How to Train Your Dog to Accept a Muzzle

Medium
1-2 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

As a loving dog owner, you probably think your pooch is the bee’s knees, the #1 Doggo, the best pet on the planet or any other number of awesome, sweet and loving descriptions. Chances are that you’re correct and your dog is loving, well-behaved and has the best doggy and people manners (especially if you read our regular training articles). Given all this, it can be difficult for some owners to reconcile that there may come a time when your dog may need to wear a muzzle.

Muzzles have gotten a bad rap from TV, pop culture, and other references to rabid, vicious animals that can’t be contained. The truth of the matter is that these helpful safety devices can protect both your pooch and yourself in many everyday scenarios. It only makes sense, then, that you train your dog to accept a muzzle or other head and mouth restraints, as part of their core doggy training.

Defining Tasks

Training your dog to accept a muzzle, halter, Halti or various other restraints around their head is easiest when your dog is desensitized as a puppy. Some veterinarian offices require dogs to be muzzled for any procedure where a dog may feel pain or bite unintendedly out of fear. If your dog ever gets loose out of your yard, they may end up being muzzled by the animal control authorities as a matter of course. Finally, basket muzzles can be lifesaving tools for dogs that are reactive to other animals or people but still need the freedom to go on walks, or even for completely well-behaved dogs that need to interact in loud, busy urban settings.

Getting Started

Before you start training your dog to accept a muzzle, you are going to need a few supplies. Muzzles come in a variety of styles. Deciding which type of muzzle is right for your dog will depend on the situation. Basket style muzzles are common for public situations and allow your dog’s mouth to open widely and don’t inhibit breathing. Snugger fitting sleeve-type muzzles are commonly used in veterinarian offices but aren’t great for public settings since they don’t allow your dog to pant or open their mouth widely within the confines. Finally, Haltis aren’t exactly a muzzle but are a commonly used leash alternative that sit in approximately the same place on your dog’s nose and face. In addition to a muzzle, you will need a flat buckle collar, sturdy leash and plenty of treats to make desensitization to a muzzle fun for your dog. Once you’ve compiled these items, it’s time to select one of our training methods for teaching your dog to accept a muzzle.

The Face Touching Method

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Face Touching method for Accept a Muzzle
Step
1
The brief touch
Desensitizing your dog to face touching and handling in general is a great way to get them used to the sensation of wearing a muzzle. Start off in a quiet, calm spot with a large selection of treats. Ensure your dog is in a relaxed position and then gently touch the area above their nose. Praise and give a treat immediately after.
Step
2
Increase time and area
Continuing to treat and progressing as slow as your dog needs, begin touching other areas of their face such as their muzzle, area above the eyes, ears, and other sensitive areas. Keep your touch light and voice upbeat and happy. Be sure to treat and praise after each touch.
Step
3
Focus on the mouth
Once your dog has grown used to their face being touched and stroked, it’s time to work your way up to other common areas. Lift your dog’s lips up, one at a time and then immediately treat. In order to have your dog learn to accept a muzzle, they will need to be okay with hands around their mouth. You should treat and praise and be sure to go as slowly as your dog is comfortable.
Step
4
Add a command
Once your dog is okay with their lips being raised, add in a command such as “teeth” or “show me” every time you touch their face. This will be helpful for letting your dog know what is coming. Treat them after each time.
Step
5
Reinforce and perfect
Once your dog is comfortable with handling their face and the cue, start rewarding for only perfect behavior such as when they hold their head still to allow you to look in their mouth. Start providing treats every other time and then every 3-4 times you inspect their mouth as a way to reinforce the behavior and keep your dog guessing and wanting to please you in order to earn a cookie.
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The Tube-Style Muzzle Method

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Tube-Style Muzzle method for Accept a Muzzle
Step
1
Face Desensitization
Before beginning your initial or subsequent training sessions with the muzzle, you’ll want to warm your dog up to having their face handled. The face is a vulnerable part of the dog and even the most acclimated pups can sometimes become alarmed with sudden contact. Spend a few minutes touching your dog’s nose, chin, forehead and lips, providing plenty of treats and praise in between.
Step
2
Introduce the muzzle
It’s time to bring out the muzzle. Place the tube-style muzzle on the floor near your dog and let them smell it. When they get near it, sniff it or otherwise seem interested, praise and provide treats. Do this until your dog seems to lose interest in the new item.
Step
3
Touch muzzle to face
Next, take the muzzle and gently touch it to your dog’s body, progressing slowly up to their face. Your goal is to show your dog that the muzzle is not harmful or dangerous and that they receive plenty of attention and cookies for letting the muzzle touch them.
Step
4
Place muzzle on dog
When your dog seems used to the muzzle, place it gently over your dog’s mouth for a very brief period of time. Do not buckle the muzzle yet and start by not drawing it entirely over their mouth. Slowly progress by taking the muzzle off and treating and then repeating until your dog allows the muzzle on without incident.
Step
5
Fasten the muzzle
The final step is to fasten the muzzle completely on your pooch. You should only do this briefly at first, for five to ten seconds, and then immediately take the muzzle off and treat. If your dog becomes agitated, don’t be afraid to go back to unfastening the muzzle or even having it touch their face. As they become used to wearing the muzzle, slowly lengthen the amount of time they are wearing it until they are indifferent or unbothered. Remember that tube muzzles inhibit a dog’s ability to pant and should never be worn for extended periods of time or during exercise.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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