Muzzles can be fun

Muzzle training should be given from the beginning just like any other training

by 
Dr Deborah Samson
December 7, 2017

We want trips to the vet to be as fun and relaxing as possible for you and your pet. You will notice that veterinarians and veterinary nurses use a lot of treats at every visit. We have puppy classes so dogs love the vet clinic right from the beginning. We encourage good training to include getting your dog used to having paws picked up, nails clipped, teeth, ears and eyes checked. We encourage you to visit frequently with your pet just for a pat and a treat, during quiet non-stressful times, so visits become something everyone can look forward to. We examine your pet where they feel most comfortable usually either on the table or the floor. If needed, we can provide anti-slip ‘yoga’ mats for those dogs that do not like slippery floors.

However there is no getting around for some dogs the vet can be a scary place. Dogs that are sick or are in pain are at higher risk of biting, even if they have been previously counter-conditioned and desensitized to being handled. This is why you should also train your dog to wear muzzles. Not only wear them but actually be happy wearing them. For this to happen, muzzle training should be given from the beginning just like any other training. Do not wait until an emergency or when someone has actually been bitten. If you see a dog muzzled it does not mean the dog wearing it is dangerous, it means they have a great owner.

The goal of muzzle training is for your dog to enjoy wearing a muzzle outside, at home or at the vet. It is best that you talk with us directly (or a good trainer) before starting training so you understand the process. There are great tips and videos on ‘The Muzzle Up! Project http://muzzleupproject.com. Fitting the muzzle is important too. In the photo below Fern is wearing a Basketville Ultra size 5. This was selected as it was long enough for her nose, wide enough to allow panting and drinking, and plenty of gaps for her favourite cooked chicken.

Never present the muzzle without following up with great treats.

First I placed the muzzle in front of Fern, talking with a happy voice and dropped treats near it. I repeated this randomly until Fern was wagging her tail every time I picked up the muzzle. Next I folded the straps out of the way, held it like a bowl and put chicken in it. Fern happily pushed her nose down to get the chicken, each time I happily said yes! Again I repeated this randomly until I could see she was happy every time. Then I clipped the strap loosely around her neck (not on her nose) and gave treats, then removed the straps. Next I placed the empty muzzle in front of Fern, each time she pushed her nose down I said yes! Then I fed a piece of chicken through the end while her nose was still inside. As time went on the game was yes! but the chicken came a second or 2 later. As previously I did not proceed until it was clear Fern was happy. Eventually I put chicken in the palm of my hand, placed the muzzle over the top and as Fern was pushing through licking the chicken I did the straps up. I then waited a few seconds gave her another treat, I then removed the straps. You can see you slowly can increase the time the muzzle is worn for making sure the dog is fully happy with each step.

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