We adopted a German Shepherd puppy when he was 4 months old from a rescue organization. He had originally been purchased from a breeder by a young man. When the dog was 3 months old, he got his leg caught in a fence and broke it. The young man didn't do anything about it for a couple days until he finally asked a friend if he should take it to the vet. The friend was apparently horrified, seized the dog, and took him to the vet to get the leg fixed. The friend decided the pup was more than she could handle, so she turned him over to a rescue organization.
We found on him on Petfinders and decided to adopt him. We already have an older Black Lab and German Shepherd (who is partially blind and deaf), which are both rescues, and had been thinking about getting another Shepherd. When we adopted Reilly, he was an energetic puppy (as to be expected), and it was obvious he was going to be a big boy. We found out his leg didn't heal properly (the pin twisted inside the bone and couldn't be removed), so we took him to a specialist because he limped continuously. We put him on different meds and he seems to be doing well. However, Reilly has always had a ferocious bark towards people (not us), mainly males. We didn't think much about it until he was almost 11 months old, when a [male] friend of ours offered to come over to help with his jumping (mostly on me - I'm a 4'10" female and everything I tried did not work with him). I didn't think much of his barking at our friend until the pinch collar I was using broke loose and Reilly attacked our friend, fortunately, only tearing his jacket. It was obvious this wasn't going to work with our friend, so the training session was over.
About a week later, our neighbor was over in our garage. Reilly had been around him quite a bit, but there had been a few times Reilly started barking and lunging at him on the leash. Things were going okay that evening, our neighbor was petting Reilly and he [Reilly] seemed fine. Our neighbor left the garage and when he returned, Reilly and I didn't see him come back in, but Reilly heard the door. The next thing I knew, I heard our neighbor in distress - Reilly had snuck up on him and attacked his leg. Fortunately, we got him off before he broke the skin, but he left an awful bruise. I was devastated. I knew I had to find a professional to see if we could fix his aggression problem, or we were going to have to put him down.
The next morning I called my vet, who recommended a vet in Jacksonville that works with animals and their behavior problems - Dr. Colleen Koch. I must have sounded extremely distressed when I called, because Dr. Koch called me back that afternoon and talked to me for almost an hour and a half! One of the first things Dr. Koch told me I had to do was get a basket muzzle for Reilly.
The thought of a muzzle was a bit horrifying to me, but not as horrifying as Reilly getting loose and seriously injuring someone.
Dr. Koch also explained that the old methods of training (pinch collars, shock collars, etc.) all inflicted pain that could be dealt with in a more humane way (head halter, clicker training). Since it was obvious that Reilly had already experienced quite a bit of pain in his young life, I liked what I was hearing from Dr. Koch and it didn't seem as hopeless as I feared.
I found a website that customized basket muzzles to the size of a dog's muzzle. I measured Reilly and ordered one. When we got it, it was a bit daunting. But, I followed Dr. Koch's instructions on introducing him to the muzzle, a.k.a., "treat basket." Lots of love and a little spray liver (like you use in Kongs) on the end of the basket (hence, "treat basket"), and it went on him with no problem. I was amazed. He was not bothered by it at all.
He was able to drink with it, take treats, breathe fine, pant if needed, bark, and even chew on some of his slimmer toys that would fit through the muzzle.
He didn't try to get it off. Plus it has a padded muzzle, so there is absolutely no discomfort. He's even fallen asleep with it on a few times when he's had it on in the house. I definitely feel better walking him around the neighborhood with it on. There's a certain confidence it gives me knowing he's not going to hurt anyone. I can't believe that I was apprehensive about putting a muzzle on him, and I can't believe that there are some people that would rather put their dog down than put a muzzle on them. I know that Reilly will always have to be watched due to his unfortunate beginning, but I feel a lot better knowing the precautions that can (and should) be taken with an aggressive dog. I would definitely recommend the "treat basket" and the clicker training methods that we're learning from Dr. Colleen.