Muzzle Training Your Dog: Why, When & How
Muzzling your dog may sound scary or like you want to avoid it but is an essential to add to your list of things to train your dog.
Muzzles are sometimes perceived as aggressive – this is not the case! They are used for multiple reasons and sometimes absolutely necessary. You’ll thank yourself for training your dog to wear one early if you find yourself needing it in the long run.
Of course, there are appropriate and inappropriate times to use a muzzle.
Your dog may be in an emergency or injured and being treated. The risk of a bite coming from your dog increases. They are in a heightened emotional state, probably scared and nervous, and you don’t know how they are going to react – this is a situation that makes it necessary to use a muzzle. It is normal for your dog to feel those emotions and if they haven’t dealt with it before, not surprising if they act out. A muzzle becomes a safety tool to ensure you, people around you and your dog remains safe.
If your dog has a history of biting and there is a chance that they may do it again -this is also another time it may be deemed necessary to use a muzzle. You cannot predict how the situation will play out, know that the risk is high and do not want to put everyone in the situation at risk.
If your dog does have a history of biting not under emotional stress, the chances are that you need to revisit your dog’s behavioural training. Using a muzzle should then only be temporary until their behaviour is improved. It should never be a permanent to solution to behavioural issues.
The bottom line is that it is only appropriate to use a dog muzzle when the safety of your dog, a person or both is at risk.
It is not appropriate to use for preventing problems by forcing your dog’s mouth closed. Never use as a punishment technique!
They are also not appropriate to use to try and get through an event that you know your dog will react negatively to. Your dog will only associate the two with stress and make them more reactive.
Only ever use a muzzle for a short period of time and when supervised.
There are two types of muzzles that you can use on your dog.
Basket Dog Muzzle: This kind of muzzle can be purchased off the rack in a store or even custom made to your dog’s anatomy – probably the better option to optimise comfort for your dog. They can be made from soft plastic, coated wire or leather.
Many of these are actually more comfortable for dogs despite their cagey and prison-bar look. They do not hold their mouths closed which means they can eat, drink and pant whilst wearing them. Overall, a basket dog muzzle is a better experience for your dog.
Soft Dog Muzzle: These are made of a fabric – mostly nylon or mesh materials but there are other options available.
They are less comfortable for your dog as they hold their mouths closed. This means they cannot drink, eat or pant properly whilst using them. Being prevented from panting, especially during warm weather, can be extremely dangerous to your dog. Never use one of these during hot conditions.
Soft dog muzzles make it hard to reward your dog whilst wearing one and so training your dog to accept one may be a little harder if this is your introductory option.
How do I introduce muzzle training?
Muzzle training dogs may seem like a complicated or daunting process but it absolutely doesn’t have to be!
Take a look at our step by step guide to help you through the process with more ease;
First of all, never introduce any kind of muzzle to your dog under stressful conditions or when you need to use it. This will only allow your dog to associate it with stressful emotions, causing the process to become more difficult than it needs to be and probably not a great experience for you both. Ensure you are both under low-stress conditions and in a comfortable and appropriate location.
- Let your dog sniff the muzzle, (in, around, wherever they like!) and get used to its presence. Reward them with a treat and repeat this a couple of times.
- Touch your dog’s nose with the muzzle. Repeat this until they are comfortable with this action and show no discomfort.
- Hold a treat in one hand and the muzzle in the other, making sure that they put their nose into the muzzle to retrieve the treat. This is where you will start to build trust between your dog and the muzzle. Do not give your dog the treat if their nose doesn’t enter the muzzle. Repeat this step several times; increasing the amount of time your dog keeps their nose inside each time.
- Slip the muzzle onto your dog’s face and reward them with a treat. Repeat this step several times; increasing the length of time that they are wearing it each time.
- Slip the muzzle onto your dog’s face and buckle it up, again reward them with a treat. Repeat this step several times; increasing the length of time that they are wearing it each time.
This process can be built up over a few hours, days or sometimes even weeks depending on how accepting your dog is as you move through the steps. Note that you should be able to fit a finger between the muzzle and your dog’s head once it is fitted on and buckled up to allow for maximum comfort.
If you are still not sure and would like to seek the help of an expert – find the best dog trainers in your area here.
Remember, if you need any more advice or help with how to muzzle train your dog – we’re just a click away! You can also contact us via Facebook (Petz Park), where we are happy to answer any questions you may have. If you enjoyed this read and would like to continue on with more tips and tricks around your dog - checkout the rest of our blog section.
Happy training and good luck!