21st Jun, 2017
Muzzles are usually associated with stressful events, such as visits to the vet. The basis of muzzle training is to teach your dog to have a positive experience in association with the muzzle, rather than a negative one. This is done by introducing the muzzle slowly and in non-threatening situations; also by using rewards to reinforce positive associations with muzzle-wearing.
The type of muzzle we recommend is the 'Baskerville' muzzle. This muzzle allows the dog to breath easily and to pant, which your dog needs to do to keep cool. It also has the advantage of having an open basket type of structure, ideal for 'posting' in treats, allowing you to give food rewards for appropriate behaviour, whilst the muzzle is in place. Tubes of squeezy cheese work well to treat through a muzzle.
To get your dog used to wearing the muzzle, initially place the muzzle next to your dog’s food bowl for a few days. Moving on to putting a piece of your dog’s favourite food in the bottom of the muzzle and bring it up to your dog’s nose. She will smell the food in the muzzle and put her nose in herself. Gently slide the muzzle over the dog’s nose, so the treat can be reached, then remove the muzzle.
Keep repeating the exercise, but on each occasion leave the muzzle on for a little longer. When you first fasten the muzzle onto your dog’s head, 'post' a treat into the muzzle, then take the muzzle off again. Gradually, your dog will get used to wearing the muzzle. The first few times she wears the muzzle for more than a minute, post treats in at odd intervals. It is a good idea to use the word 'muzzle' as you put it on your dog, so that she starts to understand that you want her to put her nose in it when you say the word.
Try not to put the muzzle on at the same time, or in the same place every day, otherwise your dog will start to anticipate it. Put the muzzle on and take it off again at different times of the day and in different locations, both in the home and in the garden.
Once your dog is used to wearing the muzzle, you need to ensure it is properly fitted. The strap should be threaded under her collar and should only allow two fingers underneath it. It must not be able to come over the top of your dog’s head. If it does, then it is too loose. Once adjusted, the excess strap should be stitched, so that the clasp is always at the right fitting. Very useful video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FABgZTFvHo
Remember that you need to get your dog to wear the muzzle when out on walks, round the house and in the car – not just at the vets for example. You don’t want the muzzle becoming a signal that you are off to the vets!