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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?

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Debbie Quarrington

Sunday 24th of May 2020

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? Thanks

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 24th of May 2020

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.

Desiree Haight

Tuesday 24th of September 2019

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.

Jill

Sunday 24th of May 2020

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.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 24th of September 2019

So glad you found a solution. Does he nip out of excitement or fear?

Margaret Sheridan

Thursday 19th of September 2019

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.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 19th of September 2019

Thank you for that info, Margaret.

Jason Swift

Monday 27th of August 2018

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.

Dianne

Saturday 11th of August 2018

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.