Experienced Dog Owners. Long.

Updated on November 25, 2012
K.I. asks from Lindenhurst, NY
17 answers

Hi All,
I have a question about my dog. First some background: I have THE best dog known to man, seriously! He is, what I have thought, a Catahoula Leopard Dog/Rott mix, although his vet and a Presa dog breeder (who just saw us on the street & came up and talked to me about how handsome he was) have both told me they think he is a Presa, which is a much more serious dog, think Pit Bull on steroids. Everything about his temperament says he is a Presa but that is neither here nor there. We got him almost 6 years ago at a pet store, he was a clearance puppy, $39.95. He is the epitome of 'Calm Submissive' and has been trained by me and is *nearly* perfect! He listens to me like nobodys business and is very well behaved. I can leave my front door wide open and he would never go out unless instructed to do so. When he has to go potty he has to be told he can leave and re-enter the house before he moves. He is so very smart it is almost scary! He walks great, has never chewed up anything and was potty-trained within days of getting him. He loves the kids and listens to them too, he is seriously a smart dog and very well behaved, as far as dogs are concerned!

My question is about muzzles. Have you used one? Do they make you, and your guests feel more comfortable? Safer even? Are they effective? I think I might need one?

Brooks is VERY territorial and protective of me, my husband, my kids and my house & my *neighbors houses, (You can not enter my house unless I am there, I don't care how tough you are or think you are, he is VERY intimidating, 98lbs, black and brown brindle, gorgeous dog but people think he 'looks' scary). My issue that I am up against is that Brooks does not like either one of my BILS. He is great with my 1 BIL (my sister's husband) and my FIL but he has known them since he was a puppy. He has no problem with women, teenagers or kids, its just strange men. Well, he isn't *entirely* OK with strange women but he trusts my judgement enough to 'ad-ease' around them when I tell him to do so. But with my husband's brother and my BIL's brother it is a WHOLE other story. My BIL's brother has tried repeatedly to make friends with Brooks every time he is here, which is every holiday but Books is not motivated by food and wants nothing to do with him. My husband's brother is a whole nother issue, he is afraid of dogs and he will be coming for Christmas for a long stay and I am thinking if I buy a muzzle for the dog everyone might be more comfortable? Normally I put the dog in my room and then put him on his leash to take him in and out to use the bathroom and he listens and doesn't try to charge him or anything but he has constant eye contact and an almost constant low growl the whole time he is being transferred. But that is normally how I have handled their interaction since their first initial meeting, which was done without me, by my husband and he isn't as detail oriented as I am and neglected to inform his brother not to try to touch the dog until he is ready. Have you seen the Dog Whisperer? My dog is one of those dogs that HAS to be introduced in the 'No touch, No talk, No eye contact' kind of way...until he is ready and used to you! Well that didn't happen at their first meeting and BIL tried to reach down and pet him and Brooks gave him a warning snap in the air, not at his body, but it was a warning none the less and it totally freaked out my BIL and they have never been able to be friends since.

My brother came for a visit for the first time since I have had Brooks last year and my brother is not afraid of dogs at all , he stayed the weekend and Brooks was on guard the whole time my brother was here. He is a VERY intense dog. He literally sat right next to me or directly across from wherever my brother was the ENTIRE time he was here (followed him to the bathroom even, every time he moved, Brooks moved just with a large berth between them) and didn't take his eyes off of my brother, literally. He just couldn't relax the entire weekend. He never got close enough to be touched by my brother and my brother tried really hard to make friends with him but it just didn't happen. We both spent most of our time together trying to get my dog to like him, brother tried bribing him with steak, which I knew wasn't going to work b/c he is not motivated by food and wouldn't take it...we tried walks and brother getting down on the floor and moving towards him slowly, we tried everything! In the end my brother said he was the most intense dog he has ever seen and gave up trying to make nice.

I love my dog. I wouldn't change anything about him other than this one thing. I just wish he would trust me when I tell him to relax but it's been 6 years of trying to get him to be OK around these 2 family members and he just won't!

Should I muzzle him when they are here for Christmas? Would that make you feel more comfortable? If you were afraid of a dog that you knew didn't like you, if the dog had a muzzle on and you knew he couldn't bite you, would that make you more comfortable around him? He has never bitten anyone...I just want to keep it that way and honestly he is SO intense and serious around them that I am not 100% sure he wouldn't bite, maybe, if the situation arouse and I refuse to find out, I would rather keep him confined to my bedroom the entire time. Just looking for a way not to have to do that.

*Everyone of our neighbors that share a fence with us, which is 4, have came to me at one point in time to compliment him and tell me how much they love him and that they ALWAYS know when strangers or the meter reader is around b/c that is the only time he barks! Ha! This is impressive b/c we are NOT friends with any of our neighbors, we are the keep to ourselves kind of people!

As always, any and all ideas/opinions welcomed and appreciated!

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So What Happened?

Yeah, already asked the vet. He said I should do what ever makes me the most comfortable...b/c the vet doesn't see his serious side, b/c he has known him since what? he was a puppy and only knows him as the well behaved dog, that he is for him. His exact words were 'What? How could my Brooksy be scary towards anybody'? So no, he wasn't any help!

I guess I made my post too long b/c I haven't gotten an answer to my question yet. Would the dog having a muzzle on make YOU more comfortable to be around him? Would this make YOU feel safe?

And no, he hasn't ever had to wear the cone of shame, ha!

I LOVE this site! You guys are all so amazing. Thank you for taking the time to answer my loong post...and I hear you all loud and clear that the muzzle is NOT a good idea. I will just continue to put him up in my room (he is NOT at all destructive, never has been) and he will be more comfortable and so will my BILS.

I think I will just try to let the idea go that he has to make nice with these 2 people, just b/c they are family. And NO I am not touchy feely with these people at ALL and he might pick up on that as one of you said. I have given the specialized trainers some thought over the years but I am not sure I need to fix him? When I tell him to 'ad-ease and relax' he will back off and step away and allow whomever I say into the house, but he is just constantly on guard, which is exactly what we like when it comes to strangers. He really isn't doing anything wrong. It is not like he is in their space, growling and barking. He is across the room from them, making constant eye contact, moving when they move and giving a low growl when they move, basically doing everything he can to make them aware he is watching them w/out being all crazy. It is hard to articulate but I think it's almost more scary b/c he is so still and serious. Anyway, thank you so much! I appreciate it, as always!

Featured Answers



answers from San Francisco on

Find a very experienced vet who has special training with behavioral modification. Don't start with a muzzle until you get a professional opinion. He sounds like an amazing dog with a bit of a challenging personality.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I can not take my dogs to the vet without them on.. I would use a Muzzel Knowing the Presa Like I do they are unstable...I have owned 3 I now co-own them ... Someone could open the room door if you put them in another room..The Presa is no joke..

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Fort Myers on

No, a muzzle would not make me feel more safe. It would just make me think the dog was more dangerous than I thought. Also, like others have mentioned, I think it will make the dog more angry/upset. You need to get your vet to take this seriously and I think some kind of pill for anxiety would be the best option. Get a prescription and use it in situations where you know he will act that way around people. Also talking to a trainer that specializes in this kind of behavior if you can.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Mansfield on

If you get the soft muzzle they do not hurt and i do not believe they cause any kind of aggression issue or state of mind with them. Dont wait until the visit to introduce it though. You need to introduce the muzzle just as you would anything new. Calmly with praise and treats and make it a positive one on one interaction. Maybe put the muzzle on before going for a walk or grooming or anything that he enjoys but doesnt really need his teeth for (fetch wont work here) so that he doesnt see it as a punishment or a bad thing and it doesnt put him on edge even more. The muzzle will not make your dog feel more relaxed to have it on so keep that in mind but you and your guests might be more relaxed so that he can.If he senses your stress about who he will react to them or their stress about him he will react, most every dog will. The muzzle might help you all relax so he can or it may make him more frustrated just because he feels he cant adequately protect you. Not sure exactly how he will react. Keeping him seperated from them (but frequent visits by you) may just be the best thing for everyone. Give him some yummy chews and new toys to play with so it isnt a punishment. Obviously meet his food water and bathroom needs but make sure you walk him, tire him out, play with him, tire him out (before you leave him alone) and visit frequently. My rottie hates to be seperated from me. If i put her in my bedroom and shut the door she will freak out until i let her out with me, it stresses her too much to be away from us.
My 1st rottie mercury was very sweet she never met a person she didnt love, but when she got old and was in pain and couldnt walk, she was muzzled when we took her to the vet because she had to be lifted and moved and carried and it hurt her so in defense she would snap. She never meant to hurt anyone just to say ouch you are hurting me stop. We knew that certain things caused her pain so we put the muzzle on her to protect everyone (including her since she could be "labled" for biting).
I dont believe it is a bad thing or damages them in any way but he is your dog and you know him best. I am sure you willmake the right decision for him.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sarasota on

I own a 120lb American Bulldog that is 7, I have had her since she was 7 weeks old. You would have to shoot her to get into our house or yard uninvited. She follows my lead when it comes to who I allow to enter our house.
That said, there have been two people in the past she would not let out of her sight or to pet her. One was very scared of her and I know that is why with him. His fear of her made her unsure of his intentions.
The other person was just a shady guy and Kali must have sensed that. I trust my dog's instincts.
I would never muzzle Kali and she wouldnt keep it on anyways. When I was pregnant she wouldn't let the vet get near her because she was protecting me. They muzzled her and she had that thing broken in 10 seconds, no joke. I ended up leaving the room and she let them take care of her after that.
I just feel like a muzzle is wrong. He is doing what his job (in his mind) is, protecting his family. I would put him in a separate room and keep him there until your guests leave. Something about them is setting his alarm off, don't punish him for that. Just keep him separate. If he was this way with all guests I might think it a bigger issue.
Let us know what you decide. He sounds like a sweetie and soooo cute!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Here is the deal, regardless whether you have a tiny little poodle or a huge presa - when guests come over it is most fair to the dog and your guests to keep the dog confined in a safe space.
We have a Beagle, a six months old pup. She is the sweetest thing, LOVES people, even strangers, not protective at all.
Yet, when we have guests over, like for thanksgiving dinner, I crate her in a quiet part of the house with a yummy new bone or something else to occupy her. Our friends don't have dogs and while they don't mind having her around, I feel it is much more relaxed when there isn't a dog in the mix.

I strongly support crate training for dogs of all sizes. You can teach your dog that his crate is a safe and enjoyable place to be confined in. You don't write whether he is destructive in your bedroom, if he will just be hanging out in there and relax, then I think that's fine too. If he is still anxious and basically growling at the door the entire time, a smaller confinement like a crate can help with that as well.

Having him muzzled in a stressful situation will NOT alleviate his stress, but make it worse! Not only will he be in the presence of people he perceives as a potential danger, he will be uncomfortable and unable to defend you and himself. Knowing that, no, it would not make me feel safer - if anything I would prefer not having to confront the "dangerous" dog (muzzles make most dogs look more dangerous than they are) - especially if he keeps growling at me. If anything muzzle him only when you have to take him out of confinement for a walk.

I would suggest that even though you may have a dog that is wonderful for you and your family - he is potentially very dangerous when it comes to strangers. This is a HUGE liability! Many people have NO TOLERANCE when it comes to getting bitten and even people you are related to, may sue you if your dog injures them. This truly is a situation where you do not want to find out how well you have your dog under control. I would keep him securely confined (under LOCK AND KEY so no curious child can mistakenly open the door) while you have company.
Good luck!

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answers from Detroit on

I know you have asked the vet, but I would advise seeking out a vet who is a board-certified behavior specialist. A lot of aggression in dogs is rooted in anxiety, NOT dominance, and your dog may not feel very confident and relaxed around certain people - hence the growling. While isolating him will keep people safer, it also does not teach your dog to be okay with the situation. Google "Dr. Sophia Yin" - she is a veterinary behaviorist that we like to refer to when discussing behavior issues with our clients. Sometimes we will even prescribe a low dose of Xanax for dogs who get worked up in certain situations.

I should also mention to that many veterinary behaviorists are NOT big fans of Caesar Milan!

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answers from Dallas on

I do not have experience with large dogs. Ours have all been American Cocker, English Cocker and Toy poodle.

Our dogs, 3 now, are very protective of me. If hubby is here when a repairman, etc is here, they are fine but you let someone in this house (ex cable repair), my dogs will not leave my side and I have to be careful just to greet and shake a hand. Because of that, I do keep them contained in an area where they can see me be ok but they can't get out. We have golden gates to block off areas of the house and keep dogs contained without being in a cage.

I love having dogs and can't see myself without one. We back up to an 85 acre wooded area with lots of wildlife. My dogs have alerted me when the bobcats or coyotes are outside and the poodle has twice alerted me to copperhead snakes in my garage.

They have distinctive barks... one where they want attention, one where someone is on our property and one when they see wildlife, etc on the property.

I would not muzzle the dog when guests were around. It would make me think you don't trust what you dog would do for starters so I would be more leery of him. f people are arouns your dog and they are leery of him, he will sense that and you are not 100% sure how he will act on that.

Second, it would "shame" the dog which in turn could make him agressive because he would have no control. My dogs have had to wear the cone of shame and I HATE it because you can see how hurt/shamed they are. They didn't do anything wrong and it was for their protection after surgery or injury.

How long will family be there? Is there a way to board him in a doggy day care? I am not talking about being at a boarding place in a cage... there are some very nice doggy "spas" here which are more than a cage, los of interaction, etc. OR, can you simply have him secured in another area of the house?

Sorry for being too winded... I hope you find a good solution.

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answers from Las Vegas on

I think the muzzle will give the dog a complex and piss him off. Have you ever had to put the lamp shade on him for medical reasons? That really pisses them off and they are ashamed of that stupid lamp shade on their head.

My Rottie is the same way. I stopped walking her because she was too aggressive on the streets and would make men walk on the street about 6 feet away from me. And, no my family does not care to visit because my dog.

I would just put him in the bedroom like you have in the past.

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answers from Portland on

I suggest that you ask this question of a veterinarian, too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

first i will answer your question- this is just my opinion but when i see a dog in a muzzle i automatically assume that they have bitten/tried to bite someone before or their owner thinks they could bite someone.. i think it would probably make me more uncomfortable, it would make me think like well if the owner doesnt trust the dog enough that they wont bite and need a muzzle i definatley dont trust him... i have a very large yellow lab hes somewhere between 110-120lbs, hes a big baby, he wouldnt hurt a fly, but he pulls when we walk him (still at 10 yrs old) so we have one of those spiky metal collar things on him and when people see us walking him down the street they will cross to the other side immediatley.. now my dog does not in anyway look like a mean/aggresive dog, hes big yes, but i sware its that collar that when people see it theyre like oh no!

and second- ive never heard of a presa and i just looked it up OMG they are beautiful !!!

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answers from Dallas on

First off a muzzle won't do what you think it will do overall. I don't know of a single dog that will willingly keep a muzzle on if let to his own devices. It may take some time but most can learn to take it off. I muzzle should not be used without constant supervision. It does sound like he is either anxious around people he doesn't know well or he is protective of you. I agree that you may need to speak with a board certified animal behavioralist. They can deduce what is causing the anxiety and teach you the best way to handle it. This will not be an easy/quick fix. Behavior problems tend to take a long time to fix.

Being that Christmas is so close and I'm sure this probably won't be fixed by then I would recommend confining Brooks into your bedroom for the event. Overall it would make him more comfortable not to be around so many people and you could always bring him out to visit on a leash. Good Luck!

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answers from Houston on

No, a muzzle would not make me feel more comfortable around any dog. I was always raised with the motto - if it has teeth, it CAN bite regardless of whether it has ever tried to or not. The muzzle for me is a visual reminder a dog is not to be trusted which does not instill calm, only more fear/discomfort/distrust.

From personal experience I am not convinced a muzzle brings out the best in a dog and as such does not improve the situation. I had a groomer I used for a time until they insisted on muzzling my dog as a precaution. My perfectly mannered dog became prickly and hard to handle which was very out of character for her. I insisted they remove the muzzle and get a more dog savvy groomer to deal with my dog. Once the muzzle was taken off, my dog was fine again.

If your dog's behavior bothers you that much, I would consult a dog trainer who specializes in guard dogsmaybe the police canine unit might have suggestions for trainers of super intense dogs). However, if you are doing everything right (by the book), you might not get much out of one. If leading the dog from a closed room works, then I would keep that up. If I were so uncomfortable around a dog, I would stay out of of the same space as the dog. In other words when you took the dog out, I would be in another room where te dog would never be and would stay there until the dog was put up again. Dogs are like people - they trip to their own beat and I can't expect any dog to conform all the time to everything. Good luck.

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answers from Shreveport on

I would be very leery of putting a muzzle on the dog. The reason for that is the dog is not going to understand and isn't going to like it no matter how much he loves you. It could lead to some issues that might make matters worse. The dog will link the muzzle to the guests. Which could mean that any future guests are going to put the dog on alert for fear of the muzzle.
Has your dog seen you be super friendly,touchy feely with these family members? The reason I ask is that might help. If your dog sees that you can be all over these family members it might show that you are at ease with them and it might make him more at ease with them. You might be unintentionally avoiding contact which can make your dog more tense around them. I have certain inlaws that I'm standoffish with not on purpose just I like my personal space and they have no respect for personal space. What has happened is my dogs have picked up on that and hence are more tense around those people than other people who I'm not standoffish with. I didn't mean for it to happen but it is what it is and now my dogs tend to stay close to me and "enforce" my personal space when around those inlaws.
So maybe look and see if getting more close and comfortable with them might help. Instead of sitting away from those people, sit close to them. Let your dog see you touch and be at ease with those people.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Muzzling a dog does not make him less aggressive - it freaks him out.
We had a pit/boxer mix who was funny about strangers. What we did was put him in his kennel (coated wire) in the middle of the room where he could see us interacting with visitors. His kennel was his happy place - he had been abused by a former owner and he knew that in his kennel no on e would hurt him. We let him see that the visitors were being treated as part of our "pack" and when he calmed down, we sat visitors on the sofa, each with a dog biscuit in hand. We told them not to call him but to let him come to them. When he did, he got the cookie they were holding and was told that he was a good boy. After that, he knew they were okay.

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answers from Boston on

I think it would help if your dog interacted with the 2 BILs outside of the home - get to know them in a non-territorial situation. Then he might welcome them into the home in the future. That may not be practical depending on where they live, but it's a start. It doesn't solve the problem of you allowing other people into the home without the initial "practice" session, however. So on some level, your dog is not accepting you as the "alpha" dog - the dog still thinks he's in charge.

I would consult a trainer who specializes in aggressive behaviors and behavior modification. Your vet may be able to refer you.

There are issues in individual dog breeds, but also you have no idea what history your dog had. In general, pet store purchases are highly risky because you know nothing of the background or the early treatment. You are lucky you made out as well as you did.

My dog is a rescue and has a real fear of people getting too close to her until she knows them very well. Even so, no one can bend over her or put their head close to her, even if she's being very loving. The vet says someone hurt her when she was 12-16 weeks old - so it stays with a dog no matter what wonderful things you do to and for them afterwards.

I don't like the muzzle idea much - I think it makes people more nervous. Your dog also needs more socialization. I know it's hard since you keep to yourselves, but that may be one reason the dog is so protective. Again, consult an expert.



answers from Augusta on

I don't think a muzzle would help me feel comfortable and it wouldn't help the dog. The Dog Whisperer had an episode on this , you might be able to find it.
Check his website.
This behavior is a problem. http://www.cesarsway.com/keyword/overprotective

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