CONS: Dogs with sensitive skin may need a bit of extra padding from this muzzle. It is a bit stiff and may rub.

Best Wire Muzzle: BronzeDog

About: The BronzeDog Wire Muzzle is designed for pit bulls, but will work with most similarly-shaped dogs. The wire is extra sturdy, and this muzzle is well-equipped with padding to keep your dog comfy.

BronzeDog also makes muzzles that fit sighthounds (like Greyhounds and Whippets), so be sure to check those out.

Details

  • Size M. Girth of dog's snout is 12 inches, length of dog's snout is 3 1/2 inches.
  • Pitbull dog muzzle is made out of durable light-weight steel and has a soft padding. Genuine...
  • 4 Adjusting straps for comfort fitting dog muzzle. Wire basket.
  • No breathing discomfort in the heat. Dog muzzle for large dogs has excellent ventilation....

PROS: The wire on this muzzle is extra-safe for others while still allowing your dog to smell the flowers and eat tasty treats. The spacing is a bit wider than on other muzzles, making treat-feeding extra easy.

CONS: A few owners reported that their dog’s skin was irritated by the wire on the muzzle, as it lacks padding on the sides of the mouth. Some owners needed to add extra holes to make it fit snugly for their dogs, but most didn’t require any adjustments.

Best Muzzle for Small Dogs: Plastic Alfie Muzzle

About: The Alfie Plastic Muzzle comes in a size that’s small enough for most tiny dogs with a snout size of about 2 inches.

Though it’s not made from the sturdiest plastic in the world, it should be plenty strong for little dogs.

It also comes in a large and extra-large size. The orange plastic is also brighter and slightly less intimidating than darker colors.

Details

  • Please note that this listing is for XS size. Best fit neck girth 8" - 10" with top: 1.5", bottom:...
  • Measure the circumference midway between the tip of the nose and eyes, under the chin and over the...
  • Prevents your dog from biting, barking and chewing things, great to prevent your pampered ones from...
  • If your dogs snout is the exact same size as the dog muzzle, your dog will not be able to open his...

PROS: This muzzle is affordable and has plenty of protection on the sides to avoid dog bites. It’s brightly colored, which many owners love.

CONS: This muzzle’s plastic is not very soft and might irritate your dog’s skin. This muzzle won’t fit ultra-short nosed dogs like Pugs or French Bulldogs.

Best Custom Dog Muzzle: BUMAS

About: If you want a colorful muzzle, a pretty muzzle, or a custom muzzle, BUMAS is the place to go. Customize your muzzle to fit your dog perfectly and pick from colorful biothane to perfect your muzzle’s look and feel.

It’s really hard to find muzzles that fit some dogs, like Pugs or Bull Terriers, well. BUMAS solves that by making every muzzle from scratch to fit your dog.

PROS: These muzzles are the only custom muzzles that I know of. You can create a muzzle that fits your dog’s face and suits your style. The muzzles also come with optional extras, like reflective strips or extra straps on the sides for added protection.

CONS: They’re very expensive. Some owners prefer a stiffer muzzle, though most dogs prefer the comfort of biothane.

Cutest Emergency Muzzle: Duck Bill Muzzle

About: This Duck Bill Muzzle is adorable, there’s no way around it. Unfortunately, it also prevents your dog from panting, eating, or drinking comfortably.

This runs the risk of distressing or overheating your dog. However, this muzzle is a great option for vets and groomers to have on hand in case they need to unexpectedly muzzle a dog.

PROS: Owners love how cute this muzzle is! It helps combat the stigma of muzzles and is truly adorable.

CONS: This muzzle is the only muzzle on our list that is unsuitable for long-term use. Your dog should not wear this muzzle for any extended length of time because it doesn’t allow them to pant or drink.

Unexpected Emergency Muzzle: How to Muzzle Your Dog Fast

In true emergency situations, you can also use a leash muzzle wrap.

I’ve used these before to keep myself safe when Barley is injured on hikes or when carrying fearful dogs at the shelter.

How to Put a Muzzle on an Aggressive Dog

It’s important to train your dog to wear a muzzle comfortably before your dog is worked up.

Trying to wrestle a muzzle onto an aggressive dog when the dog is attempting to attack is very dangerous indeed!

I teach dogs to wear their new muzzles in a multi-step process that I learned from Michael Shikashio. Watch his explainer video below:

  1. At first, just use the muzzle as your dog’s food bowl. Let your dog eat out of the muzzle as his daily dinner bowl.
  2. Hold the muzzle out and reward your dog for moving towards the muzzle. Don’t move the muzzle towards the dog. Encourage this by putting squeeze cheese inside the muzzle.
  3. Reward your dog for putting his nose into the muzzle. Again, let him do this on his own. Don’t force him.
  4. Start moving the muzzle away from your dog while he’s eating so that he learns to follow the muzzle on his own.
  5. Start to hold the straps up behind your dog’s head while he eats. Don’t buckle them and don’t make your dog uncomfortable.
  6. Build up duration, holding the straps for longer and longer.
  7. Start to buckle the straps, feeding your dog extra.
  8. Practice wearing the muzzle while doing fun things, like going for a walk. Don’t just muzzle your dog for scary situations!

What muzzle do you love for your dog? How did you teach him to wear it? We’d love to hear your input in the comments!

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Written by

Kayla Fratt

Kayla Fratt is a dog behavior consultant and freelance writer. She is an Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and is a member of Dog Writer’s Association of America. She travels full time with her border collie Barley and her boyfriend, Andrew. Before coming to K9 of Mine, Kayla worked at Denver Dumb Friends League as a Behavior Technician. She owns her own dog training business, Journey Dog Training and holds a degree in biology from Colorado College. When she’s not writing or training Barley, Kayla enjoys cross-country skiing, eating sushi, drinking cocktails, and going backpacking.

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Sue-Lee Freeman

Please could you tell me what muzzle you would recommend for a Saluki?

Cheers Sue-Lee

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Ruth Hegarty

Absolutely LOVE this article! Its comprehensive and pro-muzzle. I’m a huge advocate of removing the taboo from dog muzzling and this article will benefit so many dogs and their people. Thanks!

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Kayla Fratt

I’m glad you agree, Ruth! I’m right there with you 🙂

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