One of the most humane tools that you can use to train your dog is a muzzle, because it will help to manage their behavior while protecting them, you, and others. Of course, in order to actually use a muzzle on your dog, you have to get them to accept it, and that, in itself, takes training.
How do you do it?
Teaching your dog to wear a muzzle isn’t as tough as it seems, but you need to practice patience and consistency, and work to make your pup associate it with positive things, such as affection or treats. For the sake of this guide, we’re going to use positive reinforcement via the treat method. You’ll need:
- A bag of treats that your dog enjoys
- A muzzle
- A clicker (optional)
- Associate rewards with a sound
The first step is to make your dog associate the sound of the clicker (or some other sound; you can even choose a specific word) with getting a treat. You can do this by putting a treat in your hand while engaging in a completely separate activity such as reading a book or surfing the web.
Your dog will most likely be excited by the treat, but wait until they calm down to give it to them. As soon as they stop behaving badly, use the clicker and then give them a treat. Repeat this until they start reacting to the sound of the clicker and looking around for their treat.
- Slowly introduce the muzzle
While still holding a treat and the clicker, bring out the muzzle and attempt to get your dog to sniff it. As soon as they do, click and treat them. Repeat this to get them to put their nose in the muzzle and eventually to keep it there for longer and longer periods of time.
After you can get them to keep their nose in the muzzle on their own, move the straps around as if you were going to strap the muzzle on. Continue clicking and treating for each step they let you take without pulling out of the muzzle. Once you finally get the muzzle on completely, click and take it off to give them another treat.
- Increase wearing time
Once your dog can successfully get into the muzzle, your next goal should be to get them used to wearing it for longer and longer periods of time. Initially, this can be done by continuing the above strategy and clicking and treating as they reach various thresholds — 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and so on. Don’t scold your dog if they start to fuss with the muzzle, but do try to distract them.
As soon as they can comfortably wear the muzzle for a few minutes at a time, head outside and there will be lots of things to help with that distraction! It’s all about getting them used to wearing the muzzle at this point, and that’s something that will happen with time.
One way to use a muzzle to help with the socialization process is to use the Funny Muzzle. Why? Because it’s designed to help other people react more calmly to your dog wearing the muzzle, and that, in turn, can help your pup to be more relaxed, too.
Remember: if you’re using a tube style muzzle that restricts your dog’s ability to pant, only use it for a few minutes at a time. If you’re going to have the muzzle on longer or have your dog engage in any strenuous exercise, you should use a basket style muzzle, which does allow them to pant. And, in all cases, never leave a muzzle on an unsupervised dog.