Racing Greyhounds wear plastic basket muzzles in the turn out pen and on the track. They keep the racers, which have very thin skin, safe as they play and run since many Greyhounds have a tendency to nip in the excitement of the chase.
Those who adopt retired racers are generally encouraged to use muzzles, at least initially, and most find--often to their surprise--that the dogs really don't mind. These dogs have been wearing muzzles whenever they get to play or run so to them muzzles are a sign of good times.
To someone who has never owned a retired racing Greyhound, though, a muzzle may invoke images of aggression and restraint. And while there are muzzles for aggressive dogs, basket muzzles are very different. For one thing, it doesn’t restrict their mouth from opening and closing, and they can eat and drink while wearing a basket muzzle. (NOTE: a basket muzzle might inhibit a dog's ability to pant so always monitor your dog when it’s warm.)
As you may have already figured out, SHUG is a big fan of the plastic basket muzzle--and not just for Greyhounds. We think they are a “must have” in every Sighthound home. Those first couple of days when you're leaving your new dog loose in your home, a basket muzzle ensures you still have a completely intact couch--even if some idiot carpet salesman knocks on your door while you're at work. When transporting dogs too big to be crated, $10 muzzles can prevent $500 vet bills when an abrupt traffic stop causes a pileup in the back seat. A muzzle is a handy tool when making introductions between new dogs or a new dog and a cat. A muzzle can also--with the addition of the aptly named "poop guard" -- prevent the dreaded poop-scented kisses after a romp in the backyard.
Borzoi, Galgos, Salukis, and Afghan Hounds may not have the history with basket muzzles that Greyhounds do, but we’ve seen those breeds easily sporting the dashing accessory. While we occasionally have one who expresses his or her displeasure by smacking your backside with the muzzle, for the most part non-racers are as nonchalant about their headgear as retired racers.
Once you've decided to give it a try, how do you put on a muzzle? First, have it right-side up. Take a look at the picture to the right. Once you have the muzzle in the right position, pull the strap forward toward the basket and slip the basket over your dog's nose. Then you can bring the strap over their forehead and behind their ears. The strap has a buckle to adjust the size if it's too tight or too loose.
In a well-fitting muzzle, the tip of the dog’s nose doesn’t quite touch the inside end of the muzzle and the strap is easy to pull behind their ears but not so loose as to pop off with the swipe of a paw. (You can also add a collar strap to you muzzle for about a $1.) If your dog has particularly sensitive skin, you can add a piece of moleskin or fleece against the inside of the nose piece at the top of the basket to provide some padding.
Muzzles can also be quite the fashion accessory! They come in a variety of colors and while most of us are content to simply write our dog's name across the top with a sharpie, there are some (you know who you are!) who go all out with the stick-on gems and glitter.
It helps that muzzles are fairly inexpensive (under $10) and can be ordered online. Keep in mind that most greyhounds wear a medium (girls or small boys) or large (big boys); borzoi may need extra large for those awesome needle noses.