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To muzzle or not to muzzle your dog?

By Pokerface 25 July 2011 28

I have a 3yr old female staffy who I’ve had since she was a pup.  Until recently she has been friendly with other dogs.  However about a month ago she was attacked by a Labrador who came running at us off the leash.  My dog was on the leash and also on a ‘halti’ collar so couldn’t do much to defend herself because I was pulling her head back.  But after being attacked for about a minute with a neighbour trying to pull the other dog off she was able to get a hold of the other dog’s ear and then didn’t let go! She ended up with a piece of it’s ear!

A few weeks later I saw the same dog running at us again off the lead.  I ran because I knew my dog was now capable of causing serious injury but it caught up and attacked  again! The same situation mine was on the lead, it wasn’t, and again my dog latched on to the attacking dog’s ear.   It was really scary, four people couldn’t get her off the other dog.  Finally someone threw water on them.  And the attacking dog was left with serious puncture wounds that needed stitching.

The owners of the attacking dog are aware that this is a problem dog, and apologized for it not being on the leash.  My concern is the damage my dog caused in defending itself.  I have read that lockjaw in dogs is a myth, but whatever you call it, she latched on and didn’t let go! Now my dog is showing these signs of aggression towards other dogs on our walk.

My concern is that I’m doing the best I can by keeping her on the leash, with a halti.  Should muzzle her?  What if she gets attacked again and can’t defend herself? What about behaviour/social training, can anyone recommend someone in Canberra?

What’s Your opinion?

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28 Responses to
To muzzle or not to muzzle your dog?
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Kali 2:10 pm 21 Sep 11

Hosinator said :

If you want to socialise your dog, take it to the Yarralumla Dog Park.

It’s near the Yarralumla Nursery.

If you do visit the park, please take into account that she has been attacked twice and how she may react to other dogs at the park.
You may want to muzzle her or keep her on a lead in the park until you feel confident that she will play nicely with the other dogs. Although she didn’t start the fight with the Labrador you’ll need to be wary of any overreactions. Be mindful of any Labradors at the park she may now hate this breed of dog.

Keep some water on hand if that will assist in separating her from another dog and be open and honest with the other owners. If they know what to expect, it will make it easier to react to any potential situations.

We take our dog to the small dog section and he’s a horny little rat even though he’s been de-sexed and has nipped at other dogs faces. Most owners don’t mind and will say that they will sort it out amongst themselves in their own doggy way.

You just need to restore faith in your dog that not all dogs are bad, supervised socialising is a good start.

Aggro dogs Should only be bought into a fenced-off park if they have not been socialised….its not fair on the other owners. Especially with a Staffy !….one thing is having your dogged nipped by a nasty poodle and another is having its neck ripped open by a Staffy who has had an unfortunate incident with another dog. I would try it out 1 on 1 (in a neutral area) with a friends dog and work up to the Dog Park (at a time when there arent too many others around) – and make sure its in the BIG DOG area, people are starting to bring Staffy’s/Pig Dogs into the small dog area because they are ‘short’…this is not the idea behind seperated areas.

Kalfour 8:17 pm 28 Jul 11

Because you know that your dog is capable of causing serious harm, I think it is worth investing in a muzzle. But I would ONLY use it when your dog is off-lead.
When your dog is on lead, it probably isn’t a threat to anything unless it’s being attacked.

Try socialising it with friend’s dogs, and build it up to the dog park idea (though maybe muzzle it there just in case) so that you can monitor its behaviour with other dogs.

You probably don’t need to worry about your dog being aggressive, but keep an eye out for warning signs just in case.

mahonfia 12:07 pm 27 Jul 11

I have a 2 year old staffy who is also now fearful aggressive when confronted by other dogs in public(thanks to a few incidents that frightened him due also to the poor behaviour of dog owners who let their dogs run wild). I am eternally frustrated when I take him to the ON LEASH park to find most dogs running wild OFF LEASH! So hard to train a puppy/young dog and socialise them in the uncontrolled environment (which is why we choose the on leash park instead of the off). Would love to see the ranger there handing out fines for a change. I muzzle him sometimes but it just seems so cruel when he is happily walking on his lead and under control at all times so why should he be punished 🙁 Lock jaw is a myth but they do have ridiculous strength/pressure in their jaws. Water normally works a treat though! Maybe our dogs should meet up for a play date on their leads and socialise!

Pokerface 4:23 pm 26 Jul 11

Thanks for all the constructive help here. I have to say I was expecting more ‘you’ve got a dangerous dog’ comments but it’s great to see so many understanding dog owners.

Rebcart, thanks for the advice about breaking up a dogfight. I was so stupid and got my hands in there and tried to break it up. I then looked on line and saw all the damage I could have been in for and will never do that again!

Koalathebear, thanks for the links. I’ve got the guy from Dogtech bringing his boxer around on the weekend and we’ll see how we go from there. I admit, I’m already anxious about her being around other dogs, and he tells me that this anxiety is only making it worse! So looks like I have some stuff to work out myself!

rebcart 8:50 am 26 Jul 11

I agree with the others – obedience training can help her get over fear by being in a situation where she doesn’t have to worry about the other dogs around, going to an off-leash dog park probably not so good unless it’s only small dogs or you’re sure you can defend your dog.

I also agree that you shouldn’t muzzle your dog, because she’s not inherently aggressive and needs a chance to defend yourself.

If your dog (or any dog for that matter) gets into a fight do NOT try to separate them by hand! You’ll be much more likely to get hurt yourself! Instead, carry a solid wooden stick with you on walks, and if your dog latches on – wiggle that stick in between your dog’s jaws. Once it’s all the way through, you can use it as a lever, and the dog’s grasp will transfer to the stick and off the other dog.

Henry82 11:36 pm 25 Jul 11

Widdershins said :

I think it *is* a good idea to see someone if your dog is now showing sign of aggression on walks (sorry Henry82) .

‘showing aggression on walks’ and ‘showing aggression when attacked’ are two different things. imo this situation is the latter

koalathebear 9:16 pm 25 Jul 11

Pokerface: I’m so sorry that this happened to you – it can be really traumatic. dogzonline is a helpful website but to be honest, there’s no point posting there. You’ll just be told that this sort of thing shouldn’t be diagnosed over the Internet (which it probably shouldn’t) and that your poor dog has issues that need to be addressed and that you should speak to a behaviourist. With things like this, it’s not possible to ‘fix’ them by just using a muzzle/halti etc. I also recommend that you don’t go to crowded dog parks and other places with dogs until you’ve been able to manage your dog’s behaviour. Socialisation is very important but there’s no point forcing your dog back into a stressful situation before its ready.

One of the most well-regarded behaviourists around who frequently works with dogs that other people give up on is Steve Courtney from K9Pro in Sydney:

This case was impressive: He owns GSDs but works with all kinds of dogs. He’s the man who is rehabilitating Buster, the ‘vicious’ GR who you might have heard about in the news: He is also a very nice guy and very generous with his time and there’s permanent follow-up by email if you choose.

Closer to home is Heike Hahner
Dog Training & Behaviour Consulting
Phone: 02 4842 7143

She frequently travels to Canberra for consults and she is extremely generous with her time. She, too doesn’t give up on dogs easily and from memory she has an aggro JRT that ended up with her because it’s unmanageable with other people. I wish you all the best!

gertel 8:30 pm 25 Jul 11

I agree with CHW – the dog park will only make it worse. I can recommend Andina Faragher who runs Thinking Dog and also works for the RSPCA.

Your dog sounds frightened, not aggressive. Fight or flight.. and there’s no where to go on a lead. Muzzling would only make her more defenseless.

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