Training Your Dog to Use a Muzzle
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Using the muzzle is mandatory for breeds considered potentially dangerous by law which often leads to members of the public thinking the worst of a dog wearing one. However, there are many instances where you might want to muzzle your dog regardless if they are aggressive (actually, the appropriate word is 'reactive') or not. It is helpful if your dog becomes nervous at the vet, it prohibits the dog eating things it shouldn't when outside and it can be used effectively in certain training techniques. Using a muzzle as a method of punishment is not recommended. If they are given a muzzle at a time when they are being reprimanded, they will feel distressed wearing it when necessary.
In this AnimalWised.com article we will explain what you need to do when Training Your Dog to Use a Muzzle.
What is the Best Type of Muzzle?
The most suitable muzzle for a dog is the "basket" type, as shown in the picture below. Unlike those made of fabric, they allow the dog to breathe properly, drink water and receive treats without having to remove them. However, there may be different types of muzzle for different circumstances. Soft fabric muzzles allow for breathing, but are not as durable as basket muzzles.
Tube type muzzles are good for grooming, but should not be left on for long or be used when the dog is exercising as it can restrict breathing. Lastly, strap muzzles are ones with a simple fabric strap which goes over the dog's snout. These are least effective in big aggressive dogs, but can be useful for tamer animals.
1. Create a Positive Association Between Your Dog and Their Muzzle
It is important to not put the muzzle directly on your dog if it is not familiar with it, since this has a greater chance making it permanently uncomfortable when wearing one. The animal will feel annoyed and confused, so it is better to go step by step. By using positive reinforcement, your dog will learn that putting the muzzle on is a happy experience which can result in rewards and praise.
To do this, put some tasty treats in the bottom of the muzzle. Let your dog eat them and congratulate it for doing so. The better the experience, the sooner it will let you put it on.
2. A Gradual Process
You should try putting the muzzle on your dog little by little everyday. At first, don't strap it on, but simply introduce it to your dog. Reward it at every stage, even if this is merely involves them giving it a good sniff. Don't force it on the dog if it doesn't seem to enjoy it. Positive reinforcement will take time, but the effort you put in at the start will reap dividends later.
When you notice that your dog starts to positively relate to the muzzle, you can start tying it on for short periods of time. Games and fun should always be part of the process. If you induce fear and dread in your dog it is likely to feel nervous, anxious and sad every time you put the muzzle on.
3. Avoid the Following Situations
In order for your dog to let you put the muzzle on properly, you should avoid these situations at all costs or it will only relate to it negatively:
- Don't force it on
- Save it for particular situations (e.g. going to the vet or on public transport)
- Don't use it for too long
- Avoid using it if the dog suffers from stress
- Don't use it as a method of punishment
- Don't leave your dog alone with the muzzle attached
If you follow our advice and don't put too much pressure on your dog, you should achieve very positive results. However, if the process becomes complicated and your dog doesn't seem to accept the muzzle under any circumstances, it is best to go to a dog trainer who can recommend some guidelines.
If you are just beginning on the journey of training your dog, why not read How to Make a Dog Ethogram to get started. Then you can continue training with the basics by reading How to Teach Your Dog to Stay Still on Command.
If you want to read similar articles to Training Your Dog to Use a Muzzle, we recommend you visit our Basic education category.