Muzzle training: your step-by-step guide

Dogs wear muzzles for lots of different reasons.

They might eat things out on walks that upsets their stomachs, they might have the unfortunate habit of eating the poo of other animals, they might be a risk to wildlife or they might be worried about the close proximity of strangers or other dogs. Another important reason for wearing a muzzle is for veterinary procedures.

Going to the vets can be a scary time for your dog, particularly if they’re in pain – it can be hard for them to understand what’s going on. Some dogs may resort to growling, snapping or biting to show they’re uncomfortable, worried or scared.

If you feel your dog may growl, snap or bite, or you’re just not sure, get your dog used to wearing a muzzle. If your vet asks you to muzzle train your dog don’t be offended – it’s to ensure the vet, your dog and you are kept safe.

How to muzzle train your dog

Most dogs don’t enjoy wearing a muzzle for the first time – it can be an odd feeling and may make them even more anxious when going to the vets.

Allow plenty of time to muzzle train your dog to ensure they’re comfortable wearing it. Each dog is different, some can progress through the steps in a few days of 3 or 4 short training sessions per day. Other dogs will need to repeat each, or some steps several times before progressing. By following our step-by-step guide you will turn wearing a muzzle into a much more pleasurable experience for them and produce long-lasting results.

Step 1: Introduce the muzzle gently
If you’ve tried using a muzzle before unsuccessfully or your dog is simply worried by the sight of it, don’t attempt to put it on them yet. Instead, place the muzzle on the floor and encourage them to sniff or touch it.

Every time your dog does, give them lots of praise and a tasty treat. Don’t force them to touch the muzzle. When they’re happy touching the muzzle and looking to you for a treat you can progress to the next step.

Step 2: Encourage further investigation
Place a tasty treat, such as a piece of cheese or sausage, into the muzzle and allow your dog to put their nose in it and take it straight back out. Don’t attempt to close the muzzle at this point. Once your dog gets used to putting their nose into the muzzle you can give this action the name ‘muzzle on’.

Step 3: Hold the muzzle on but don’t fasten
Place a few treats in the bottom of the muzzle. When your dog goes to put their nose in, say ‘muzzle on’, and then hold the straps behind their head for a few seconds. Release and allow them to take his nose out.

Repeat this action until your dog is relaxed with this. You may find talking to your dog and telling them they’re being good will help them feel more relaxed when you are holding the muzzle on.

Step 4: Fasten the muzzle around your dog’s neck

Work on closing the clasp of the muzzle around your dog’s neck, without their nose being in the muzzle.  Some dogs find the noise of the clasp worrying so it’s best to practice this without the the muzzle being on.

Step 5: Fasten the muzzle briefly
Repeat step 3, but this time close the clasp of the muzzle behind your dog’s head whilst the dogs nose is in the muzzle. Undo the clasp straight away and allow them to take their nose out. Rushing at this point will undo the good work that you’ve done so far.

Step 6: Gradually increase time in the muzzle
Slowly start to increase the length of time that you leave the muzzle on for. Remember to put your treats in the muzzle before your dog puts their nose in, keep talking to them to tell them they’re doing well. You may want to try feeding your dog tasty treats once their muzzle is clipped up.

Handy hints for muzzle training

  • If your dog gets worried at any point, take a break and then start again from the previous step. You may just have been moving too quickly
  • If you’ll only be using the muzzle at the vets, put it on your dog for short periods randomly at home or when doing something enjoyable. This means your dog won’t just associate the muzzle with the dreaded vets!
  • Use a basket muzzle and not a fabric muzzle. A basket muzzle is safer for those around as it’s fully enclosed and better for your dog as they can open their mouths more fully. This means they can still eat, drink and pant, so they’re more relaxed. The gaps also allow you to pop small treats through to carry on rewarding good behaviour
  • Make sure you have the basket muzzle the right way up. The shorter length sits on top of their nose with the longer length underneath their chin.

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