Muzzles are often thought of as a punishment tool designed for “bad dogs”. People who see a dog in a muzzle may assume the dog is aggressive and will bite! In reality muzzles are a useful tool to keep dogs, humans, and other animals safe. There are many reasons why a dog may need a muzzle, and knowing how to wear one is an important skill for all dogs to have, regardless of their temperament. Let’s change the negative association between muzzles and dogs!
Which Dogs Need Muzzles?
All dogs may need to wear a muzzle at some point in their life! Even if your dog has never tried to bite anyone before, teaching them how to calmly and comfortably wear a muzzle can make things like vet visits much safer. Dogs at the vet are often scared or in pain, which can cause even the gentlest pup to bite out of fear.
For reactive dogs, wearing a muzzle during training keeps everyone safe while we help the dogs overcome their anxieties. Being comfortable in a muzzle helps us and the dog focus on managing their triggers rather than worrying about the bite risk.
Muzzles are a requirement in some public places such as on the ferry or in elevators. They can also prevent your dog from eating dangerous items off the ground.
Choosing a Good Muzzle
The two main types of muzzles are basket muzzles and soft muzzles.
The plastic and nylon muzzles are made from hard and durable flexible material with multiple openings that allow dogs to pant, drink, and eat. You can feed treats through the muzzle which helps with muzzle training. These all-purpose muzzles allow dogs to pant and drink while preventing bites.
Soft muzzles like nylon muzzles are lightweight, easy to transport, and provide a comfortable fit. However it is more difficult for dogs to pant and drink while wearing these muzzles, so are only suitable for short-term use. There is also a risk of dogs biting through the muzzle.
Flat-faced dogs like pugs and Frenchies require specially designed muzzles to accommodate their shorter snouts.
It is important to teach your dog to associate the muzzle with fun activities, not just stressful events like vet visits! It is best to introduce the muzzle before they actually need it, so that they can get used to it first. Encourage your dog to interact with the muzzle by smearing some wet food on the edge of the muzzle and letting them lick it off. In fact, a muzzle is a bit like a puzzle toy! You can also feed treats through the muzzle or place treats on the palm of your hand, support the bottom of the muzzle, and let your dog eat the treats through the muzzle. Once your dog is more comfortable placing their nose inside the muzzle you can build duration by slowly increasing the amount of time between each treat delivery.
In the beginning, don’t be in a rush to buckle the straps of the muzzle. If your dog is sensitive to noise, the sound of the buckle clicking together so close to their ears is especially difficult. Try opening and closing the buckle away from your dog’s face and pairing the sound with delicious treats. When your dog is comfortable with the sound, you can move on to fastening the muzzle on them. Remember to reward your dog generously!
Even after your dog learns to wear the muzzle, it may take them time to get used to doing things like walking, eating, and drinking with the muzzle on. Start with short sessions wearing the muzzle and allow your dog to do fun activities, such as going on their favourite walk. By building up these positive associations your dog will be more comfortable in the muzzle when you actually need it!
Remember that wearing a muzzle is not an excuse to place your dog in dangerous situations. Steps should always be taken to make sure your dog feels safe and comfortable. Practice some cooperative care to better prepare your dog for vet visits and grooming sessions!
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