Whether your boxer is a pebble eater or fear-aggressive biter, muzzles play a big part in preventing injury to your little guy and to others. But while other breeds can wear all sorts of muzzles, boxers are a bit restricted because of their flat faces.
That cute, flat face of your boxer can cause breathing difficulties in certain conditions. Boxers are known as a brachycephalic breed. Their flat face and short snout cause them to suffer from respiratory problems because their long soft palette can disrupt oxygen flow. Compressed nasal passages can also play a part. So when your boxer does anything that naturally makes breathing more difficult, such as cruising around your yard in humid weather, he suffers more than non-brachycephalic breeds. This is why a lot of advice suggests using a harness to walk your little guy and to never use a muzzle, because it interferes with his breathing.
Any muzzle that wraps around your dog's nose and keeps his mouth shut is no good, even for short periods of time, because it may prevent your boxer from taking in enough oxygen. But basket muzzles are a perfect fit for your flat-faced friend. Basket muzzles have a closed end, so it's impossible for your pup to snap at an animal or person, but they don't fit tightly over your dog's nose and mouth. Instead, the muzzle is like a cage that allows your boxer to open his mouth so he can pant and drink water.
If the muzzle is too short, your boxer's nose will be smooshed up against the end, which will be uncomfortable and can make breathing difficult. If the muzzle is too big, he might be able to slip it off. You'll need to find the length of your pup's muzzle by measuring from the tip of his nose to just about an inch under his eyes. You can find his muzzle circumference by wrapping a flexible tape measure around his snout, at about an inch under his eyes. The last measurement is the circumference of his neck, which you can find by wrapping a flexible tape measure around the thickest part of his neck. Always add about 2 inches to his muzzle circumference so it's not too tight of a fit.
Conditioning with a Clicker
Using a clicker helps your boxer associate the muzzle with something positive, like a tasty piece of chicken. Start out slow by just letting him check out the muzzle and sniff it, then click and give him a treat. He should eventually want to sniff and maybe even paw at the muzzle so he gets his reward. You can slowly up the ante by placing a treat in the muzzle, and then clicking when he sticks his big face in there to eat it. Eventually you can put the muzzle on him for a few seconds, reward him, then start leaving it on longer until he sees the muzzle as an extended part of his nose. Your clicker must be loaded, which is when your dog knows the clicker means something good is about to happen. To load the clicker, click it and reward your pup with a treat multiple times a day until he looks at you for a treat when you click.
If you notice your boxer has trouble swallowing or breathing, remove the muzzle immediately. While a basket muzzle is perfectly safe for brachycephalic dogs, your little guy might get too worked up if he's not properly conditioned to the muzzle. Go back a step and try conditioning him again. Always remember that while a muzzle helps prevent bites, it's not fail-proof. Your pup can still ram the muzzle into other people or dogs and jump on them, so always keep control of him when you're in public areas.
- Boxer, boxer dog image by DopKay from Fotolia.com