Tail Wag Tuesday #6

Instead of reviewing a favorite product of ours this week, I’m going to clarify something. This week I’m talking about a Gentle Leader versus a muzzle.

A gentle leader is like a harness. The difference with a gentle leader is that it goes over your dogs nose instead of around their chest and back. The best way I can describe a gentle leader is like a bridle for a horse. Where the head goes, the body goes. The leader prevents the dog from pulling. If they do pull, their head turns sideways; not exactly the most comfortable way to walk.

Think of it this way, a harness is around a dogs chest and shoulders. This is the strongest point on a dogs body, a harness doesn’t necessarily prevent them from pulling, it just doesn’t prevent them from injuring their throat when they do pull. A leader works in a similar way except they aren’t using the strongest point on their body. 

In contrast, a muzzle restricts the dogs use of its mouth. There are soft muzzles and hard muzzles on the market. Either muzzle an owner chooses to go with prevents the animal from using its mouth. In my experience, the people that have to use a muzzle typically have a dog that is animal aggressive and they are being responsible owners to not allow their dog to attempt to attack another dog. Or in a professional setting, a groomer uses a muzzle when they don’t have the dogs shot records.

Bella and Lucy have both had muzzles put on them at different points and let me tell you, its not a fun thing for them, or me for that matter.

Bella’s muzzle experience was kind of shocking for me. We went to the vet for her annual check up and shots, our normal doctor was not available so we had to see the other doctor in the practice. Bella doesn’t like people messing with her rear end, and she has a tendency to grumble a bit to let you know. She has never tried to bite anyone, she doesn’t show her teeth when she grumbles; she isn’t being aggressive, just letting you know that region is generally off limits. Well in our case the vet wasn’t comfortable with Bella’s vocalization and put a soft muzzle on her. Bella has a very short nose, as all Shih Tzu’s do, so the muzzle covered her entire face. This just made the matter worse, she was crying, jumping around, scratching her head trying to get this thing off. Not fun. May I also mention that a vet tech was also assisting and between the three of us in the room we had complete control over my little dog.  And honestly, I never thought I would see my twelve pound dog with a muzzle on. I will tell you, that because of this experience, if our normal vet isn’t available, we wait until he is. I won’t put my dog through that again if I don’t have to.

Lucy’s experience was shocking but a bit more understandable. She was about nine months old and we were at the pet store. We needed to get her nails trimmed, as they were getting a little long and she would accidentally scratch people. We walked into the grooming area of the pet store without an appointment and asked to get her nails trimmed. Since we didn’t have an appointment, she had never been there before, and they didn’t have her shot records on file, they had to put a muzzle on her. I understand that their company policy states if they don’t have the shot certificates they must muzzle the dog. I totally get it, the company doesn’t want one of their employees to get bit by an unvaccinated animal. However, the vaccine they were most concerned with was her rabies, she has a tag on her collar showing that she is up to date with that vaccine and registered with the city we live in. Apparently the tag is not sufficient and they have to have the actual certificate. I will say that we now own a dog nail trimmer and trim her nails ourselves. Actually, my sister in law does it when she comes to our house because she works for a vet and does it all the time.

Back to the leader, or head halter as some people call it. If my dog was aggressive in any way or was uncomfortable around people or other animals, I wouldn’t put her or others in a potentially bad situation. I definitely wouldn’t go around asking everyone we see if they would like to pet her, or introduce her to other peoples dogs. A leader is not a scary thing, it’s not bad, and it definitely doesn’t hurt the dog. We used to have a grey colored leader with a reflector on it so people could see Lucy walking at night; with so many people calling it a muzzle, we purchased a black leader with out any reflector so it blends in with her fur a bit more. 

I want people to be comfortable around animals. I want people to understand the difference between a leader and a muzzle. I want people to know that most aggressive behavior from an animal is learned. Dogs especially are bred to be loving creatures, some people out there want their dog to be aggressive and bark and bite. Most people do not. Every dog is different and every situation is different. As humans we can’t judge a book by its cover, at the same time though we can’t assume that every dog with something on its face is dangerous.

As I step off my soap box, I ask that you, the lovely individual that has made it to the end of this lengthy post to be considerate around animals that have things on their face. I promise you, the majority of them are friendly.

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