It's a dreaded topic. People don't like the idea of a dog being in a muzzle. I know, I know. It's not fun! We get it, but hear us out. We actually believe that every dog should be muzzle trained. That's right! Every dog.
So, why would you train your friendly pup to wear a muzzle? Simply put, even the most gentle of dogs can bite when sick or injured. It's important not to muzzle train on the spot, because extreme situations can bring extreme reactions, Doing a little bit of training ahead of time will ensure your dog can at least tolerate a muzzle if the need arises.
Aside from being proactive, there are many other cases where muzzle training is necessary. Ask yourself the following questions:
Does your dog have a bite history with other dogs or people?
How well are you physically able to manage situations and your space?
What risks are you willing to take if a person or dog approaches your dog off leash? Hopefully none! Can you guarantee that your dog will not bite another person or dog if approached?
Does muzzle training give you peace of mind?
Steps to Muzzle Training
Muzzle training will be much more successful in the long run if you teach your dog to love the muzzle and make it a positive experience. Teach it correctly right off the bat to ensure your dog isn't fleeing or fighting you when it's time to put it on.
Introduce the muzzle from about a foot away. Present it to your dog, and then say "yes" and reward anytime he looks at it. Do this for multiple repetitions, and then slowly bring it closer until the muzzle is within touching distance.
Place high value treats in the muzzle and encourage your dog to eat them by putting his nose in the muzzle. As he puts his nose in, slowly move away from him to encourage him to push his nose into the muzzle. This will ensure he is moving towards you, versus just trying to grab the treat and retreat. You should not be bringing the muzzle to the dog. Continue feeding as his nose stays in the muzzle and work up to a duration of about 10-15 seconds. Do this for multiple repetitions.
Start to add in the buckle. Do all the same steps from step 2, but then go ahead and start playing with the straps. You can briefly buckle the muzzle (try to feed simultaneously or quickly after), and then unbuckle after a few seconds. Slowly build up the amount of time your dog has the muzzle attached with the buckle until your dog can wear it for thirty seconds.
Start to take your dog for a brief walk or do a fun training activity your dog enjoys while in the muzzle to build positive association. Remember to give lots of treats and praise. Keep this short initially, and then slowly increase the amount of time your dog is wearing the muzzle.
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About The Author: Megan is the owner and lead trainer of Havana Dog Training. She has been training canines for over 8 years and specializes in behavior modification, foundational work, and working with families and young children.