Is Using a Muzzle Necessary When Training Your Dog?

There is a difference between using a muzzle while training your dog and muzzle training.  Is your dog overly aggressive or unpredictable?  Do you feel unsafe while training him?  If so, use a muzzle, by all means.  However, a muzzle is generally a frightening object to a dog unless introduced gradually.  It makes him feel trapped and unprotected.  If it can be avoided, it is best to train without limiting his ability to be a dog.

Most dogs view a training sessions as a game.  It’s  playtime!  He obeys a command; he gets a treat or praise, or an at ta-boy.  It’s attention and dogs crave attention.  They want to please you.  It’s their nature.

To incorporate a muzzle into such a dog’s training would change everything.  Your dog’s eagerness will plunge and he’ll become wary of training sessions.  Do you want that?  No?  Then why take a perfectly cooperative, exuberant dog and muzzle him?

That being said, a muzzle does serve a purpose.  If your dog is one who nips, snarls or bites when he is nervous, he needs to be muzzled for your own safety (and his, because should he bite you, that could open up a whole new set of problems!)  But again, if you are training him through positive behavior techniques and praising and rewarding him, it seems unlikely that he would become overly anxious to the point of biting or nipping.

If you do not feel comfortable training your dog yourself, perhaps a professional trainer is the answer.  Just check their credentials first because pretty much anyone can bill themselves as a dog trainer; and even among well-qualified trainers there are varying methods and ideologies.  You want to be sure your trainer uses methods of which you approve.

Muzzles

Let’s talk about muzzles. There are occasions when you want your dog to accept a muzzle, such as when being groomed (some groomers are quick to muzzle up when they have a nervous dog) or when they are experiencing vet anxiety.  Thus, his training should include muzzle training.

       Using a muzzle when grooming

This is just a matter of introducing the muzzle to your dog and getting him used to it so it does not frighten him.  There are two types of muzzles – the basket type and the nylon wrap around.  While the basket type looks intimidating, it allows the dog to pant and panting helps regulate a dog’s temperature.

Let your dog sniff at and examine the muzzle, then give him a treat.  Repeat this several times. After he is comfortable with seeing it, repeat the process, only this time touching the muzzle to his nose.  Touch.  Treat.  Praise.  Finally, start getting him used to feeling the muzzle over his nose.  Again, be generous with the treats and praise.  Don’t rush this.  It will take days; perhaps even weeks for him to accept the muzzle willingly.  You want him to see the muzzle in a positive light, and not a threat.

In summary, use the muzzle only if the dog’s behavior calls for it.  However, as part of his training he should be introduced to a muzzle and learn to be accepting of it.  If your dog trusts you, generally he will trust whatever you ask him to do for you, including accepting a muzzle.

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Mark Mansfield
 

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