Have you ever seen a dog out in public wearing a muzzle and wondered why? There are many reasons why a dog may need to be muzzled, and you may be surprised to know that it isn’t always aggression related. Unfortunately, muzzles carry the stigma of being worn only by aggressive dogs, but that isn’t always the case.
Some reasons a dog may need to be muzzled:
- The dog suffers from Pica (an eating disorder characterized by a tendency to eat substances that provide no nutritive value), and the owners are trying to avoid a blockage from occurring.
- The dog is reactive, and needs to be prevented from redirecting onto other dogs, or their owner.
- The dog is in pain, and the owners want to assure that he can’t react.
- The dog is in training.
- The owner wants to prevent the dog from destructive behaviors such as chewing drywall.
Why you should muzzle train your dog even if they don’t need to wear one at the moment:
- Reduce stress in your dog in the event that they need to be muzzled. Even the sweetest pup in pain may be pushed beyond their bite threshold.
- Waiting until the muzzle is necessary will cause the process to be rushed which will cause the experience to be unpleasant for you and your dog.
To get Fido used to wearing a muzzle, conditioning them to have a positive emotional response to the muzzle is vital.
You should never put a muzzle on a dog to wear that has never worn one before. They will always see this as a negative experience and you will have more work to do to get them to accept it later.
In order to condition them to the muzzle you should start out by showing the muzzle to your dog with no expectation of your dog interacting with it at first. You will show the muzzle and give a food reward to your dog so that your dog starts to associate the muzzle with food rewards and begins to have an excited response when the muzzle appears. This is much like the association that many dogs have with their leashes. The leash appears and a walk happens. The next step to conditioning a dog to wear a muzzle is short sessions of luring them to put their face in of their own accord with a food lure. Once they are comfortable with this (which might take several short sessions) then you will put the muzzle on for short periods of time (5 minutes or less at first).
What type of muzzle to use:
My favorite type of muzzle is made by Baskerville. A basket muzzle is always preferable to a mesh or cloth muzzle that may inhibit your dog’s ability to pant, drink, or take treats from you. When properly fitted they are comfortable for the dog and allow them to still be a dog.
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