Muzzle Training: Why All Dogs Should Do it!
*Please Read In Its Entirety*
I will always advocate for every single dog to be muzzle conditioned, regardless of their temperament, size, or need of one. Contrary to the title, this does not mean that I believe all dogs should be muzzled; it means all dogs should be muzzle trained, and comfortable with a muzzle, regardless on if they ever wear one.
I have two adult dogs and two puppies. All dogs are very well trained in their obedience, socialization, one of which is my Service Dog, and all are muzzle conditioned despite not *needing* to be muzzled.
Let’s start with common misconceptions about muzzles:
- A properly fit muzzle does not keep the dog from opening its mouth. Infact it ONLY prevents biting- or putting something in its mouth.
- It should not prevent drinking, panting or barking.
- A muzzle does not mean a dog is aggressive. There are many reasons a dog could be wearing a muzzle.
- A muzzle does not harm, or hinder a dog in anyway when used properly.
- A muzzle should not cause stress or discomfort when introduced properly.
- Muzzles should not be worn 24/7
- Muzzle conditioning/muzzle training does not mean wearing the muzzle 24/7. It means getting your dog comfortable with wearing a muzzle. Most training sessions for muzzle conditioning is less than 10 minutes.
Why all dogs?
The main reason I always recommend every dog be muzzle conditioned isn’t because you shouldn’t trust your dog, or your dog may need more training. It isn’t because your dog needs it, it is because there is a chance with every dog that it may be needed and if that moment comes, it’s a lot better for the dogs to have a positive association to a muzzle prior to ever needing it.
It doesn’t mean you definitely will, but you might and why not make sure your dog is prepared?
The biggest reason many people recommend muzzle conditioning all dogs, regardless of immediate need, is in case of an emergency. If your dog ever gets seriously injured, the vet will muzzle your dog in order to treat. It doesn’t matter how sweet or friendly your dog is, it is a safety protocol to keep everyone safe.
In this situation a dog is already stressed, in pain, possibly afraid and being surrounded by strangers to be poked and prodded in order to be treated. Unfortunately, dogs cannot speak English and we can not explain we are helping. Dogs in this situation will often try to bite as a form of communication; yes, even the sweetest of dogs can bite in this type of situation.
Now, when you add a muzzle into the situation and the dog is not comfortable with it (ie no prior experience and/or not taught a positive association with it), it will add extra stress to the dog. This situation can become extremely dangerous and unnecessarily more stressful by the panic of this new, scary thing on its face. This can sometimes result in a dog who completely shuts down, but more often it results in a dog who thrashes, flails, attempts to throw itself against everything, continues to try to bite, scratch and panic.
A dog who has been conditioned to a muzzle wont have the extra stress reaction. Often times it is neutral, or can even calm many dogs down after being properly conditioned due to the positive experiences associated with it. Even if the dog is still determines to bite due to the pain, there isn’t any extra thrashing or panic that can risk unnecessary injury.
Other reasons to use a muzzle:
- Vet visits. Some dogs do not like being handled by strangers, or may be sensitive with a minor sore or possible ear infection. Remember, dog communicate in many ways, this includes using their mouth (nipping/biting), its not always intent to harm.
- Grooming. Especially with a breed that requires grooming, sometimes our dogs do not like particular areas brushed, or particularly isn’t fond of a particular grooming tool, maybe doesn’t like nails done and will mouth, or has a mat that needs to be worked out. A dog that is muzzle conditioned, when they dislike grooming, end up having a more relaxed grooming experience if/when they need to be muzzled because they associate the muzzle with good things.
- This can also allow the groomer to rebuild a positive association with grooming and has the potential to wean off having to use the muzzle for grooming due to the lack of stress a muzzle causes when the dog is accustomed to it when its needed.
- Eating what he shouldn’t. Some dogs have a disorder known as Pica. Pica is where a dog is compelled to eat items that are not food. This doesn’t mean chewing up random things but eating things like metal, rocks, etc. A muzzle can mean the difference between life and death as this is often a psychological disorder, not solely a training issue.
- Introduction to new, unknown dogs. Sometimes, it is safer to introduce new dogs to each other with muzzles on depending on the dogs.
- Rough players. Some dogs play a little too rough with other dogs, and a muzzle can help situations from escalating while continuing to properly socialize and work on this behavior.
- Excessive chewing. Dogs who chew excessively on themselves, or may have a wound that they wont leave alone,can be muzzled while healing. This is often much more comfortable for dogs than a traditional ‘cone’ but enough to keep the dog from messing with the area.
- …and more!
Not All Muzzles Are Equal
Baskerville and and Biothane muzzles are readily available at most pet stores, while these are not 100% bite proof, they are perfect for muzzle conditioning/training to get a dog used to wearing a muzzle. These are also great muzzles for many other reasons, excluding biting, and have their uses.
Mesh muzzles are only good for very short procedures however they are not bite proof either, they also restrict air flow and on a stressed dog can increase panic and stress, as well as limit the ability to breath.
If you are interested in proper muzzle conditioning or muzzle conditioning please feel free to join If you are interested in proper muzzle conditioning or muzzle conditioning please feel free to join “Muzzle Training and Tips” here on Facebook.
I would love for others to share their experiences so please reply with your positive muzzle story as a handler with a dog who is muzzle conditioned, and/or with your story as an animal care professional (vet staff, grooming staff, etc) who have a positive muzzle training experience or why you feel muzzle training is important.