How to Train Your Dog to Wear a Muzzle: The Basics

Step 1: Choose a muzzle that’s comfortable for your pet. The best dog muzzle for shorter training sessions is a partial muzzle that wraps around the snout. For longer sessions, consider a larger basket muzzle.

Step 2: Try to link the dog muzzle to positive moods, feelings, and events before using it for the first time.

Step 3: If possible, ask a dog training expert which type of muzzle they’d recommend.

Step 4: Understand the purpose of a dog muzzle is not to exact punishment or a quick fix for unwanted behaviors.

big black dog wearing a leather muzzle

The use of dog muzzles is associated with problem behaviors. When we see a canine wearing a muzzle, we assume it must be a naughty dog or perhaps even a dangerous one. In truth, restraints of this kind are used for many lots of different reasons. For instance, they’re an increasingly common way to manage stress in dogs who feel anxious for being outdoors.

From a practical perspective, muzzle training is an effective way to familiarise dogs with procedures that may happen at the vet or salon. For this reason alone, it’s worth keeping one around the house and training your pet to use it. To keep your dog safe at home or while traveling you might want to consider a wireless dog fence.

Convincing Reasons to Buy a Muzzle for Your Dog

Visits To the Vet

Even the most gentle, sociable dog may behave erratically when sick or in pain. Muzzles provide a quick, fuss-free way to get stressed out canines to the vet so they can be treated as promptly as possible. It’s not only a way to contain your dog’s fear responses, but it also helps veterinary staff to feel comfortable enough whether looking for signs of fleas or doing a routine check.   

You may know your gentle giant wouldn’t hurt a fly, but the vet doesn’t know your dog’s temperament. They may require all dogs to be muzzled during treatments and, if your pet is already used to it, the process will go much more smoothly. 

Grooming

Similarly, a visit to the groomers may cause anxiety for some dogs. All animals are different and, where one dog may love having their ears cleaned, another dog might find it uncomfortable. With a muzzle in place, the groomer can squarely focus on technique and delivering the service you want because they’re not constantly on guard for a nipping.

There is a big difference between a dog who is trained to wear a muzzle and a dog who is muzzled involuntarily. For groomers, the latter can still be dangerous. It’s why some refuse to work with dogs who are unfamiliar with or resistant to muzzle use. Anxious or skittish pets must first be trained to trust the restraint. Otherwise, they’ll panic and fight it.  

Inappropriate Eating

It’s increasingly common to see dogs muzzled because they have a compulsion to eat inappropriate or unsafe things. Behavioral conversion training is the only long term way to solve this problem, but muzzles can provide a short term fix, you should also learn about what’s toxic for your dog, for instance, do you know if your dog can eat lettuce?

big brown dog wearing a cloth muzzle

For example, if your dog is prone to eating trash while out walking, you may need to use a muzzle to keep him safe. Even small pieces of plastic or metal can perforate a dog’s insides if swallowed. Maintain ‘call away’ training but use a muzzle outdoors if there’s a chance your dog might eat something dangerous before you can stop them.

Public Transport

Every city has its own dog laws. Throughout much of Europe, unleashed and unmuzzled canines are welcome on trains, trams, and buses. In America, the rules can vary wildly from state to state. You may live in a dog-friendly city but need to visit a state that’s less tolerant. It is your responsibility, as an owner, to know the rules of the region and to train your dog to adhere to them where necessary.

Unfamiliar Situations

Muzzle use is not a substitute for aggression or anxiety training. However, it can be a short term solution if a stressful situation is unavoidable. For instance, you may be considering adopting a dog with a history of aggression towards cats. The problem is, you already have another small cat-sized dog and fear a similar response.  

With a muzzle, you can introduce the larger dog to the smaller without risking injury if aggression is the result. This is the case for all pet introductions; if there’s any chance of an extreme reaction, a muzzle is an effective safety precaution.  

Aggression Control

Finally, we come to the most obvious use of dog muzzles – aggression. There are many reasons why a dog might behave aggressively outside of the home. Whether you’ve figured it out already or you’re still investigating the cause, it’s not safe to allow an aggressive dog to roam freely outdoors, be sure to also find a good dog insurance to protect yourself and others.

Either you keep your furry friend on a leash during walks or use a muzzle to stop him from biting strangers and other pets. To reiterate, muzzle use is not a substitute for aggression training. It will prevent your dog from biting but not from wanting or trying to bite. Intensive behavior conversion therapy is required to fix this problem.   

Reasons NOT to Use a Muzzle for Your Dog

Don’t repeatedly expose a dog to environmental or behavioral stressors because he has a muzzle on and, therefore, cannot panic bite. It will damage your relationship with your pet and do nothing to fix their fear response. 

Please recognize both the limitations and purpose of dog muzzles. They are not intended to be a restraint for a dog’s natural behaviors. If a dog bites because he’s in a stressful or frightening situation, he’s not broken or naughty. He’s scared and responding in the only way he knows how to.

It should be noted muzzles are not designed to be bark prevention tools. Forcing a dog to wear a muzzle for extended periods to prevent noise is cruel and irresponsible.

Different Types of Dog Muzzles

As with most canine products, dog muzzles come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Prices range from just a few dollars to over a hundred for the highest quality restraints. At the low end of the market, you can pick up flimsy nylon muzzles for next to nothing. However, we recommend spending a little more for a reliable, sturdy product.

You don’t have to spend a lot but do consider whether the material and design of cheaper muzzles is strong enough for a boisterous pet. Think about how frequently you’re likely to use it, what environments you’ll be taking it to and whether it’ll fit your dog comfortably. 

Cloth Muzzles

Cloth muzzles are a popular choice for non-aggressive pets who require a restraint only in certain environments (such as at the vet) or as part of anxiety therapies. They’re commonly made from nylon and feature a single piece of flexible cloth fabric.

cloth muzzle on big brown dog

The cloth strap is slipped snugly over the dog’s snout and fastened behind their ears. If the dog in question is well trained, cloth muzzles are a simple, affordable option. Larger, more erratic dogs will usually require a stronger restraint than this.

The downside to using cloth restraints is the limited mobility they allow your dog. As the cloth band closes around the dog’s mouth, they cannot easily eat or drink. The snout strap may affect their ability to pant and, thus, regulate their body temperature. This is why experts discourage the prolonged use of cloth muzzles.

If you do use this type of muzzle on your dog, limit wear to ninety minutes at a time. In extremely hot weather, lower this to sixty. If a dog can’t pant freely, they are at risk of overheating which may lead to sickness and, in rare cases, death. Cloth muzzles certainly have their benefits, but they come with downsides too. Make sure you’re aware of them. 

When shopping for a cloth muzzle, consider the weight and toughness of the material, particularly around the stitching. This is where the tension will be felt if your dog decides to fight against the restraint. When in place, the strap should feel strong but with enough give to bend and flex as your pet moves their mouth.

Basket Muzzles

The alternative to a cloth muzzle is a basket muzzle. This is a cage-style restraint which fully encloses a dog’s snout rather than preventing the mouth from opening far enough to bite. For this reason, it’s a better choice for most pets. Although basket muzzles look a little dramatic – some people associate them with dangerous dogs – they are more comfortable to wear because they place fewer restrictions on mobility.

girl putting basket muzzle on pitbull

Basket muzzles are also a lot sturdier and more reliable than cloth restraints. Even a small dog without much strength can wriggle free of a cloth muzzle if determined enough. Though not impossible, it’s much harder for a dog to escape a basket style muzzle. They are worn with the straps fastened behind the dog’s ears and the basket fully over their nose.

The basket extends to just below the eye line, where it rests across the snout and safely contains your dog’s tongue and teeth. With most basket muzzles a dog can eat and drink freely, but they cannot bite. When asked, the majority of dog training experts say they prefer basket muzzles because the shape and style offer maximum comfort to the animal.   

Interestingly, these same trainers admit to using cloth muzzles far more often when working with client’s dogs. They say basket muzzles are better for outdoor use, but cloth muzzles are invaluable for fast-paced, high impact training sessions. It’s a helpful reminder that different situations may require different solutions. If you want to be sure of the best result, invest in both a cloth muzzle and a basket muzzle. 

The obvious advantage of using basket muzzles is comfort and mobility. Movement is restricted to a small degree, but dogs can still drink, eat and pant with ease. If your dog has trouble with any of these things while wearing a muzzle, it may be too small. On the other hand, it’s equally important to ensure a reasonably tight fit. The best dog muzzle for your pet is one that’s loose enough to move up to half an inch and doesn’t press too firmly on the skin around the dog’s eyes. 

Tips on Training Your Dog to Feel Comfortable in a Muzzle

There are two types of training you may need to perform when introducing your dog to a muzzle. Desensitization is a word used to describe the process of correcting traumatic memories. In other words, if your dog has had negative experiences with muzzle use in the past, these unpleasant associations may need to be replaced before they’ll wear one.  

If your dog is new to muzzles, they’ll probably need some time to get accustomed to the unfamiliar object and the sensation of wearing it. Dog owners with canines that aren’t negatively or positively associated with muzzles – they have no experience with them – should take care not to unintentionally create bad associations.

Whenever the muzzle is around and visible, try to behave in an exaggeratedly positive manner. Whatever you do, don’t chase your dog. Don’t yell or get frustrated if they resist attempts to put the muzzle on. At this early stage, they may feel wary of the new object, but they’ll only develop an aversion to it if you give them a reason.

Start your dog’s training by creating a positive association. When you get the muzzle out and make it visible, bring a treat out too. You don’t have to put it on their face right away. Just repeat this step until you see your pet make the association for themselves when the muzzle comes out. As training progresses, start to place the treat close to the muzzle, either on top or inside where the dog will have to sniff to find it.

Resist the urge to push too quickly, too soon. Allow your dog to be curious. The more time they spend positively interacting with the muzzle, even if it’s just to sniff out another treat, the more comfortable they’ll become with its presence as a non-threatening object. Eventually, you should be placing treats right inside the muzzle, as deep as you can position them, so your dog can begin inserting his snout.

Once you’ve reached this point, you’re almost there. Repeat the step a number of times to show your pet there’s no trick. They don’t have to fear to put their nose in the basket. Then, when you believe they’re relaxed and comfortable, fasten the straps. Do this only for a few seconds at first. Then, repeat the step and keep the straps closed for a little longer each time.

Don’t forget to give your furry friend lots of treats, strokes and chin scratches for being so brave and well behaved. Remember: if you don’t create negative links, your dog has no reason to fear the muzzle. It may take some time for them to get used to the feeling of wearing one but, with patience and enthusiasm from their owner, they’ll be a pro in no time. 

How long should a dog wear a muzzle?

Experts suggest that no more than 20 minutes, however, it depends on factors like weather and physical activity. Always monitor your dog while wearing a dog muzzle.

Do muzzles make dogs more aggressive?

Wearing a dog muzzle can prevent bites but it won’t reduce aggressiveness by itself, on the contrary, it might make it worse if your dog is not trained properly.

Will a muzzle stop a dog from barking?

Depends on the type of muzzle and how tight it fits your dog, remember to make sure your dog feels comfortable while wearing it.

Is it okay to leave a muzzle on a dog all day?

No, dog muzzles are designed for shorter periods of time. Always monitor your dog.

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