Using a basket or cage dog muzzle can be a daunting experience as it may look cruel but there are some instances where a muzzle may be necessary for the safety of both people and your Australian Shepherd. When used properly, with the right training and a proper fit, a muzzle can be a very useful tool. In order to make the right choice for your dog it's important to look carefully at all of the available options and understand when they should and shouldn't be used.
Soft muzzles – These are muzzles made from pliable leather or fabric such as nylon or mesh. Since they are soft and easily carried, this style of muzzle is good to have on hand in the car or in an emergency kit so that you have the ability to use it when necessary. On the negative side, though a soft muzzle may look more humane this can actually be the most dangerous type of muzzle for dogs as it can restrict their ability to eat, drink and pant. For this reason, a soft muzzle should only be used for brief periods of time while the dog is carefully supervised.
Cage muzzles – These muzzles can look scary but they actually offer a much more humane choice, allowing the dog to eat and drink as well as pant, which is vital so the dog can disperse heat. Without the ability to pant a dog can easily become overheated and even die. A cage dog muzzle can be made of metal wire, plastic, or silicone, is durable and provides more control over the dog. Because they allow for proper breathing and sniffing, these muzzles are much less likely to cause a fear reaction in dogs, which is another major plus.
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Yes, I know, this isn't an Aussie (it's actually a Basenji), but this gives you a good idea of how a cage style dog muzzle still allows a dog to easily breathe, pant, and drink.
It is also possible to construct a muzzle for dogs out of common items you can find around the home including gauze, rope or pantyhose. While this type of homemade muzzle can be effective in a pinch, it is not generally recommended to use one for any extended period of time.
You are much better off having a soft muzzle stored away in a dog first aid kit so that you can turn to it if your dog is injured or has some other immediate need to be temporarily muzzled.
Whether you choose a soft or cage dog muzzle, it is extremely important that you introduce your dog to wearing it gradually and before a need actually arises so that he is comfortable with it. You'll also want to be sure that you get the proper fit, measuring to ensure that it is not so tight that it hurts or too loose allowing the dog to easily slip out of it.
Also crucial is knowing exactly when to use a muzzle. Muzzles are used for situations when there may be an immediate danger of a dog biting, such as during a grooming or vet appointment. They should not be used in place of obedience training. Some breeds, like the Australian Shepherd, have a natural tendency to nip, but generally this should be able to be controlled with proper obedience training rather than a muzzle.
While nobody likes the idea of using a cage dog muzzle, it can actually be the best option should your dog require muzzling. You can find many different styles available at retailers or online at Amazon. Consider all of your options and be sure to measure carefully so that you get a good fit and you'll be able to apply a muzzle properly so that it helps rather than hurts your Aussie.
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