Grisha Stewart, owner and trainer at Ahimsa Dog Training in Seattle, answers this week's questions.
Question: Under what circumstances should a dog wear a muzzle?
Answer: Seattle’s dog-bite law is very strict. If a dog bites or menaces more than one person, bites one person in a way that the person needs stitches, or bites more than one dog, that dog is deemed ‘dangerous’ and must be put to sleep or leave the Seattle.
If your dog is at a risk for biting a dog or person, like a veterinarian, then it is important to do two things to prevent bites:
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Train your dog to be more comfortable with whatever situation is causing him or her to snap or bite.
In the meantime, prevent bites by having your dog wear a muzzle in situations that are too stressful, such as urgent vet care.
Muzzles have a bad rap because they look a bit like Hannibal Lecter’s mask, but they are great for safety.
I recommend using muzzles in situations where you can’t avoid doing something that might trigger a bite, say the dog has broken a nail and removing it is the only way to avoid more pain.
I also use muzzles as a safety during close-up greetings with dogs or people.
In particular, I would use it when you are at the final stages of introducing a dog to a person or another dog: You think it will go well, but if you have misjudged things, the dog may bite or get into a fight.
Never use a muzzle for something like putting two dogs together and ‘letting them work it out’ or for taking a dog that gets into fights to the dog park.
If you believe there will be a fight, do not put the dog in that situation!