How to Get Your Dog Used to a Muzzle

It’s good for all dogs to be comfortable wearing a muzzle, not just aggressive dogs.

You never know when your dog might need to wear one, but if he does, you want the muzzle to be a positive or neutral experience for your dog.

Let’s face it, if a muzzle is needed it’s usually because the situation is already stressful in some way. That’s why it’s important that the muzzle doesn’t add even more fear or stress to your dog. You want it to have the opposite effect or at least neutral.

Some examples of why your dog might someday need a muzzle:

  • Even friendly dogs bite when they’re hurt or scared.
  • Your dog might act very differently during or after a traumatic event. (And “traumatic” to a dog could be something fairly simple.)
  • Some breed discrimination laws require dogs to wear muzzles in public based on breed, not behavior. You never know what breed or mixed breed will be targeted.
  • “Dangerous” dog laws are tricky. Your dog might legally be required to wear a muzzle in public someday based on one fluke experience that wasn’t his fault.
How to get your dog used to a muzzle

Why my dog Remy needs a muzzle

I have a stubborn young weimaraner who mouths and bites when I’m trying to do something basic like trim his nails. Annoying, but not a huge deal …

However, when Remy was hurt in July he would not let us clean his wound without trying to bite us.

We were backpacking in the mountains with some relatives and their dog. The first evening, the other dog attacked Remy and tore a hole in his ear. Going to a vet wasn’t a realistic option due to our location, but we needed to do our best to keep the wound clean.

My dog Remy

You know all those articles that recommend you keep a muzzle in your first aid kit? That is good advice. We didn’t have one.

It took one person to hug him tight and try to hold his mouth shut while the other quickly put antibacterial cream on his torn ear.

This is not exactly ideal, but we made it work.

I decided it would be a good idea to buy a muzzle for Remy so I have on hand in the future. I haven’t gotten one yet. Let me know in the comments if there is a brand or style you recommend.

How to get your dog used to a muzzle:

I wish we’d had a muzzle with us in July, however a muzzle is even more useful if your dog has positive associations with it.

In our case, I would’ve just slapped the muzzle over Remy and called it good. That’s just what you have to do sometimes.

But ideally, you want your dog to associate a muzzle with FUN, AWESOME things like treats, peanut butter, steak, belly rubs, walks, car rides – whatever he loves! You don’t want him to associate it with the vet, nail trims, pain, medications, etc.

Here are my steps to help your dog get used to a muzzle:

You don’t have to follow these steps exactly. These are here to help you brainstorm.

I would wait a day or more between each step to slowly get your dog more comfortable. Practice each step for just a few minutes at a time and keep it fun.

VERY IMPORTANT: Don’t tease, laugh at or feel sorry for your dog when you train him to wear a muzzle. This will only make your dog feel anxious or bad about the muzzle. Instead, you should be SUPER JEALOUS of your dog’s awesome jewelry! Treat the muzzle like it’s an expensive watch or necklace. It’s something to be proud of!

“Wow, what a handsome boy in your new jewelry!”

“Wow, so pretty, What a good girl you are!”

Now, onto the steps:

Step 1: Let your dog sniff the muzzle, give a treat and praise.

Use steak, jerky or hot dogs. When the muzzle goes away, the treats stop. Your dog thinks, cool, I get treats when that thing is out!

Fabric dog muzzle

View dog muzzles on Amazon HERE.

Step 2: Gently touch the muzzle to your dog’s face and give a treat.

Repeat several times.

Step 3: Put the muzzle on your dog for 1 second without actually strapping it on.

Repeat several times. If you have a basket muzzle, put the treats on the other side so he has to put his face in to get them. Repeat.

Dog muzzles

View muzzles on Amazon here.

Step 4: Hold the muzzle on your dog for 3 seconds.

Then 4 seconds, 5 seconds, etc. You’re not actually strapping the muzzle to your dog yet, just holding it.

Step 5: Put the muzzle on and strap it on.

Give treats and praise. “What a good boy!” Remove the muzzle, and stop giving treats. Treats come when the muzzle is on.

Step 6: Leave the muzzle on for 30 seconds.

Then 1 minute. Then, only when your dog is more comfortable, leave it on him while you do something fun like a walk, trick training, a car ride, etc.

That’s about all there is to it!

Does your dog wear a muzzle? Let me know in the comments how you got him to tolerate or enjoy wearing it.

Reasons a dog might need to wear a muzzle:

  • Travel
  • Introducing dogs,
  • Emergencies
  • Disasters
  • Grooming
  • Nail trims
  • Medications
  • Insulin injections
  • Vaccinations
  • Ear cleanings
  • Eye drops
  • Wound care
  • Introducing your dog to something he’s scared of like kids, other dogs, whatever it might be
  • Introducing your dog to cats or other animals

Does your dog wear a muzzle?

Let me know your experience in the comments. I’m also curious what kind of muzzle you use. I don’t have a lot of experience. Is a basket muzzle best or a fabric muzzle? What brand do you use?

Related posts:

Do you have a breed people are afraid of?

How to get my dog used to nail trims

How to introduce dogs

21 thoughts on “How to Get Your Dog Used to a Muzzle”

  1. It might be ok to use a muzzle for an emergency, but not all the time unless the dog is very visous. I asked a vet about this he said he wouldn’t recommend it except for emergencys. When the dogs mouth is restricted he can’t defend himself if he was attacked or protecting his owner from danger. Personally I don’t use one. I don’t see a need for it.that’s my own decision

  2. This article really hits home for me. I’m in the process of muzzle training Otis our 19 month old 1/2 Husky 1/2 Pit Bull rescue.
    I’ve never used a muzzle before and honestly wish I didn’t have to now. Unfortunately its kind of looking like a necessity for Otis.
    He was severely abused and neglected when we got him at 8 mos old. He has overcame so much and is such a smart, loving, fun, boy to us in our home. Not so much outside, or to people who are not his people.
    About 2 mos ago he started growling and snarling at people even some of my friends who he’s familiar with. Now unless he knows and loves the person at the door I can’t let them in til he’s kennelled. I’m not sure why he’s acting like this one day he’s fine with someone the next he’s not.
    I’ve never had a dog that did this so I’m not sure how to handle it. I know not to correct him for growling so when he does it I try to stand in between him and who he’s growling at get his attention and tell him to leave it. He will stop growling until he can see the other person.
    Because of this unpredictable, and unsafe behavior I researched and invested in both the basket muzzle and groomers muzzle. When I took him for his well check and vaccinations a few weeks ago my vet told me I had to used the groomers muzzle he hates it! The basket muzzle on the other had he thinks is a treat jar he wears so he’s cool with it. He wore it out on his first car ride the other day. So far so good.
    I’m hoping the muzzle will help with safely working threw this, I’m also trying to find a good local trainer not much luck yet. The woman who runs the rescue I fostered for recommended doggy boot camp, I feel that has to be the last resort cause he has to be sent away for awhile and I’m not comfortable with that plus its 3 hours from home. She recently sent a rescue there though and said they worked wonders with her.
    My hope is to only have to use the muzzle for a short while. I’m afraid to walk him in it though cause I’m scared a loose dog will run up on him and attack him and he won’t be able to defend his self. Any suggestions on what to do if that happens I have pepper spray but heard that can kill a dog!

      1. Hello Lindsay,
        He is fine with wearing the muzzle. So now when company comes I still kennel him before letting them in. After he stops growling I muzzle and leash him up. Walk him into living room if he growls I just turn and take him back to the kitchen. Have him sit wait a few then try again. We usually do this 3 or 4 times before he stops growling. I have sat next to 3 people within a week with Otis next to me and calm. He even sniffed and was actually comfortable with Cheryl enough to let her pet him. She’s coming back over tomorrow to do it again. She’s great at ignoring him and staying calm. Wish I had more friends like her.
        He’s definitely showing some improvement and the muzzle is great cause I know he can’t bite and so does my company so it helps with keeping everyone calm.
        Were taking it slow and safe, don’t want to set him up for failure. Will keep you posted on how he’s doing!

    1. I have a rescue dog Boxer Lab mix that has to be put in a room when we have company. He had a deep scar on his chest when we got him. He doesn’t like anyone but family. He loves my daughter. He will share a bone with only her, anyone else looks could kill. If you could see how he reacts with family you would say that is a different dog. He puts his hackles up from head to tail and growls and shows his teeth. I don’t want anyone to get bit. I just tell him to go to room and he goes and I shut him in till everyone leaves. Other dog wears a muzzle when we go for a walk. Terrier mix that doesn’t like kids, loves women. I use muzzle to keep barks to a minimum, he barks at squirrels.

  3. Hello Maggie S,
    I would love to show you a pic of him. Is there anyway to upload a photo threw this blog?
    He’s a beautiful dog really, we know where he originally came from and seen both his parents his mother is a purebred AKC registered Husky and his father was a APBT.
    He has the head and mouth of the Pit. He’s tall with long legs, thin but muscular. And has a long tail that curls up and ears that stand straight up like the Husky.
    Sounds funny but I’ve had several people comment on what a pretty dog he is I’d love to show him off!!

  4. We used a muzzle for a dog that chewed up everything! Literally, the dog ate the couch. We both worked all day and she had a doggie door and the hours we were gone would not have worked with a crate. But once we used the muzzle for chewing, the dog understood. We only needed it for a few months, then the dog stopped. We had to try several before we found one she couldn’t chew up. We ended up with the smooth tight fitting cloth type.

  5. Like others on here I never thought I would need a muzzle. A couple weeks ago we adopted a pit bull mix from the shelter. She loved our pug instantly so we thought “cool , she’s good with dogs “. Well we discovered she hates large dogs. And has snapped twice at them. Now the struggle of her waking with a muzzle. She basically throws a tantrum and just lies down and won’t move. At all.

  6. Margaret Sheridan

    I use a JAFCO muzzle with a treat hole and single strap. They are designed for longer term wear. My Malinois has some handling issues so we need one at the vet, in public and for nail trims. She has no bite history and the muzzle keeps it that way. She doesn’t mind wearing it. I used dog treats and spray cheese to get her adjusted.

  7. We have a hospice foster that’s been with us for several months. He’s always been friendly to people that come over to the house, but we discovered recently that while on a walk he likes to randomly bite people in the leg that walk by, with no provocation. So I conditioned him to a muzzle much the same way you suggest. He only wears it on walks, and I get very excited for “walkies” when I get it out and put it on. He loves to go for walks and starts bouncing up and down when he sees the muzzle.

    1. My two labs will eat anything on the ground, especially poop. One got extremely sick and nearly died a couple of years ago from picking some up while on a walk and can now only go off leash with a muzzle on. Neither of them mind the muzzle – I use plastic basket muzzles for both my dogs, as well as clients dogs whom may require one due to being snippy with other dogs in the park.

      I have a fabric muzzles in my first aid kit and because they hold the mouth tighter shut, I only use the fabric for emergencies only. Basket muzzles are preferred while out walking as they allow the dog to pant and they can also drink with them on during warmer weather.

  8. Debbie Quarrington

    This is a great discussion. I have a dog which is great with people but will attack any dog he sees. He has already attacked 2 dogs injuring one. He has to wear a muzzle anytime in public just to ensure that no harm will ever come to another dog. He is fantastic with people and is fact very skittish and nervous. He himself has been attacked and had severe injuries from several dogs. On where he was bitten in the groin and it bled for 2 weeks. We had to hold our breath wether it would heal or not. This last attack was what I think pushed him over the edge. Problem is he is a 100lb dog with Shepherd, PitBull, Malmute and Husky mix. He is very strong and very prey driven. His mother was rescued pregnant from up North in Canada. He is muzzle trained but does not love it. I realize from reading this I must make more of a big deal and more treats!. I do not like the muzzle I use now as it is too big for him, the next size down too small. My problem is that he loves to run free at our cottage and with a loose muzzle I am afraid that a twig or something can get caught in ti and hurt him. Any suggestions?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m afraid I don’t have a solution to that. I would worry about sticks and twigs too. I guess you have to weigh the pros and cons for the cottage situation and decide if he should even be off leash or not and if no muzzle is a greater risk than wearing it. I’d probably just have him wear it and risk the sticks.

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