Make your dog wearing a muzzle can sometimes be controversial. Some people argue that you are abusing your dog or shouldn’t use it when working on reactivity because the dog can’t behave as he would typically do.
Well, it depends a lot on how you train your dog to wear a muzzle.
First, I want to list some of the 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 an issue being around people or other animals can’t harm anyone seriously while wearing a muzzle. Plus, your dog won’t be at risk of being 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 training muzzle that keeps everyone safe.
- Some public spaces or public transportations require your dog to wear a muzzle. Having your dog comfortable wearing a muzzle allows you to take him with you during your trips.
- Your vet could be more comfortable practicing cooperative husbandry without restraint if your dog wears a muzzle. I personally love using the dog muzzle as the start button during vet care.
- If your dog is really in pain, you could have to make him wear a muzzle to treat him or transport him in an 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 need 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). Muzzles for dogs is safe to use and 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 efficiently. The owner’s stress can affect the 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 comfortable just because he can’t harm anyone. Wearing a muzzle or not, you should always keep your dog emotionally safe.
Choice of the muzzle
You need to choose a dog muzzle that allows your dog to pant, drink, and eat treats while wearing it and prevent biting.
Prefer a basket muzzle from a mesh one for these reasons.
So how to train your dog to wear a muzzle?
Teaching dog to wear a muzzle is very sensitive issue. Merely putting the muzzle on the nose of your dog, having him trying to remove it till he just gives 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 how they “learned” to wear it.
- Associate the dog muzzle with good things. Whenever you show the muzzle, make good things happen just after your dog sees the muzzle like tasty treats ou playtime.
- 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.
- 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 can 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 a previous high 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 a “working mode” to “exploratory mode.” Mark and reinforce whenever your dog explores something: sniff the air, the ground, anything in the environment, look at something, listen to something. Gradually he will be able to do these activities, which are self-reinforcing for a longer time without your support.
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