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Muzzles are often mistaken as a sign that a dog is potentially aggressive or dangerous, and Greyhounds are far from aggressive or dangerous. You may have seen it while they’re racing, or when they’re just out and about, but why do Greyhounds wear muzzles?
In reality, Greyhounds wear muzzles partly because they have a chasing instinct and partly due to the influence of the racing industry. Muzzles became commonplace in racing Greyhounds to protect them from each other when fights break out, due to excitement and overcrowding, and to prevent them from harming other animals when their prey drive kicks in.
There is a lot of history and nuance to the use of muzzles for Greyhounds, and much of it is closely linked to the questionable practice of dog racing. This article will go into detail about the different reasons why Greyhounds can often be seen sporting a muzzle, what that means for these wonderful dogs, and what to consider if you’re thinking about muzzling a Greyhound of your own.
Why Do Greyhounds Wear Muzzles More than Other Dogs?
Greyhounds are naturally polite, calm, and docile dogs that pose no more threat to people or animals than any other dogs. Greyhounds are highly unlikely to attack humans and they do not wear muzzles because they are dangerous to the public.
There are, however, a few other key reasons why Greyhounds wear muzzles more often than other dogs.
They Are Racing
Greyhounds wear muzzles during races because there is a risk that they could harm themselves or each other. The high speeds that they are running at can mean that any bumps could cause serious damage to their teeth. Racing is also highly stimulating, and the dogs become very excited, potentially leading to fights that can be dangerous for both dogs if they are not muzzled.
To Protect Themselves and Each Other
Greyhounds can get into scraps like all dogs will, but they have particularly thin skin. This means that teeth and claws can cause more damage amongst fighting Greyhounds than tends to happen with other breeds. Muzzles can prevent skin damage and protect the teeth of these dogs if they are in an environment where they are likely to get into a fight.
To Protect Potential “Prey” Animals
As with most Sighthounds, Greyhounds have a strong prey instinct. For years they have been bred to chase and catch, and this urge is still strong even if it hasn’t been trained into them. Greyhounds can wear a muzzle to stop them from harming the animals that they might chase after.
To Stop Them from Eating Dangerous Objects
A much less common purpose of muzzling a Greyhound is for their own health if they are particularly greedy. Some dogs eat things that pose a risk to themselves and are therefore recommended to wear a muzzle by a vet to protect their teeth and digestive systems.
Why Do Ex-Racing Greyhounds Wear Muzzles?
There are many dog breeds that can get into fights with other dogs, or harm animals that they chase, but Greyhounds disproportionately wear muzzles much more often. The main reason for this is the questionable Greyhound racing industry.
Ex-racing Greyhounds are much more likely to have experienced claustrophobic environments with other Greyhounds, and they have rarely been socialized with other dogs, meaning they are more likely to get into fights. Their prey instinct is also highly encouraged through racing, not just for the individual dogs but for the breed as a whole.
Are Greyhound Races Cruel?
According to the Humane Society of the United States, “Greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane and there is no place for it in the modern era.” It is an industry that uses these beautiful dogs for gambling and profit, so it is no surprise that their well-being is often disregarded.
Greyhounds that race are not only potentially poorly treated throughout their lives, and face dangers both on and off the tracks, but they are trained in ways that can lead to them being more of a risk to themselves and other animals.
Between 2008 and 2018, over 15,000 Greyhound injuries were documented in the United States alone, and that statistic only includes the injuries that were actually reported.
In the past, up to 10,000 Greyhounds were bred per year to fuel the racing industry, meaning that many ended up in desperate need of adoption and rehoming.
Do Greyhounds Need to Be Muzzled?
Greyhounds that have not been a part of the racing industry are very unlikely to exhibit any of the behaviors that require muzzling, but some places around the world still require one by law. These outdated “muzzling laws” are a detriment to the reputation of these wonderful animals and are another sign of the damage that racing has caused to the breed.
If you adopt a Greyhound, however, you might want to muzzle your dog for their own benefit. As a result of the things that retired Greyhounds have faced in their lives, they may be more likely to get into fights or chase down and harm animals that they view as prey.
Depending on where you live, it may not be required by law, but it is something for you to consider as an owner. Retired racing Greyhounds can also be unpredictable at first, as you don’t know how they’ve been treated by humans in the past. Many people choose to muzzle their dogs early on until they’ve developed a good relationship and fully understand their personality and behavior.
These are dogs that are kind, loving, and sweet-natured. Adopting a Greyhound of any age, and from any background, is an incredibly rewarding thing to do. If you choose to rehome one, though, you will obviously want to make sure that they are safe and happy, and muzzling may be a part of that.
Do All Greyhounds Chase?
Even with a normal upbringing and good training, Greyhounds do like to chase things. It’s in their blood. This doesn’t mean that they always pose a risk to the animals that they may choose to chase, but it can lead to unfortunate incidents if it is not carefully managed.
Effective training is obviously vital for all dogs, and Greyhounds are no exception, but taking precautions to avoid any issues from occurring is the responsible thing to do.
- Stay vigilant. No matter how well trained your Greyhound is, or any other dog for that matter, you should be aware of potential dangers in their environment at all times. Small dogs, pet rabbits, or wild rodents can be sudden triggers for your dog.
- Keep your lead ready. Greyhounds shouldn’t spend much time off the lead in areas where they are not well contained or are not well known to you. Even if they are not chasing after anything in particular, they can get very far very quickly!
- Use a muzzle if you want to. Using a muzzle can give you a bit of peace of mind when you’re taking your dog out and about.
Are Muzzles Harmful to Greyhounds?
While the fact that Greyhounds do wear muzzles is perhaps part of harmful practices that Greyhounds have experienced historically, the muzzles themselves are generally harmless.
There are many different kinds of muzzles that are available, but they are mostly designed with the comfort and safety of your dog in mind. It may look a little odd but, for the most part, Greyhounds get used to their muzzles very quickly and they don’t cause any pain or discomfort.
With that being said, you do need to make sure that you are choosing the right muzzle for your dog and that it is used properly and fitted correctly. Greyhounds have quite a unique head shape, so generic dog muzzles will rarely fit comfortably, and there are different muzzles for different needs.
You want to choose a muzzle that:
- Fits the shape of your Greyhound’s face, securely and comfortably.
- Has room for your Greyhound to pant heavily and allows them to drink without needing it to be removed.
- Has great airflow so that your Greyhound gets lots of oxygen and doesn’t overheat.
- Is lightweight and doesn’t cause unnecessary strain on your Greyhound’s neck or head.
- Is durable and won’t become damaged or break over time.
In Summary: Why Do Greyhounds Wear Muzzles?
So, why do greyhounds wear muzzles? Well, it is partly because of their nature, but it is in large part due to the way that they have been treated throughout the years. Greyhounds do not, however, pose any particular threat to humans and they are not dangerous dogs.
Greyhounds wear muzzles while they are racing because the practice holds inherent risk for the dogs. Outside of racing, though often as a result of the training and breeding practices involved in the industry, some Greyhounds wear muzzles to protect themselves from harm and prevent them from injuring animals that they chase down.
In general, wearing a muzzle is not an uncomfortable or upsetting experience for a Greyhound, and using one can be the responsible choice for their wellbeing. The fact that many of these naturally calm and docile dogs need to be muzzled is perhaps an unfortunate side effect of a predatory industry.
There are many Greyhounds out there that need adopting and rehoming. If more of these animals were raised in loving homes and treated with care, we would likely see far fewer that need to wear a muzzle.