To Muzzle or Not to Muzzle
by Mariana Mekelburg, LARPBO Trainer (Mar 7 2016)
There seems to be a lot of fear, shame and/or pity to use a muzzle on a dog. This is due to the negative image that it gives out and your personal feeling of what others may think of you and your dog when seen out in public.
Reasons for muzzle training
We encourage people to muzzle train their furry friends! Muzzles are not only used for aggressive dogs. These are just a few reasons to get your pup conditioned to wearing a muzzle:
- Allergies (this is not a cure, it’s a great way to prevent dogs from chewing themselves raw)
- Overexcitement and overstimulation
- Discourage picking up dangerous objects off the floor when on a walk
- In case of an emergency (like an earthquake for example)
- City requirements
- Transport requirements (e.g., boat ride rules to Catalina Island)
What type of muzzle should you use?
There are different types of muzzles:
- wire basket
- plastic basket
- rubber basket
We typically recommend — for non-bite proof needs — the (rubber) Baskerville muzzles as they allow a dog to breathe, pant, drink and take treats without a struggle. Just make sure you have the appropriate sized muzzle for your dog.
How do you know the muzzle is properly fitted?
If you pull back on the muzzle and the pups face doesn’t get half way out of the muzzle, you’re good to go. If you pull back and the muzzle goes all the way to the tip of the nose or more than half way down the face, it’s way too loose. Just make sure it is not too tight and pushing against your dogs nose.
If you don’t feel confident on the fit, stop by our class and have our trainers check or at a competent pet store that will help.
How do I get my dog to like his/her muzzle?
It’s all about taking it slow, positive association and conditioning! Your dog should LOVE his/her muzzle, just like the collar and leash when you’re getting ready to go out for a walk.
Initially, when the muzzle comes out offer high value treats, such as hot dogs, cheese, peanut butter or even ham to name a few. Hide the muzzle behind your back, then show your pup the muzzle, and then give a treat. This makes your dog associate the muzzle with good things (treats and praise). Also, let your dog sniff the muzzle and treat him. This process is extremely important, specially if your dog has had a previous negative experience with a muzzle.
Once you see that your furry friend is completely comfortable seeing the muzzle, time to attach it around his neck like a collar. At first, do not attach it around the face so they get used to it being on them. Reward your pup for not trying to get it off. You can make it more fun by gently throwing treats to the left or right so they can chase them. Remove the muzzle after 3-4 tossed treats and then re-do.
Next, put peanut butter at the end of the front of the muzzle and let your pup naturally put his/her face in the muzzle. Move the muzzle away every now and then so that he moves forward to lick the treat. This gets him used to putting his face into the muzzle and not be in a rush to take it off.
Once your pup is completely comfortable putting his face in the muzzle, time to clip the back as they eat away at the treat and reward with verbal and physical praise.
Re-do until dog is 100% comfortable with you putting it on and off.
If your dog tries to paw at it and take it off, that’s ok and absolutely normal! They’re just learning after all. Redirect their attention back to you with a sit or a down command and reward. Once the dog’s attention has been redirected, you can remove the muzzle calmly. Never remove the muzzle when your pup is trying to get it off or you’ll be rewarding them not wanting it on.
If need be, go back a step or two and keep at it. Muzzle training takes consistency and patience.
- Check out The Muzzle Up Project!
- Need a bite proof muzzle, help on sizing, or other support? Join the Muzzle Training and Tips Facebook group!