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Six steps to muzzle training

By Tori Ganino

Muzzle training is an invaluable skill to teach your dog.

Here are a few important reminders before you begin training:

  • Make sure that you are in an area with few distractions.

  • The crucial part of training is never brining the muzzle towards your dog. Your dog should always move towards the muzzle and put his nose into it on his own. Pushing the muzzle towards your dog can cause negative associations and set back the training process.

  • Sessions should be short and end with your dog wanting to continue working. Thirty seconds to one-minute sessions are great.

  • Each session should be practiced until your dog is successful. Do not move on to the next stage too soon.

  • Remove the muzzle from your dog’s nose before he takes it out.

Step #1: Food Bowl

Start out by taking the muzzle and using it as your dog’s food bowl. To prevent the food from falling out, put foil around the outside of the muzzle, and then prop it up in a box. The box that comes with the Baskerville Ultra muzzle is perfect for this. When you feed your dog, take out the muzzle first and THEN bring it to the food container. Put the food in it and give it to your dog. Once he has finished eating, pick it up and put it away. The order of events is extremely important. Always take out the muzzle before you grab food or treats. This is the same for the following activities. Your dog will see the muzzle and then see the rewards. Continue to this step for one week before moving to step two.

Step #2: Floor

Place the muzzle on the floor. When your dog looks at it, sprinkle treats around it. Pick up the muzzle and put it behind your back along with the treats. Repeat. Your dog should be using his nose to move the muzzle around to get the treats. He does not have to put his nose into it. Practice this for a few days.

Step #3: Slight Movement Towards

Hold out the muzzle and wait for your dog to bring his nose slightly towards it. Once you see even the smallest movement, praise and bring out the treat from behind your back. Put it on the other side of the muzzle, so he puts his nose in the rest of the way to eat the treat. Take the muzzle away before he takes his nose out of it. You can extend the time that your dog remains in the muzzle by giving treats rapidly in a row.

Step #4: Nose In

Hold the muzzle and wait for your dog to put his nose completely in it. Praise and bring out the treat from behind your back. You can work up to giving a few treats in a row and then waiting for a second or two between treats. This is so he can learn that rewards will come but he doesn’t have to eat the entire time. Once he is doing well, extend out the time even more. Don’t forget to set your dog up to be successful. If he backs out of the muzzle, it means that you are making the activity too difficult.

I often find that it is easier for owners to hold the treat between their knees. This is to prevent them from accidentally pushing the muzzle towards their dog. This technique is also helpful when learning how to get the food through the muzzle. If you place one hand under the muzzle, it can act as a slide for the treat. Drop the treat into the hand and push your hand up to the muzzle. Your dog will then be able to grab the treat.

Step #5: Latching

Have your dog put the muzzle on and then secure it behind his head. Reward rapidly. Seeing that we have made the activity more difficult by latching the muzzle, we want to increase how often he gets the treats. After a few repetitions, you can go back to rewarding a bit less. Don’t ask your dog to move around just yet.

Step #6: Easy Activities

When your dog is comfortable intermittently receiving treats while wearing the muzzle, you can start to add in movement and easy activities. For example: have your dog take a step or two and then reward, ask for a sit, down, paw, high five, etc. Jeter enjoys body conditioning work, so he is practicing balancing while wearing his muzzle.

Final Notes

Have your dog practice wearing the muzzle even when it is not needed. This is to prevent him from learning to associate the muzzle with a scary activity. Don’t forget, the muzzle is to be used as a safety precaution in addition to a behavior training plan. It should never be used as a tool so that you can put your dog in situations where he would normally bite in attempts to him used to being in that scenario and dealing with it. This can be detrimental to your dog.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Happy training!

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