Nuzzle the Muzzle - Muzzle Training for Primitive Dogs

Some call it a Hannibal Lecter mask, and I get it, depending on your relationship with them, it’s easy to have terrible images in your head. But I cannot stress enough how wonderful muzzles actually are. Muzzles are a valuable and highly underutilized tool. Properly desensitized, muzzles give freedom to anxious, fearful or reactive dogs, while keeping humans and other animals safe. Muzzles can be used to create a bite or mouthing barrier during grooming, veterinary care, post op care, pain management, behavior modification, and living around reactionary triggers.

The key to muzzle use is proper desensitization. This means training your dog to wear a muzzle long before they need it. You never know what the future hold so we recommend all dogs be trained to accept a muzzle. Even if your dog accepts a muzzle straight out of the box, it isn’t a fun experience and your dog deserves to have a positive association with it. So for their sake, put in the work and make the muzzle great.

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Start with the right equipment. We recommend Baskerville Ultra Muzzles. They can be purchased at some local pet supply stores or online. Here is a link to some on Amazon.

Once you have the correct equipment, you need to follow a detailed desensitization protocol to ensure your dog has a positive association with the muzzle. DO NOT simply strap it on and require your dog to accept it. 

Start out holding the muzzle in your hand basically cupping it and drop some treats in. Let your dog get them out. You can even place the muzzle in the box and drop food in it. Let your dog eat out of it for a couple of days. Don’t rush them. 

Once they are eating out of the muzzle, hold it up and hold a treat through the front of the muzzle. Allow your dog to reach in and eat it. After a couple of days like this, hold up the muzzle and see if they will put their face in. If they do, insert food and feed them. Continue to repeat for a few more days.

Once the are accepting of their face in the muzzle rest it on their nose. KEEP FEEDING THEM!!! If they continue to be accepting, try messing with the strap. If they rub the muzzle, take it off at this point. Keep working on duration without pawing.

After a few days of strapping it on for a few minutes, slowly increase duration and still be generous with food. If the rub a little, try and redirect them to a manners behavior like sit. Keep increasing duration and start encouraging them to walk around.

 Cali enthusiastic in her muzzle and waiting for her next round of food.

Cali enthusiastic in her muzzle and waiting for her next round of food.

One your dog is accepting the muzzle, have the dog wear it in a variety of locations. Just visit these locations in the beginning. Do not do anything else to the dog.

  • Vet’s office

  • Groomer

  • Playground

  • On a Walk

  • In a pet store

  • At a friends house

  • In a parking lot

Keep sessions short in the beginning and be generous with rewards.

Once your dog is comfortable with the muzzle don’t take it for granted. Bring it out a few times a month and practice. Keep it upbeat and fun. The association with the muzzle should be a good thing for all. Make sure that if you use the muzzle for a particular task such as the vet or grooming, that you use the muzzle at other times as well so that an association with stressful things does not develop.

 Not excited by black or tan? Grab some duct tape and add some bling to your muzzle!  Source - The Dog Geek

Not excited by black or tan? Grab some duct tape and add some bling to your muzzle! Source - The Dog Geek

If your dog seems low key or anxious in the muzzle, slow down training and go back to the beginning. You don’t want to see much of a change in your dog. Also remember that this is a safety tool. Do not put your dog in situations that will make them react just because they can’t bite. Once they can wear a muzzle, focus on desensitizing triggers and making your dog feel secure.

Show us your muzzle progress in our Facebook Community. We can’t wait to celebrate with you!