The Blond Potato… or why does your dog wear a muzzle?

This is a frequently asked question, especially when new people start to follow me on social media so when someone asked me again; why is your dog wearing a muzzle, I thought I’d share what I answered here.

The Blond Potato’s name is Gus Gus. Well that’s what he’s called. He’s also called Gus, Gooseman, Fungus, Goose, The Cairn Terrorist, Gengus Cairn, Pudding and well, Potato.

He joined us when he was six months old and sadly, we only had him a short while when it became evident, something was very much wrong with how he reacted to things.

Angus Missouri Blue was born in Kansas City, Missouri to a pair of cairn terriers named Dorothy and Rooster Cogburn. Sadly, the cairns coming out of Kansas, Missouri and Pennsylvania were getting bred too close to their own bloodlines and a fear aggression gene emerged.

When too much adrenaline is coursing thru their brains, they are so fearful they will attack anything in front of them, including people who have raised them and feed them. It’s like a seizure. They are blind to everything but their fear. When it passes, Gus ends up staggering about and kind of stoned from the adrenaline overload.

He’s had significant behavioural modification training and now lives a happy and normal life with his last out of control aggression event occuring years ago. BUT we do work to descalate those seizures from happening by diversion and minimization of stress. One of the things we are insistent on him going out with is a muzzle which serves two purposes; if he DOES have an event, no one is hurt and he feels safer with it on because he can get a little worked up and has a barrier where someone can calm him back down and he can continue to trot along.

If he gets fearful, having a muzzle on him allows us and well, anyone to approach him and descalate his stress. He doesn’t feel comfortable going outside without one and that puts him in a more fearful mindset to begin with so in a way, it’s his security blanket as well.

All of that being said, a lot of people think we’re insane because he’s a very delightful pupper and loves attention. The vets are happy to see him and love him and are appreciative that he’s presented in such a way that makes him coming into the office a safe one but once he goes into the room, it comes off and he’s able to play and visit with them unhindered.

The last time we were at the vet, there was a lot of construction going on across the street as there’s a building going up and rather than being aggressive, he came to me for cuddling and reassurance as he stared out of the window at the machines.

He goes on walks with his Aunt Jessica twice a week. Now, he’s an old man (cairns’ lifespan is 12-15) so his walks are regulated to give him exercise but not so much that it strains his joints. He’s 12 now and a very happy Potato but walks are SERIOUS business for him and there’s not time to talk and stop and smell the flowers. Once in a while he might roll around in some damp grass because that’s just too much to pass by but there’s no sniffing trees or looking for other dogs’ scents. Walks are for hard trots and his Aunt Jessica often has to slow his roll because there are PLACES TO BE in Gus’s mind, and he’ll keep setting a hard pace if you let him.

Which means he’ll be sore and aching later for a few days and we don’t want that.

He sleeps at the end of my bed at night and has several dog pillows around the house. There’s hickory smoked pig knees to gnaw on and tonight he got a beef rib bone as a treat. Dinner is a grain-free kibble and some savoury stew wet. There are belly rubs and ear scritches and people come over to visit, especially his Aunt Tamm from Northern Ireland who spoils him rotten. No, he’s not allowed to sit at the door and work himself up into a hunting frenzy because that’ll trigger his aggression and when someone is coming over, we tell them to just come in because to him, this means this person is a friend and someone who loves him.

I want Gus to live in a world where whomever comes through that door is someone who loves him although he does get put into the back of the house with the kiddie gates when plumbers, etc. come over and he gets very excited when they come in and right before they leave, he’s allowed to come say hello.

I’ve worked very hard to give him the life I promised him he would have when we got him at 6 months old. He is very well loved and has a good structure to his day. He gets treats and allergy meds and probably needs a bath right now because he likes being grimy and rolls around in dust puddles like a chinchilla. And if his continued happiness means him wearing a muzzle when he goes out, then that’s how it is. Because it comes off when he comes thru the front door and he knows he’s home and safe. And being safe, happy, and loved is what I want all of my pets to feel when they spend their lives with us.

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