Did you know that choosing the wrong muzzle can seriously harm dogs?
In my TEDx talk “This is what happens when you actually understand your dog” I spent some time to talk about the misconceptions regarding Head Collars and Soft Muzzles as alternatives for hard muzzles.
I became aware of the topic when we where looking for a muzzle for Peter. In my opinion, it is crucial for every dog to be muzzle-trained! In Germany, dogs have to wear muzzles in long-distance trains, and we use one when we have to visit the vet and need to keep social distance (due to COVID-19). And we thought that those common big heavy duty looking muzzles might be too uncomfortable for our baby, so I started looking for alternatives.
When doing that, I found a lot of offers for soft muzzles and head collars online that are advertised as “comfortable” and “light”, helping to prevent the dog of biting and eating stuff from the streets. But the problem is, being hindered of biting and eating stuff means that the dog shouldn’t be able to open his mouth, and that is a HUGH issue!
Watch the video for the full story! If you like it, I would appreciate if you leave a like :).
Potential consequences of using the wrong biting prevention
Many headcollars or also soft muzzles are advertised as comfortable and light alternative for normal (basket) muzzles which promise biting, barking and licking prevention (see figures 1 and 2). However, they need to be applied correctly and are only meant to be used for a very short timeframe as in contrast to humans that sweat, dogs mainly regulate their body temperature to cool down by panting (Flournoy, Wohl and Macintire, 2003; Buchim et al, 2006).
Headcollars that are used for biting, barking and licking prevention, hinder dogs from panting. If they cannot open their mouths for biting, barking and licking, they cannot open them for panting. This seriously compromises dogs’ ability to cool down their body temperature, potentially leading to serious health implications such as heatstroke or even death (Bundestierärztekammer, 2016; Gibeault, 2019). Therefore, only normal (basket) muzzles should be used as day-to-day biting prevention.
 As there is no direct translation of the German term “Maulschlaufen”, the English word “head collar” describes those devices most holistically. Those devices come in different versions: fully closed, front opened, padded, slim sling, and can also be used instead of a traditional collar. The picture shown during the talk is one possible model of such a device, also called soft muzzle.
2 examples of offers for head collars/soft muzzles with questionable advertising
What does that mean for us and our dogs?
Only use head collars or sift muzzles that force the dog mouth to be close for a few minutes in a cool environment, like at the vet.
As biting prevention, use a common muzzle. I will soon provide information about how to choose the right muzzle type and size, depending on the dog’s snout.
References & Further Readings
amazon.com (no date) OTGO Pet Dog Padded Head Collar Gentle Halter Leash Leader Stop Pulling Training Tool
ASOW (no date) Soft Padded Nylon Dogs Head Collar Dog Training Halter No Pull Pet Muzzle Prevent Bite Black Colors L XL XXL Sizes
Bundestierärztekammer (2016) Überhitzung durch falschen Maulkorb – Die BTK warnt vor der Verwendung von engen Maulschlaufen im Alltag
Gibeault, S. (2019) Dog Muzzles: What You Should Know about When, Why, and How to Use One – In-Depth Version
Flournoy, W.S., Wohl, J.S. and Macintire, D.K. (2003) Heatstroke in Dogs: Pathophysiology and Predisposing Factors, Comp Cont Edu Pract Vet, 2003-25, pp. 410–418.
Bruchim, Y., Klement, E., Saragusty, J., Finkeilstein, E., Kass, P., and Aroch, I. (2006) Heat Stroke in Dogs: A Retrospective Study of 54 Cases (1999–2004) and Analysis of Risk Factors for Death, J Vet Intern Med, 2006-20, pp. 38–46.
Berger, J. (no date) Die Gefahr von Maulschlaufen!
Witte, S. (2014) Falsche Maulkörbe sind gefährlich für Hunde