muzzle train a dog

How to Muzzle Train Your Dog

A dog with a muzzle has been associated with aggression and danger for a very long time but this simply isn’t true. Every single dog should be able to comfortably wear a muzzle in emergency or threatening situations for his own safety and the safety of other people.

Many dogs hate or even fear the muzzle because it had been thrown onto them in an emergency without proper muzzle training before that.

Why Does My Dog Need a Muzzle?

The first time you will be confronted with a muzzle is probably at the vet. If your dog is anxious and nervous when being at the vet, then you should be training your dog to wear a muzzle. A dog that reacts with anxiety when taking away from the owner is prone to biting so the vet will quickly throw a muzzle on him.

Now you will probably understand that this is not the best first time meeting with a muzzle without desensitizing and in a stressful environment. Those situations could harm your dog so much that he could be reacting aggressively whenever someone comes close to his head or snout.

If your dog suffered from a severe injury he will be muzzled to avoid biting when he is in pain. But the vet is not the only situation where your dog should be muzzled. Many dogs feel very stressed when going to the pet groomer and never get really used to it.

Also if you know that your dog has some environmental triggers that will make him feel threatened, you should muzzle him for his own and the safety of other people. In some US states and in many other countries “dangerous breeds” must wear a muzzle when leaving private property.

Dog Muzzle Types

There are mainly 7 common types of dog muzzles out there and all have their pros and cons.

The Italian basket muzzle is very popular. You can find it anywhere in different sizes and colors and they are usually pretty durable. I personally would never use one because they don’t allow the dog to pant leading to a high level of stress and overheating.

Cage muzzles are a bit bigger and leave some room for panting but the metal easily bends when your dog bumps into something. In the winter, your dog’s snout could freeze against the metal and it is difficult to feed treats through it.

Leather muzzles are usually more expensive than other muzzles and they need a lot of care. They are a more sustainable alternative to plastic muzzles.

Grooming muzzles fit very tight and can only be used for a few minutes for example when cutting dog nails at the pet groomer. The are not suitable for everyday use.

The one I would recommend to get your dog is the Baskerville muzzle. It is a very comfortable and strong muzzle. It has enough room for panting and you can easily feet treats through it.

Are Muzzles Cruel?

Getting the right type of muzzle is not cruel but you have to remember that it is only a tool that prevents your dog from biting for a short period of time. It won’t resolve any behavior and training issues.

If properly prepared and trained, the muzzle will be comfortable for the dog without stressing him out. It is best to start at a young age to desensitise your dog being touched in the face and wearing a muzzle.

How long Can a Dog Wear a Muzzle?

A grooming or tube muzzle shouldn’t be worn for longer than a few minutes. When you put the muzzle onto your dog for the first time, remove it after a few minutes and gradually build up time.

It is generally advised to only wear a muzzle in potentially stressful situations or when meeting someone new or going to a new place. Sessions shouldn’t be longer than 20 minutes but I know that some countries have those regulations where the dog needs to always wear a muzzle when leaving property.

You don’t have to shorten your walks for the muzzle but make sure that it fits perfectly, is comfortable and that your dog has plenty of room to pant and drink. The muzzle training needs to be successful to ensure that your dog won’t hate it.

How to Muzzle Train a Dog

As with every training, you will need to take baby steps and slowly desensitize your dog to the muzzle. Grab some healthy and low calories dog treats and let’s get start.

  1. Put the muzzle on the ground and introduce it to your dog. Let him sniff on it and treat him for every positive responds.
  2. Pick it up and let it fall to the ground to show your dog that it can move and make sounds.
  3. Take the muzzle in one hand and hold a treat to the tip of the muzzle so your dog will be encouraged to put his snout into it to get to the treat on the other side. Reward him for every second that his snout is in the muzzle.
  4. You can even choose a cue like “muzzle” and say it every time your dog puts his nose in it. This way you can charge the cue and use it later as a command.
  5. Gradually increase the duration when your dog’s nose rests in the muzzle and always reward.
  6. Try to leave it on your dog and put the straps around his neck without closing them. Repeat this step for a few times.
  7. The last step would be to fasten the straps and removing the muzzle again. You can then train for a longer duration and do not forget the treats.

You can also do some early socialisation with the muzzle. If your dog got introduced to a muzzle as a puppy, it will be much easier. Repeat this process for a few days until you walk your dog with the muzzle.

How to Measure for a Dog Muzzle

The correct fit of the muzzle will make it safe and comfortable for your dog. Your dog should be able to drink and pant with the muzzle and there should only fit one finger between the straps and his head otherwise he will be able to shake it off.

You can take a look at this website for a comprehensive muzzle size chart and how to take some measurements.

Dog Muzzle for Biting

All of the above muzzles prevent your dog from biting but the Baskerville muzzle is definitely the best choice. It gives your dog enough room for panting and drinking while remaining the safety. As I said above, the muzzle is not the solution to the problem.

If your dog has an aggression issue or has even bitten someone before, please consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

Dog Muzzle for Barking and Chewing

I would never advise anyone to use a muzzle to prevent barking or chewing. The muzzle is only a tool and will never solve any problems. This means that if your dog is excessively barking or chewing the house down, you have a serious underlying behavioural problem that must be solved. And not with a muzzle. This is like putting a band-aid on a gun shot wound.

Here are some issues that might cause barking or chewing: separation anxiety, puppy biting, boredom, stress, aggression, attention, and lack of crate training. If you cannot resolve the problems on your own then please consult a specialist.

What to Not Use a Muzzle for

As I said above do not use a muzzle to solve your dog’s behavior problems like barking or chewing. There is always a reason for excessive barking or chewing. Also never use a muzzle for puppy biting or chewing.

Do not use the muzzle for an extend period of time and never use it for punishment. If your dog cannot pant in his muzzle, he will overheat causing some severe health problems.

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