It is vital that your dog perceives the muzzle as a positive, non-stressful experience. Quite often the dog’s first encounter with a muzzle is in a stressful and fearful situation, such as the vets because the dog may have become aggressive or difficult to handle because of fear, panic, or injury. Let me state at this stage that a dog should not be made to wear a muzzle in a vet practice unless it is essential for the safety of others at that time. If a dog is showing signs of aggression, the appointment should be stopped and muzzle training can be undertaken ready for the return visit. Stories of pinning dogs on the floor and in doorways are too common and are completely unnecessary when the correct approach is taken.
It is therefore wise to introduce a dog to a muzzle over a period of time from an early age. Remember it may be a necessity at some time during the dog’s life, so you should introduce this aid in a non-confrontational and positive way. Depending on what muzzle you are using, there are numerous on the market, ranging from the Baskerville type, which is normally a cream coloured plastic type muzzle, or a canvas type muzzle with or without pinprick holes.
The one I prefer (and recommend in nearly all cases) is a Baskerville type muzzle with the large open vents, which allows good ventilation. The best all-rounder is called the Baskerville Ultra. This is where you can order them. www.companyofanimals.co.uk
Depending on which one you choose, you must make the experience rewarding and positive. Placing a lead on your dog and sitting on it may assist you to keep a little more control whilst you do this.
Most dogs will not be over happy at this type of restriction, so initially either drop a piece of food (cheese or meat is ideal) into the basket muzzle or hold a titbit up to end of the mesh type muzzle and bring it up to the dog's nose. The dog will smell the food and press forward to get at the titbit pushing its face into the muzzle as he does so, carefully slide the muzzle a little way over the nose so he can get the treat then immediately remove it praising at the same time.
Do this a number of times never attaching the muzzle or forcing the issue, you can use a word like 'Goooood', or even 'Muzzle' whilst you are sliding it over the nose. Continue these exercises over a number of days in different places in the house and garden, say 5-10 times a day if possible.
After 3 or 4 days actually, clip the muzzle on for a few seconds, and then take it off immediately. Do this on a number of occasions gradually increasing the time the muzzle is left on from seconds to minutes then longer. Make sure it is not too restrictive and tight around the mouth and nose as this can restrict drinking and breathing and could distress the dog.
I do not recommend muzzles for anxiety-related problems such as separation anxiety, whereby the dog is destructive, or for barking or howling problems; there are much safer and more appropriate techniques for these types of behaviour. Never leave the muzzle on for long periods and always supervise the dog when he is wearing one.
The use of a muzzle can be advantageous in a number of circumstances.
- In certain veterinary procedures, a muzzle may be required.
- When introducing another dog or puppy into the household.
- In cases of pain related temporary aggression.
- When introducing cats and other animals.
- Some behavioural modifications or training procedures may require a muzzle.