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Getting your dog used to a muzzle

Gently getting your dog used to a muzzle - this is how it works.

In many situations in everyday life, a muzzle is not only an important but also a practical aid. But just as people have to get used to glasses, a muzzle is also an unfamiliar object for dogs at first. In the following article you can read when a muzzle makes sense for your dog and what the best steps are for muzzle training!

When is a muzzle useful?

If your pet has to wear a muzzle, it is mainly for the safety of your dog or your fellow human beings. In fact, there are many situations in the everyday life of some dog owners where a muzzle is a great help:

  • Visiting the vet: Going to the vet is stressful for most furry noses and can - even in otherwise very nice four-legged friends - cause unwanted behaviour such as snapping. As a preventive measure, a bite guard could help.
  • Safety on walks: A muzzle can be an important aid in everyday life, offering safety and protection, especially for the sweet-toothed among our four-legged friends. It is not uncommon for owners to have to worry about their dog eating cigarette butts lying on the street or even poison bait. A muzzle can also protect your dog from poisonous plants or prevent him from eating food that is harmful to his health.
  • Encounters with conspecifics: Some dogs are temporarily incompatible with other dogs or may develop leash aggression. While you are training your dog to avoid this behaviour, a muzzle could provide additional security.
  • Holidays and public transport: In some countries, it is compulsory to carry a leash and muzzle when travelling with your dog - regardless of the breed or size of your pet. A muzzle is also compulsory on public transport in many communities in Germany.

Tip: A common mistake is to only put the muzzle on when an unpleasant situation is imminent. The dog may associate the muzzle with a bad experience and subsequently associate something negative with wearing a muzzle.
To avoid stressing the dog, you should therefore get him used to wearing a muzzle in good time. Ideally, you should start when your dog is a puppy.

Muzzle habituation - in 4 steps

Before you put a muzzle on your dog, you should get him used to it carefully and with a lot of patience. You should take the time to get your dog used to the muzzle - after all, your dog has to get to know this new object first. With these 4 steps in training you can succeed:

  1. Getting to know the muzzle: In the first training step, take small pieces of food and put them in the muzzle. Show your dog the opening of the basket and observe whether he dares to put his snout into the muzzle. When your dog snaps at the treat, do not close the straps of the basket - the latch remains open at first. Repeat this exercise a few times until you are sure that your dog has accepted the muzzle positively!
  2. Close the muzzle: Now you can try the exercise with the straps closed. Once your dog's snout is in the basket, close the straps for a few seconds and increase the intervals over time. As long as your dog is wearing the muzzle, you should keep rewarding him with food. When your dog stops trying to take the basket off while wearing it, you can move on to the next training step.
  3. Wearing the muzzle for a longer period of time: The biggest challenge is getting your dog to wear the muzzle for a long period of time. To extend the wearing time, it's best to start out calmly in your home. Put the muzzle on and cuddle on the couch, cuddle a little or reward your darling with an ear massage. After a while, you can take the muzzle off again. The aim is for your dog to associate the muzzle with everyday life.
  4. Wearing the muzzle outside: Put the muzzle on and take your dog outside. Whether it's going for a walk, sitting on a park bench or in a restaurant - the more often your dog wears the muzzle in different situations, the sooner he will get used to it. During this training step, you can reward your four-legged friend generously with treats.

Tip: You should always let the dog set the pace himself and never force the muzzle on him. You can also start the training by letting your dog lick a yoghurt pot, of course only yoghurt that your dog can tolerate, without sugar and sweeteners and preferably lactose-free. This gets your dog used to sticking its snout into something that surrounds its entire muzzle.

Muzzle for the dog - what should you look out for?

The better the muzzle fits your dog's head and snout, the more comfortable your dog will feel with it. Therefore, make sure that the muzzle

  • sits firmly on the head but does not cause any pressure points,
  • is made of soft material such as leather or plastic,
  • has enough space for panting, drinking and treats,
  • is deep enough in the foremost area to allow strong panting (approx. 2 - 3 cm deeper than the lower jaw)
  • does not hit the tip of the nose or sit too close to the lower lids of the eyes. (The distance between the muzzle and the nose mirror should be at least 1 cm)
  • rest the weight on the bridge of the nose
  • fits only lightly on the cheeks and does not chafe (padding is necessary for longer periods of wear to ensure comfort)
  • does not rest firmly on the larynx or trachea and generate pressure there
  • is securely fastened: It should not be possible to pull it off without opening the fastener, but the straps must not constrict.

An incorrect fit can cause your furry friend a lot of pain or even lead to inflammation.

Muzzle or muzzle loop?

While a well-fitting dog muzzle offers enough space for panting, drinking and snacking, a muzzle loop encloses your pet's muzzle so tightly that your dog can no longer open its snout. However, panting is vital for dogs as it regulates their body temperature. Therefore, you should only put on a muzzle strap when you need bite protection for a short time, e.g. at the vet.

Conclusion: A muzzle can be a useful support in many situations and make everyday life easier for you. Therefore, it is worthwhile to get your pet used to a muzzle at an early stage. What experiences have you had with muzzle training? Feel free to write about it in the comments!

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