Teaching a dog to love their muzzle is pretty easy. Just follow the steps to learn muzzle training.
1. Show the muzzle to the dog in one hand and offer tasty treats with your other hand. Once the dog has had a couple treats, hide the muzzle behind your back. Pause for 8-10 seconds and repeat until your dog is showing curiosity about the muzzle.
2. Let the dog sniff the muzzle and give treats right next to the muzzle. Hide muzzle behind back for 8-10 seconds. Repeat until dog shows more interest in the muzzle.
3. Put treats (this might be a smear of peanut butter or cream cheese) just inside the opening of the muzzle and let the dog eat the treats. Repeat until the dog is eager to get the treats that are just inside the muzzle opening.
4. Put treats all the way into the muzzle and present it to your dog. Let your dog dive into the muzzle to get the treats (don’t put the muzzle on his face). While he’s eating the treats, move the muzzle a few inches away from your dog so that he must continue to move forward to push into the muzzle to retrieve the treats. Repeat until he is enthusiastic about diving his face into the muzzle every time to get treats.
5. Now that your dog is eager to put his face into the muzzle, you’re going to shift gears. Let the muzzle hang below your dog’s chin and hold the strap snug just behind the dog’s ears to simulate being connected. Give treats, release the strap and move muzzle away from your dog. Repeat until he’s comfortable having the strap held around his head in this fashion.
6. Let muzzle dangle under chin and actually connect strap around head, just behind ears, and give treats. Ask for basic skills such as Sit, Focus, Down, Come. Give treats for each of these. Remove muzzle. Repeat until your dog is comfortable doing activities with the muzzle attached but dangling under his chin.
7. Put both bits together: Put some treats into the muzzle and let your dog dive his face in to retrieve. While he does this, hold strap snug behind his ears and continue to feed treats through the muzzle. Remove. Repeat until he’s comfortable with this step.
8. Step 7, only now you will actually connect the strap so your dog is properly wearing the muzzle. Continue to feed treats while the muzzle is on. Practice skills, play games such as Chase Me, give belly rubs, and anything else the dog enjoys. Remove the muzzle before your dog tries to paw it off on his own.
Start with short durations, just 10 seconds of wearing the muzzle. Build up as your dog shows he’s comfortable until he can wear the muzzle for 20 minutes without showing concern for the muzzle. Now you have a dog who is well acclimated to wearing a muzzle. Well done! And happy muzzle training!
Author - Jody Epstein
Jody Epstein is a certified behavior consultant, certified professional dog trainer, and holds a master’s degree in animal behavior from Tufts University. She has been training professionally for more than 12 years and is pleased to be part of the Academy of Pet Careers team, teaching the next generation of trainers. Look out for her blogs on all things dog training and animal behavior.