I am particularly interested by aggression as a behaviour, or better, a set of behaviours. I am moving towards only working with aggression cases. This leads me to have to have a seemingly simple conversation with many of my new dog training students: the muzzle talk. As straightforward as I thought this would be, when I first started working with dog owners, boy was my face red when I nonchalantly mentioned desensitization to the muzzle as a precursor to successful work with one, (which was needed in that particular case, as with many others). The reaction was nothing short of aghast, to the point that I thought that maybe the dog owners in question had misunderstood me.
Many dog owners I work with are pretty accepting of the muzzle, even without me having to back up my support of this training tool with theoretical and practical knowledge. I'm met with such initial resistance, that when people just accept that the muzzle may be required during training, if not immediately, possibly later on, I'm actually a little surprised!
I find that people aren't really concerned with the muzzle being inhumane, which many aren't. The biggest concern I hear is that they're fearful of the stigma associated with being seen in public with a muzzled dog. I find this to be a baffling concern, considering the alternative. If the dog is deemed dangerous enough to require a muzzle, what do you suppose is the stigma associated with a dog actually biting someone? I'm not even talking about the worst case scenario, I'm talking about a dog leaving minimal abrasion and possibly a bruise. Is that something you'd rather deal with than a dog being given extra space because he's wearing a muzzle?
One dog owner once mentioned how a dog trainer on TV claimed that muzzles make a dog appear aggressive, which influences how people behave around the dog, which will ultimately exacerbate that dog's aggression... Um, say what? First of all, I see people walk by muzzled dogs all the time: nobody ever runs to gather the villagers with pitchforks. I get more people reacting with fear when they have to walk by my mellow German Shepherd, than when I'm working with a muzzled dog. Seriously.
... And more importantly, that's just not how aggression works. Fear, anxiety and ire are such exhausting emotional states that it takes a little more than being given space to exacerbate them... But I digress...
To make this short and sweet, I'll end it with a note to anyone battling with the decision of whether or not to muzzle their dog: there are so many reasons why it's a good idea, and so few cons, which are virtually null with proper habituation to wearing one. Even a minimal bite can become months' long headache, whatever the cause. Do you think it's worth it?
Aggression is the number one cause of dogs being surrendered or euthanized. It's a difficult situation for everyone involved. Please do not attempt to solve canine aggression issues on your own, seek the help of a qualified dog trainer.