Hartwood Library

Conditioning Your Dog to Wear a Muzzle

If your dog has to wear a muzzle at any time, maybe for the Veterinarian, groomer, nail trim or other procedures it is important to desensitize him to wear the muzzle first. If the muzzle is only worn in stressful situations, the muzzle may become as much of a stressor as the actual procedure. A muzzle is not natural for a dog, and the novelty of it can cause unneeded anxiety.

A dog that tries to snap while in these situations is most likely fearful. A dog may feel threatened when touched or restrained when he isn’t comfortable with the person or stressed with multiple triggers, these aggressive signals are usually defensive in nature. A dog in pain is also more likely to bite; even it has never shown aggression in the past.

I prefer the basket muzzles, because you have space to feed treats, your dog can drink and slightly open his mouth to pant.

Repeat each step until he seems happy to see the muzzle and is comfortable with the technique. Use a leash in the beginning while conditioning your dog to the muzzle.

  1. Present the muzzle to your dog and treat him for sniffing or showing interest in the muzzle.
  2. Place a treat in the middle of the muzzle and let your dog eat it. During the introductory phase, the muzzle should not be strapped on. This stage is purely to build comfort.
  3. Now, place a treat in the nose of the muzzle so that he has to stick his whole nose in.
  4. Hold a treat on the outside of the end to coax him to stick his nose in, and reward him with the treat when he does.
  5. Next, do the same thing except keep the muzzle around his nose for a couple more seconds.
  6. Once your dog is comfortable in the muzzle for a longer period of time, repeat the above and then attach the snap behind his head and give him a treat, then immediately take the muzzle off.
  7. Start increasing the time that he is in the muzzle, feeding him every couple seconds he has the muzzle on.
  8. Now that your dog can wear the muzzle comfortably for a few minutes, ask him to walk in it, or do a basic command while treating through the muzzle. Take these steps slow and only ask for one command at first, then build on.

If at any point he starts to paw at the muzzle or back away, go back to the previous step that he was comfortable at. We want the muzzle to always be positive, so that the dog associates wearing it with relaxation.

* Only good things should happen when the dog wears his muzzle in the beginning. You can give a massage during his muzzle sessions as well.

For more information, visit http://doggiezen.com/muzzle.