Authors: Phoebe Cooper, Keren Dinkin & Brianna Machinski
Muzzle training dogs has a lot of stigma surrounding it, including that it may be perceived as an inhumane practice, that it’s only necessary and intended for dogs of particular, often misunderstood breeds, or for dogs that exhibit more aggressive or frightened behaviors.
The truth is, however, that muzzle training has excellent benefits for all dogs, regardless of their genetics and reactiveness. Continue reading to learn more about why you should consider muzzle training your dog to keep them safe during any novel scenario.
What is Muzzle Training?
Muzzle training is the process of teaching your dog to wear a muzzle and be comfortable with it. The goal of muzzle training is predominantly to keep your dog safe, comfortable, and secure under many different, often stressful, circumstances.
What are the Benefits of Muzzle Training?
While muzzle training can certainly be beneficial to dogs with biting tendencies or those with anxious, frightened, or aggressive behaviors, it doesn’t end there:
If a dog is seriously injured and under extreme stress, a vet visit that requires poking and prodding at an injury could be enough to provoke even the sweetest-tempered dog to become reactive and defensive.
In these sorts of situations, vets often place muzzles on dogs as a precaution, most of which haven't been muzzle trained before. What this results in is added stress to an already agonizing situation. If the dog is muzzle trained, however, this typically doesn’t pose an issue.
Furthermore, muzzle training helps ensure that these sorts of experiences don't jeopardize dogs’ mentality surrounding vet visits. This is because they won't associate the vet with a surprise muzzling, which could be traumatic otherwise.
Muzzle training can help build trust between you and your dog. If your dog is comfortable wearing a muzzle, it shows that it trusts you and is willing to listen to you. This trust can help make training easier and improve your relationship with your dog.
Sometimes it’s Required
Some dog-friendly operations or establishments may require owners to muzzle their dogs in order to bring them along. This is especially prevalent when it comes to traveling: The ferry to Catalina Island in California, for example, is considered dog-friendly, but dogs must be muzzled to ride.
Moreso, several countries throughout the world require dogs to wear muzzles on public transportation and sometimes in public spaces generally.
How to Muzzle Train Your Dog
Now that you know the benefits of muzzle training, you may be wondering how to get started. There are a few different ways to muzzle train your dog, but the most important thing to remember is to be patient. Here's how you can achieve it:
Prepare for Positive Reinforcement
The first step is to be ready to provide positive reinforcement with chews or treats that your dog loves. Training a pup or a fully-grown dog to use a muzzle can be challenging, especially if you're dealing with a picky eater.
While training, it’s a good idea to be ready with Natural Farm treats and chews. Our products are made with all-natural ingredients and can be used to effectively train your pet more quickly.
Start With the Right Size Muzzle
The next step is to make sure you're using a muzzle of the right size. If a muzzle is too big, your dog will be able to pull it off. If the muzzle is too small, it will be uncomfortable and can cause your dog to panic. A Baskerville basket muzzle is a great place to start. They offer a sizing chart to help you determine the best fit for your pup, and the muzzle style allows you to reward your dog through it as well as allow your dog to still safely pant while wearing it.
When you're training your dog to use a muzzle, it's important to be consistent. Dogs are creatures of habit, and they will quickly learn the behaviors that are rewarded. Therefore, if you want your dog to use their muzzle, make sure you're rewarding them every time they behave or respond in the correct way.
Begin the Training Process
To muzzle train your dog, start by placing a treat on the opening of the muzzle and let your pup eat the treat from the muzzle. This process should be repeated as often as necessary until your dog feels comfortable being near the muzzle.
Take baby steps throughout this exposure process. Do not immediately jump into putting the muzzle on and latching it closed. This will spook your dog and make them weary of coming near it again in the future.
When they are comfortable taking a treat off the muzzle, move to free shaping them putting their snouts into the entry of it. The second they put their nose in, instantly reward them with a treat.
Then, start to build duration. Each time, expect them to hold their nose in the muzzle slightly longer than the last time before rewarding them. From there, you can add a command like “Muzzle!” when they put their nose in so that they associate the term with the action.
Make sure you continue to reward throughout all of the steps! You should not attempt this all in one training session. Rather, implement five-minute daily sessions over the course of a few weeks. Once your dog is holding their nose in the muzzle for a significant amount of time comfortably, you can then move onto latching it closed.
Again, start with a short latch time, remove the muzzle immediately, and reward them. Then, you’ll move on to building duration with the muzzle latched, too. If at any point your dog seems to regress in their progress with muzzle training and exposure, take a step back in the process and keep at it.
Hire a Dog Trainer
If you're finding the muzzle training process too challenging, we recommend hiring a dog trainer. A dog trainer can help you learn the proper techniques and give you tips on how to make the process easier.
Are You Ready to Muzzle Train Your Dog?
While your dog may never be in a situation where they need to wear a muzzle, it’s better that they know the skill and are comfortable wearing one should an emergency or novel scenario arise. We hope that this article has opened your eyes to the benefits of muzzle training for all dogs and that now you might consider implementing it with your dog, too!
Let us follow along on your training journeys using #LetsChewNatural