Important message about muzzles

5 Oct 2020, 4 p.m. by Tracey McLennan

The reason for this blog is that I read a post on social media that has stuck with me for hours now. The post was about a large dog who's people are doing their best to deal with his reactivity toward other dogs. They keep him on a short lead always and they tell people to keep their dogs away. They were walking with him when a small, barky dog ran over to him. He picked the small dog up and shook her. The small dog was rushed to the vet but sadly didn't survive.

It is obvious to me why reading this has had such a profound effect on me. The circumstances weren't exactly the same but I have watched in horror as my large dog, Calgacus, picked up and shook a small dog. Luckily in our case, the smaller dog - Monty - survived. Still, that incident changed the course of my life. I will never get over the trauma of seeing it. Monty lived with a friend of mine and afterwards, we both had difficult experiences. We both had flash backs of the event and both of us became terrified for a while of seeing dogs approach each other.

That's what is stuck in my head. The trauma that both sets of owners will experience as a result of that single incident. Not to mention the dogs. One of the dogs in the story has already lost her life. The other may still. His people are considering euthanasia for him. Even if that isn't what they decide to do in the end, life for him is unlikely to be the same. Trips to anywhere that there might be other dogs will not be possible for him.

You might be wondering why on earth I'm sharing such a sad story with you?

Well - the thing that is a life saver in these situations is a muzzle. Dogs who are likely to bite a dog who comes over are saved from the consequences of that choice by muzzles. Leads, shouting to other owners and brightly coloured warning jackets are all great but they don't prevent a bite if somebody ignores all of that - or just can't call their dog back. Similarly, dogs who have bitten for the first time are saved from that becoming a habit by wearing a muzzle.

A muzzle was the first thing I did with Calgacus after his attack on little Monty. It helped us enormously and meant that we could walk in places where there might be other dogs. Calgacus did get over his problems with other dogs - he became really good with them. He and Monty even walked together after the attack without any issues.

I know that using a muzzle can be daunting and in my course, Muzzle Love I talk about ways you can help to change your mindset so that you start to feel better - as well as teaching you how to train a dog to wear a muzzle. Being able to wear a muzzle is so important for dogs and if your dog isn't trained to wear a muzzle, I'd really encourage you to do some muzzle training. Life happens and things can change. I hope that you never have an experience like mine but sometimes things happen and dogs who've been super friendly to other dogs like Calgacus was can become dangerously aggressive toward them.

There’s lots you can do to get started with muzzle training. Check out the fantastic Muzzle Up Project (

If you want detailed steps to follow as well as access to support via a Facebook group, I have a muzzle course available as a self-study option. Have a look at it if you think it might be helpful. ( Muzzle Love Course )

If you enjoyed this and want to hear more from me, I have a free webinar that you can get access to. It is pre-recorded so you get it straight away.

It's called "A fresh look at reactivity" and I think you'll enjoy it.

Click I'd LOVE that! and give me your email address and I'll send it straight out to you.

I'd LOVE that!

Tracey McLennan

Tracey is the author of Canine aggression: Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindess and compassion and founder of Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd. She has an honours degree in Canine behaviour and training, is a Tellington TTouch practitioner, and is an ACE Advanced Tutor.

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