When You Must Muzzle

When You Must Muzzle

This blog post might stir up a little controversy, but sometimes we work on pets that need to wear a muzzle for some of the grooming visit. With four decades of grooming experience and a reputation for safely grooming pets that have been turned away from other groomers, I rarely use a muzzle on any pet, but once in a while, I am glad to have a set stored away. 

The muzzle is usually only in place for a few moments when I do use one. Here are two examples. Millie is an adorable cocker-poodle mix that is a dream to groom until you touch her feet. Then, she will lash out with little warning and lots of intention. I've groomed her since she was a puppy, and her quirk has not changed in the ten years I have known her despite my efforts to desensitize her. So, when it comes time to trim and buff her nails, I pop a muzzle on. She's an intelligent girl who knows she can't bite me once the muzzle is snapped on, and she doesn't even turn her head to try. Woe to me if I forget, though! 

Crumpet is an elderly Lhasa Apso. I've only groomed him for a few years since his owner moved here, but she assured me at the first visit that he was a bite risk, and she was right. He will bite during the bath and when we dry him. He gets more serious about biting when we brush and clip him. Touching his feet makes him really want to take a chomp out of us. We can safely do almost all of the grooming without a muzzle, using an Elizabethan collar and the Groomers Helper, but a muzzle is a must when it comes to trimming his head. Once in place, we can trim his eye corners and shape up his ears, the top of his head, and his cheeks. We have to get creative when it comes time to work around his mouth, but that is a story for another post. 

The muzzle is used for mere moments in either of these or other cases. A muzzled dog cannot pant freely, which means it cannot cool itself properly, so it should only be placed on the pet for a few moments. 

When discussing muzzle use with pet owners, some groomers find the tool is more readily accepted if the name is changed. We like the term "nose mitten." We also like the look of the cute duckbill muzzles. Since we invite our customers to wait with their pets while they are groomed, we see the reaction when a funny yellow duckbill is slipped over their snappy pet's face. The pet owners grin. We complete the task at hand, remove the muzzle, and move on. 

I know some groomers who never use a muzzle because their place of employment does not allow them to or by personal choice. While I can understand their point of view, I know that for many of the pets I have groomed over the years, it would have been impossible to fulfill their grooming needs except under sedation at a veterinarian's office if a muzzle had not been  brieflyapplied to protect my hands while I made them neat and comfortable. In my experience, judicious use of a muzzle is an acceptable way to groom challenging pets safely. 



Daryl Conner, MPS Meritus, CMCG has been devoted to making dogs and cats more comfortable and beautiful for 40 years.  You can find her happily working at FairWinds Grooming Studio with her daughter or typing away at her latest grooming-related article. Daryl was awarded both a Cardinal Crystal Award and Barkleigh Honors Award for journalism.  She shares her meadow-hugged antique Maine farmhouse with her practically perfect husband and a lot of animals.