Make your dog wearing a muzzle can be sometimes controversial. Some people argue that you are abusing your dog or that you shouldn’t use it when working on reactivity because the dog can’t behave as he would do normaly. Well, it depends a lot on how you train your dog to wear a muzzle. But there is a lot of reasons why you should start muzzle training today!
Reasons why every owner should train his dog to wear a muzzle :
- It protects your dog as much as the others around him.
A dog who has issue being around people or others animals can’t harm anyone seriously while wearing a muzzle. Plus, your dog won’t be at risk to be put down because he would have bite someone. Preventing an accident to happen will also prevent this behavior to be reinforced. Make your dog wear a muzzle keeps every one safe.
- Some public spaces or public transportations require your dog to wear a muzzle.
Having your dog confortable with wearing a muzzle allow you to take him with you during your trips.
- Your vet could be more confortable practising cooperative husbandry without restraint if your dog wear a muzzle. I personnaly love using the muzzle as start button during vet care.
- If your dog is really in pain you could have to make him wearing a muzzle to treat him or transport him in emergency. Having him used to enjoy wearing the muzzle will make this moment less scary than if you put this thing on his nose for the first time of his life without training.
- Wearing a muzzle can help to create some space around the dogs who needs it.
Better than any sign on a bib, most people will give your dog some space if he wears a muzzle (even just around the neck). It can really help your dog feeling safer and prevent regression in your reactivity training caused by people letting their dogs run to yours or trying to pet him without asking.
- Some owners will feel more relaxed knowing their dog can’t harm anybody and it will allow them to work on the issue more easily. Owner’s stress can affect dog’s stress.
- In some areas, specific dog breeds have to wear a muzzle because of the law.
WARNING : If your dog is wearing a muzzle, it doesn’t allow you to put him in situations he is not confortable juste because he can’t harm anyone. Wearing a muzzle or not, you should always keeps your dog emotionnaly safe.
Choice of the muzzle
You need to choose a muzzle which allow your dog to pant, drink and eat treats while wearing it and prevent bitting.
Prefer a basket muzzle from a mesh one for these reasons.
So how to train your dog to wear a muzzle ?
Simply putting the muzzle on the nose of your dog, having him trying to remove it till he just give up can put him in a state of learned helplessness. It is traumatic and that’s why some dogs just shut down and stop behaving when they wear a muzzle. It is not because of the muzzle itself but because of the way they “learned” to wear it.
You can teach your dog to actually enjoy wearing it. It should be a proactive training. You should start the training before you actually need your dog to wear the muzzle.
- Associate the muzzle with good things. Whenever you show the muzzle, make good things happen just after your dog see the muzzle like tasty treats ou play time.
- Teach him to put his nose voluntarily in the muzzle while you hold it using positive reinforcement.
- Reinforce with treats for keeping his nose in the muzzle while you hold it for longer periods of time.
- While he keeps his nose in the muzzle, start touching behind his neck, then gradually manipulate the straps till you can actually clip on the muzzle. Reinforce each step when he stays calm in the muzzle.
- Once your dog is able to wear the muzzle for some seconds while being static, we want to teach them to move while wearing it. You can lure or cue some simple behaviors with an high previous history of reinforcement like touch and follow your hand / sit / down / spin / heelwork / recall from a static position…Again at each step we want to use high value reinforcers. It will help create good associations while moving with the muzzle on.
- The final step is switching from “working mode” to “exploratory mode”. Mark and reinforce whenever your dog explore something : sniff the air, the ground, anything in the environnement, look at something, listen to something. Gradually he will be able to do these activities which are self reinforcing for longer period of time without you support.
- The training plan need to be adjusted to the individual and you may add some others steps.
More about muzzle training and more husbandry stuff here: https://tromplo.com/course/empowered-dogs-cooperative-husbandry-training-7/