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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
- Introducing dogs,
- Nail trims
- Insulin injections
- 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?