Teach your dog to wear a muzzle, step by step!

Muzzle are quite the odd thing. If you’re not sure you should even be using one in the first place, or which type to buy, we have another post about that which you can find here.

To muzzle train a dog that has never worn one before, you’ll want to follow these short, incremental steps.

Pro tip :

– Take the muzzle off quickly once you’re done with the step. This way, your dog never takes it off itself : we want to stop while they’re still having fun and for them to look forward to the next opportunity they’ll have to put it on!

– If your dog shows signs of discomfort or tries to take the muzzle off before you’re done with your current step, let it! We want the dog to feel completely at ease with this process, and having a willing participant is a crucial part of that.

Warning : please read each and every step before you even start training. The videos will help give you an idea of what it should look like, watch them before you begin.

How do I know when to move from one step to the next?

Excellent question! You’re going to go off of what your dog shows you. Repeat each step 10 times:

  •  If your dog comfortably succeeds 9 or 10 out of 10 times, move on to the next step.

  •  If your dog succeeds 6 to 8 times out of 10, stay right where you are and go for another round of 10.

  • If your dog succeeds 4 or fewer times, meaning it consistently tries to get it’s head out before you’re done most of the time, go back a step. In fact, as soon as you have 5 failures in a set of 10, don’t even waste time finishing your 10, make things easier right away.

1. Once you have an appropriately sized muzzle, hold it snout-side in the palm of your hand and place your dog’s favourite treat inside. Let the dog go and eat the treat and remove the muzzle as soon as he’s gotten it.

Step one of the protocol

2. Offer the muzzle exactly like you did in step 1, but without the food inside (have some ready in your other hand!). Once your dog has gone in to investigate for food, praise and reward your dog with a treat through the muzzle. Remove the muzzle as soon as your dog got the treat.

3. Do the same thing, but wait for your dog to put it’s nose in and count two seconds without moving, then give your dog the treat and remove the muzzle!

Warning: if your dog has resource guarding issues, this next step could cause issues and should be done differently (explained below). If you think this might be your case but aren’t sure, you can contact us for help.

4. Find some very interesting and yummy food such as canned food, peanut butter, cheezewhiz…anything soft that your dog will go crazy for. Put some in a bowl, place the bowl between your knees and put the muzzle over it. Your dog can lick what’s inside the bowl by putting it’s head inside the muzzle. While your dog licks the bowl, bring the strap behind it’s head without fully tying it, remove everything and start over!

Alternative way to do this: With two people, one person will be holding the muzzle and moving the strap while the other continuously (every half second) pays the dog through the muzzle. Once the handling stops, so does the food!

Next, you’ll start tying the muzzle, but at it’s biggest possible setting so that it’s very loose. If your dog has no issues with having it’s ears touched, you can also keep the muzzle tied at it’s biggest settings and just pass the ears into it, as shown below.

As soon as the muzzle is on and the strap is behind your dog’s ear (at it’s largest setting), reward and remove!

5. Repeat step 4, but add the forehead strap if there is one on your muzzle.

Step 5 of the protocol

6. Repeat steps 4-5, with the straps adjusted to your dog’s head.

7. Offer the muzzle to your dog without the bowl. Tie the straps, reward and immediately take the muzzle off.

8. Put the muzzle on, encourage your dog to move around a few steps, reward and then take it off.

9. (Skip this step if you’re training the muzzle to prevent your dog from picking stuff off the floor) Put the muzzle on and then toss a bunch of kibble on the floor for your dog to pick up. It should last about 10 seconds, then we remove the muzzle!

10. Make your dog wear the muzzle for about 30 seconds, towards the end of a walk. Reward every 2-3 seconds with treats and praise profusely!

11. Progressively increase how long the muzzle stays on: 3, 5, 10 minutes.

12. Start using the muzzle in the context you trained it for : the entire walk, playing with other dogs, meeting a stranger, off-leash walking, etc. If it looks like the muzzle is starting to annoy your dog every now and then, call them to you and give them a treat. If your dog is unhappy with the muzzle most of the time, go back to step 11 and build your duration back up with more comfort and a longer end goal before you start using it again. You can also use it in other contexts to generalize that wearing the muzzle is fun: playing in the yard, training indoors, etc.

There you go, your dog is muzzle trained! Any questions? Send us a message!

Written by Nina Esmery, CTC. Translated by Stephane Fiset