I have read your article on muzzling. I have a problem in that a young lady friend of the family has a Labrador Retriever which was obtained as a puppy even though both partners were out to work all day. One of them popped home for a bit at lunch time. Just recently I heard that someone called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals because the dog was left outside all day with no shelter. The RSPCA advised that adequate shelter be provided.
Now I hear that the dog has started to get into the food cupboard and destroy its contents. Instead of just locking the cupboard they are now muzzling the dog. I assume this is when it is left and at night as one of the owners is out of work at the moment. Please may I have your views on a dog being left with a muzzle on when it is not used to it. Is it cruel?
Muzzling the dog or locking the cupboards, are just work around strategies and while they may resolve the owner’s problem they won’t the dog’s. Neither strategy, take care of the dog’s problem which from what you write is a dog that at the very least is an untrained, mentally and physically under stimulated dog. Dogs are the same as our own children, it’s only with supervision and training and coordinated physical activity that keeps them from nicking chocolate bars from the local mall and eventually ending up in the poky.
In theory I don’t have a problem with muzzles, providing the basket design is used when the dog has to wear it for more then a few minutes. The snug ones which don’t allow the dog to properly pant and dissipate body heat. However, I’m not a big fan of using muzzles to stop barking, chewing or cupboard raids etc. It’s the wrong tool for the job.
As far as the cruelty factor, I guess that depends on how you define cruelty. Technically it means causing pain or distress. If it is cruel to cause distress then I’m going to have to hide the copy of the paper this column appears in before my sons see it, as according to them I’m constantly causing them mental distress by muzzling their God given rights as children by enforcing household rules and as they get older implementing new ones. They have threatened to put Children’s Aid on speed dial. Having been there at one point in my life, I can relate, but just in case they do get a copy of the column, – too bad boys, with a little luck and in more then one way you’ll survive.
You’re right of course, whenever possible a muzzle should be introduced gradually. I’ve seen some dogs literally drop to the ground and refuse to move when muzzled the first time. Others just try to get the darn thing off and can think of nothing else. With gradual introduction and desensitization, even positive associations just as the sight of a dog’s leash elicits boundless joy in spite of being a pretty significant impediment to their overall freedom so can a muzzle. It’s not unlike a dog’s perspective on a crate, introduced and used incorrectly a crate to some dogs is nothing but a body muzzle, introduced correctly it is a sanctuary. Veterinarians face this quandary every day when faced with providing care for an aggressive dog. They have to pick the lesser of three evils. Take the bite and give the shot, muzzle the dog and give the shot or send the dog packing without the shot.
The people you write about must have some interest in the dog or wouldn’t take the time to visit at lunch time. I believe they simply don’t know what a dog needs and how to give it and need some guidance as how to do it. Perhaps armed with the correct information they would provide for the dog’s needs or simply find it a better home. Too bad the SPCA hadn’t done more then simply issue an order. They’d be better off ordering the attendance to a little seminar or at the very least the officer should have a friendly educational chat. People can respond better to the carrot rather then the stick sometimes.