Although it is commonly assumed that a dog wearing a muzzle is aggressive, this is not always the case. There are quite a few situations when a muzzle can be very useful for both you and your dog. So, before these situations arise, it is useful to get your dog used to having a muzzle put on and wearing one. Here are a few situations in which a muzzle will be helpful.
Your normally placid dog may become anxious with small children around. So, if small visitors are coming round, muzzling your dog will give you piece of mind for the duration of the visit. The same may apply to visitors who your dog has not met before.
No matter how good you think your vet is with your dog, your dog probably does not have the same point of view! Your dog may become stressed when visiting the vet, associating visits with feeling unwell or vaccinations. This can result in your dog becoming defensive and this may be shown as aggressive behaviour although normally out of character. A muzzle on your dog will keep everyone safe and your vet will appreciate your forethought!
Dogs enjoy a good sniff on their daily walk. If they find something particularly interesting, they may decide to see what the smell tastes like. This can result in your dog having an upset stomach or something far worse. Putting a muzzle on your dog for your daily walk will avoid this problem.
A Step By Step Guide To Muzzle Training
1. Introduce Your Dog To The Muzzle Gently
Training your dog to accept the muzzle will take time and patience. The first thing is to get your dog used to the muzzle itself. Some dogs are automatically wary of muzzles. If this is the case, don’t attempt to put it on your dog just yet.
The way to gently introduce your dog to the muzzle is as follows. Place the muzzle on the floor and wait for your dog to investigate. When your dog sniffs or touches the muzzle, reward him or her with praise and food rewards such as a training treat. Eventually your dog will be confident and happy to be around the muzzle.
2. The Next Step
Once your dog is used to having the muzzle with him or her, you are ready for the next stage.
Try putting a treat inside the muzzle and encourage your dog to put his or her nose in the muzzle to retrieve it. Although it may be tempting to do up the muzzle at this stage, don’t! This would undo all the progress you have made so far.
Once your dog is happy and used to retrieving the treat from inside the muzzle, it is time to reinforce the retrieval with a command. Keep the command simple and be consistent with it. So, when your dog puts his or her nose in the muzzle, use the phrase you have chosen. Your dog will then learn to associate the command with putting his or her nose in the muzzle.
3. Hold The Muzzle On Your Dog
Now is the time to gently hold the muzzle on your dog. You are not going to fasten the muzzle. When your dog puts his or her nose in the muzzle, gently hold the muzzle on by the straps behind his or her head. At the same time use the command you have chosen. Only hold the muzzle on for one or two seconds. Remember to keep using the training treats!
With repetition, your dog will become used to the feel of the muzzle and also associate the command with the action. A soft, soothing voice and a stroke will also help take the stress out of the procedure for your dog.
4. Time To Fasten The Muzzle
When you are confident that your dog if comfortable with the previous stage, it is time to fasten the muzzle. However, at this stage you need to get your dog used to having it fastened without his or her nose in it.
Your dog may find the noise of the clasp fastening worrying. So, familiarise your dog with the sound by fastening the muzzle around his or her neck. Once your dog is used to the sound and action, you can move on to the next stage.
5. Fasten The Muzzle For A Short Time
Now you are going to repeat what you have been doing before, only this time with your dog’s nose in the muzzle.
Wait for your dog to put his or her nose in the muzzle. Gently fasten the muzzle on your dog, then immediately undo it and let your dog remove his or her nose from the muzzle. Use the command chosen in a soft, calm voice and remember to praise your dog.
This is going to have to be repeated many times before moving to the next stage and you will need to be patient with your dog. Although you and your dog have been working together to get to this stage, this cannot be rushed.
6. Slowly Increase The Time
When you are confident that your dog has accepted the muzzle being fastened for a short length of time, you can gradually increase the time he or she wears the muzzle. Use a lot of encouragement and praise during this step. As the periods of time increase, use the muzzle when your dog is stress free situations. This will usually be your dog’s home environment.
You do not want your dog to associate wearing the muzzle with a form of punishment. The easiest way to achieve this is when your dog is relaxed and happy to wear the muzzle.
However, if your dog becomes stressed with wearing the muzzle for increased lengths of time, take a break. It is best to go back to the previous step and take it a little more slowly, until your dog’s confidence with the muzzle returns.
Now for a little bit about muzzles. There are basically two types of muzzles, basket and cloth. A basket muzzle is preferable to a cloth muzzle. The basket muzzle will completely cover your dog’s mouth, where as with a cloth muzzle a little of the mouth is still exposed. So, the basked muzzle is safer. With a basket muzzle your dog will still be able to drink water and open his or her mouth wide enough to eat food and the all essential treats. When out walking, your dog will have enough room inside the basket muzzle to pant.
When choosing a muzzle, make sure you choose one the correct size for your dog. Some veterinary practices also sell accessories for dogs and they will be able to advise you if you are unsure about the correct size. A reputable pet shop will also be able to advise you. The shorter side of the muzzle goes on the top of the nose and the longer edge, under the chin. It is very important that the muzzle fits correctly to ensure that your dog is comfortable when wearing it. So make sure that the straps holding the muzzle on are adjusted properly.
Be sure to regularly check that your dog’s muzzle is in good condition. This includes keeping it clean.
Some of the stages described above will be quicker for your dog to learn and adjust to than others. Remember to return to the previous stage if your dog becomes stressed at any point during the training.
Training your dog to wear a muzzle will more than likely be a new experience for both of you. Time, patience and encouragement is needed on your part so that your dog learns to be confident when wearing the muzzle. Please don’t forget that the learning process also requires a lot of dog treats at every stage!
You have also learnt that there are many situations when a muzzle is useful for both you and your dog. A dog in a muzzle is not necessarily an aggressive animal! Happy muzzle training!