Muzzles are one of my favorite dog training tools in existence. They have enormous benefits and keep everyone safe while working through things that may be challenging for some dogs or spark some sort of aggressive response. These are a couple of tips on what muzzles to use, how to introduce them, and why they are so important!!
First. What muzzles to use. I get messages every single day from people asking what brand muzzle I use and why. The only muzzle I use or recommend is Baskerville brand muzzles. These muzzles are basket muzzles that have TONS of ventilation, do not restrict the dogs ability to open and close their mouth or pant, allow them to eat and drink water through, and are INCREDIBLY secure. Fitted appropriately, there should be no way that the dog can get them off. You can purchase these direct through amazon.
Next. How to introduce the muzzle. There is a lot of talk and debate on the appropriate way to introduce a muzzle to your dog. Many will say teach the dog to stick their face into it on command with food. Others will say make the dog wear it and feed them treats while wearing it. And some will say don’t use it if your dog looks stressed with it on.
I do a slightly different approach. Though it can be beneficial at times to have a dog stick their face in on cue and no one wants to see a dog look stressed out due to them, the reality is that muzzles are weird to dogs. It is inevitably going to be very uncomfortable for them initially when you begin introducing it. Sticking their face into the muzzle is the easy part, wearing it for extended periods of time and living their day to day life with it on is where you have issues.
I take a natural approach to introducing the muzzle. The first thing I want to do is show the dog that there is no way they can get it off. I put the muzzle on securely and allow them to paw at it and fight at it for a little while. I do not ask them to sit or down or not do it. I simply let them realize there is no chance it is coming off. Once they settle down you can either reward with food. Or just leave them be. I do this a few times until the dog begins getting a bit more comfortable with it being on and doesn’t fight it as much. From there I set a strict 1 hour per day muzzle time where I put the muzzle on and go about my day to day routine while they wear it. This will help them get used to it and break any associations that hey may have with it always meaning vet time or something scary.
NOTE: be sure to trim your dogs nails down before doing this step. When pawing at the muzzle it is possible that they can scratch them self if their nails are too long.
In short I absolutely love muzzles. I think all dogs should be comfortable wearing them Incase if emergency’s or if they are ever injured and need handling that may cause them to want to bite. They allow owners, trainers, and any one else that may be handling the dog to be less anxious and interact them in a far more calm manner reducing the risk of the dog sensing insecurity and helping them to have more of a positive experience.
Hope this helps!