In week four of an eight-week course, with twelve dogs in the class, there were constant interruptions from an eighteen month old Terrier named ‘DIGBY’.
He is a re homed rescue dog and, although the smallest dog in the class, he is most certainly the most difficult. Approaching the dog to assist with the Stays, or any other exercise, just made the dog extremely aggressive.
I decided to fit a safety muzzle to help with the training and keep the dog as quiet as possible as at times he was upsetting and exciting other dogs in the class. Convincing and explaining to the owner/handler that a muzzle is necessary is my first priority. I told him that I was going to fit the Muzzle and explained it was a snug type. It should have a calming and subduing effect. The dog of course will also then be completely safe and aggression will then not be a problem.
Fitting a muzzle to a dog, particularly when it is anti social, is much easier done by the owner. The muzzle has got to be put on the dog from behind. It also has to be put on as quickly as possible and the back strap tightened up. Opening the muzzle up I demonstrated to the owner what I wanted him to do, going through the sequence. I told him to put his foot on the lead so that he had both hands free. I then got the dog’s attention by holding a treat. Very quickly the owner put the muzzle on and tightened the adjuster strap. Digby was not too bad, he did object a little but this was overcome with treats. After about ten minutes there was a dramatic change in the dog, which was what I hoped would happen. He just lay down, there was no barking, no excitement and we had order back in the class.
On the fourth week I introduced the recall. Digby came on to the floor, and by now he was a different dog who could now be approached. Although he preferred going into the down position rather than sitting – something the handler had never conquered – using treats, he did a perfect recall, on the lead of course with the muzzle fitted. After about four recalls, the lead was dropped and again a fairly perfect recall. The owner was so pleased as he really had been struggling with Digby. It is only in the presence of other dogs that Digby got excited, although he has the added problem that he is also aggressive towards strange people.
With every dog, trainers must have a plan or a system to follow, particularly with dogs that are a problem. With Digby, the owner has been instructed to practise taking the muzzle off and on using treats to help this. It is my intention within the next couple of weeks to replace the muzzle with the Dogalter or the Stop Pull Headcollar. I am confident that there will be a major improvement in the dog over the next few weeks. I can see light at the end of the tunnel, so never be afraid to use a safety muzzle where there is the danger of a dog biting someone or another dog.