Sight hound handlers are accustomed to dog muzzles but the rise in popularity of retired racing dogs as pets means that more sight hound keepers do not come from a competition background. More and more, the average dog owner is less familiar with this tool. Some dog owners are actually offended when a veterinary professional attempts to place a muzzle on a dog during treatment for the dog’s and handler’s safety. As fatal dog attacks increase (not to worry, lightening and cows still kill many more people than dogs ever will*) there may be an over reaction to the sight of a dog wearing a muzzle in public. The Muzzle Up project is trying to change that through education.
Taking a sight hound to town can bring a great deal of attention. They are large and beautiful and not as common as sporting and toy dogs. Even terriers are more popular. As more pet keepers bring dogs along on outings, and more people employ service dogs (including the fake service dog boom), our dogs will not only meet more people but they’ll meet more dogs, especially tiny ones with a lack of manners.
There are two problems with this increase in dog travel. The first is that Borzoi need to be well trained and well behaved in public because they are large and we don’t want to tarnish their reputation as amazing companions. Their size difference from other popular companion dogs is an issue if another dog is rude. Even when small dogs instigate, big dogs win. The second problem is that a well bred Borzoi may react to a very small dog as a prey item instead of as a fellow canine. Of course, you should know your dog and the triggers for his prey drive. The fore mentioned good training aside, a predatory grab of a tiny fluffy squeaking thing, must not be allowed. The best trained dogs can forget herself in an off leash situation with “bunnies”.
So consider bringing back the muzzle. There are several styles that may encourage acceptance in public because they are colorful or decorated in animal shapes. I prefer good old fine leather for the comfort of the dog despite it’s appearance to the uneducated. Most sight hound handlers use a wire basket muzzle. It’s up to you to consider how others feel about your dog wearing a muzzle. Most sight hound keepers are unlikely to worry about others but we do worry about our dogs. Helping your dog feel good about wearing a muzzle is much more important. A simple video demonstration is all you need to get started.
There are several advantages to this training even if you don’t take your dog to crowded places or dog parks. Muzzles are required for some racing events. Any additional training your dog has under his collar gives him experiences to rely on for problem solving and confidence building. You may never need your dog to wear a muzzle but if he can, it’s one more thing.