How to Muzzle A Dog

Dogs will sometimes bite in stressful situations; kind of like how a toddler “acts out.” These situations can include something as traumatic as a trip to the vet, or something more routine, like going for a walk. If your dog is nervous around other dogs, other people, small children, etc., a muzzle is one way to help your dog relax, and most importantly, not to bite anyone.

A muzzle is merely a safety measure, to be used in specific situations and for only short periods of time–minutes at most. It should never be used as punishment, but only for the dog’s own protection. At the same time, if your dog tends to bite children, don’t put on the muzzle and allow children to pet your dog. That will only make the dog more stressed, and completely negate the point of the muzzle. A muzzle will also not guarantee your dog’s safety around other dogs, or at the dog park. It is not a solution for excessive chewing, barking, or other aggressive behavior.

Even though it is to be worn temporarily, your dog will still need to get used to wearing a muzzle, because it will be restrictive. While it might look barbaric, a basket style muzzle is best, as it will still allow your dog to open its mouth, pant if necessary, and drink water. Plastic is better than metal or leather. Also, the openings will come in very handy while you’re training your dog. A mesh muzzle is more lightweight and therefore easy to carry, but much more restrictive for the dog. It should only be worn for very short periods, and removed immediately if the dog is having difficulty breathing or is overheated. Sleeve-type muzzles, with clever designs like duck bills or grinning teeth, certainly look less severe than the basket muzzle, but are not as effective long-term.

With the careful, patient training, you can acclimate your dog to wearing a muzzle for those short periods. As with any kind of training, using treats as a reward for learning will be a big help. This way your dog will learn not to be afraid of the muzzle; your dog might come to think it’s a fun game you play.

Use the following steps to introduce your dog to the muzzle. If at any point your dog gets nervous, stop the training for the day. When you start again, pick up from an earlier step, and go slowly to make sure your dog is comfortable.

  • Step 1. Begin by hiding the muzzle behind your back, then showing the muzzle to your dog. When your dog sees it, hand out a treat, and then hide it again. By repeating this exercise, the dog will soon be very excited when seeing the muzzle.
  • Step 2. After a few days of this step, move on to the next: training your dog to put its snout inside the muzzle. Put some small treats inside, or something your dog can lick, like peanut butter or spreadable cheese. Let your dog poke its snout inside to find the treat, and then take the muzzle away before your dog finishes eating the treats and pulls his or her head out. Each time, try to encourage your dog to stay inside longer than before. At this stage it’s very important to remember not to push the muzzle onto your dog’s snout, but to let him or her go in voluntarily.
  • Step 3. Before you can fasten the muzzle on your dog, you must first get your dog used to the sound of it. This step is similar to Step 1: show your dog the muzzle, open the fastener, and give a treat. Then close the fastener, and give a treat. Soon your dog will associate the sound of the fastener with a treat.
  • Step 4. Here’s the big test: fastening the muzzle onto your dog’s snout. By now your dog should be comfortable sticking its snout inside, so let him or her do that. Then, close the fastener, and open it immediately, and give your dog a treat. Repeat this step, leaving the fastener closed a little longer each time. During this stage, make sure the muzzle will be a good fit–not too loose, not too tight.

Again, it’s very important to remember that a muzzle is a temporary safety measure. Never leave a muzzled dog unattended, and be patient. Training takes time and dedication, and each of the steps above must be completed slowly and thoroughly to be most effective.

Featured Muzzles

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  • Updated: 10/12/2017: 12:10:25 PM ET
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