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Muzzle Training

How do we go about training a dog to like a muzzle? The biggest thing is to break it down in to small achievable steps. If your dog has already had a bad experience with the muzzle, please take the extra time to ensure that we change their response from “oh &*%^” when they see the muzzle to “wooohooo”. There is no need to rush the process. What You’ll Need · Dog · Muzzle – my preferred Muzzle is called a baskerville muzzle

· High value rewards

Step 1: Start conditioning the dog to see that the muzzle predicts good stuff. Now don’t jump ahead, the muzzle should be no where near the dogs snout at this point. Just have the muzzle behind your back, bring it out, ensure your dog sees it but don’t chase them with it, and deliver the high value reward. Remove the muzzle from

  • Repeat Next we want to start rewarding the dog for interacting with the muzzle. The dog must move toward the muzzle, not you toward the dog. This game works because it is a game of choice. They can choose to part icipate or not to.s visibly excited when they see the muzzle move to the next step.

Step 2: Next we want to start rewarding the dog for interacting with the muzzle. The dog must move toward the muzzle, not you toward the dog. This game works because it is a game of choice. They can choose to participate or not to. If he or she shows any sign of movement toward the muzzle…woohooo, reward reward reward. Now the rewards only come when the dog is sniffing the muzzle. You could also smear liver paste or peanut butter over the muzzle to get them licking.

Step 3: Once your dog is comfortable around the muzzle we want them to upgrade to putting their snoz in the hole. Now not for long, and we aren’t doing it up, don’t rush it. Start by holding the muzzle in your hand and putting a high value reward inside for the dog to retrieve. What’s important here is again that the dog moves toward the muzzle and that from now on the dog only receives the reward for having the nose in the muzzle and not after removing it from the muzzle. Do this a few times and then offer the empty muzzle to your dog – if they push their snout in, yay, reward through the muzzle (remember they are only getting rewarded for the muzzle being on).

Step 4: Start building the duration that the dog holds their snout in the muzzle, slowly. ½, 1, 2, 3 seconds etc. I would also start paying for pressure at this point to. The harder they jam that snout in, the bigger the reward. You can also make it more difficult, by moving around and having the dog follow you to get to that most awesome muzzle of fun. Step 5. Once they are comfortably holding their snout in for 5-10 seconds before the reward, start pretending to do up the straps. Not buckled or clipped yet. When you start doing this, decrease the time between the rewards.

Step 6. Out next step is to build up to having the muzzle done up. While this is happening reward frequently through the muzzle. If the dog is distressed and pawing at the muzzle we have gone too far too fast. Distract them and reward, or remove the muzzle but no reward. It is really important that pawing at the muzzle doesn’t then pay the dog with a high value reward – otherwise this is what we are teaching them to do.

Step 7. Once the dog is comfortable with the muzzle in place, we need to start adding movement in and getting the dog to change position. Start simple, stand to sit, sit to down, sit to hand target etc. From here you need to start generalising the use of the muzzle – start doing it not only at home, but at the park, at the vet clinic etc. You may need to go back a few steps when you try in different locations. That is fine!

Things to remember:

  • It should be fun for both you and the dog

  • Ensure your chosen muzzle is the correct size for your dog.

  • Never use a Muzzle as a punishment tool

  • If the dog has trouble at any step, go back to the previous step and give them time

If you are having trouble – please seek the help of a qualified reward based trainer or veterinary behaviourist.

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