Muzzle Training Your Dog

There are lots of reasons why dogs wear muzzles

Created: 3/21/2024 Updated: 4/12/2024 - Vicky Payne

behaviour, Behaviour & Training, dogs, Health & Wellbeing, stress and anxiety

Why do dog’s wear muzzles?

Often the first thing that springs to mind when someone sees a dog wearing a muzzle is that the dog must be vicious, but there are many reasons why a dog might be wearing a muzzle. A dog wearing a muzzle might be:

  • Prone to eating things they shouldn’t or on a strict diet for medical reasons.

  • More likely to bite due to fear or pain.

  • Required to wear a muzzle by law, for example if they are exempt banned breed or for any breed travelling on public transport in some countries.

  • To prevent a dog catching wildlife.

  • For a visit to the vet or groomers.

When muzzles are used on fearful dogs it is important to remember that they won’t make the dog feel better or safer. They should be used as a ‘safety net’ during training to help the dog feel more relaxed. If your dog snaps out of fear in any situation consult your vet and a behaviourist about how you can help them feel better.

It is beneficial for all dogs to be trained to wear a muzzle just in case one is needed. If a dog has previously worn a muzzle and had a good experience this reduces their stress when one is needed compared to wrestling a muzzle onto a scared dog in an emergency. Muzzle training can be a fun game if approached in the right way.

Dog with snout close to the camera

What is the right style of muzzle for my dog?

There are two main sorts of muzzle available; basket muzzles and fabric muzzles.

Fabric muzzles fit the nose very snuggly and must only be worn under direct supervision for a short period of time. They are most commonly used for short veterinary or grooming tasks and some dogs seem to calm down when they are applied. Dogs can take small treats through a fabric muzzle, but be aware they can still nip or bite wearing this type of muzzle

Basket muzzles are more suitable for wearing for longer periods and give more protection against bites. There are some designs only suited for short term wear (such as at the vets) as they give limited room for panting, but do allow the dog to take treats and to drink. Muzzles designed to allow full panting room used to only be available for racing dogs like whippets and greyhounds, but designs for all face shapes including bull breeds are now becoming more common.

If you need your dog to be able to wear a muzzle for longer periods including exercise and in the car ensure the design allows them to pant, drink, take treats, and vomit. Make sure the muzzle doesn’t restrict breathing or vision, and is comfortable for your dog to wear. Some brachycephalic breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs can be particularly tricky to find a comfortable and safe muzzle for so consult your vet for advice.

When measuring your dog for a muzzle, measure from the tip of their nose to just below their eyes and the widest part of the nose. Allow at least 1cm between the end of your dog’s nose and the muzzle. Make sure the straps will prevent the muzzle coming off, but don’t dig into your dog. You should be able to slide a finger comfortably under the straps.

Border collie dog wearing a basket muzzle

How do I Train my dog to wear a muzzle?

It is easiest to muzzle train a dog if they have not previously have bad experiences. If your dog is already shy about being touched on the face, has any pain issues with their mouth, face or ears, or if they are aggressive around treats you need to speak to your vet and a behaviourist before starting muzzle training.

There are many different ways to muzzle train your dog. If your dog hasn’t had a bad experience you might want to start with an actual muzzle straight away. If your dog has previously had poor experiences with muzzle start with a yogurt pot or a coffee cup.

Assemble everything you will need in a quiet, familiar, distraction free space. Plan for short training sessions several times a week and always end with success. Repeat each stage several times until you are sure your dog is ready to move on.

You will need: a muzzle or plastic pot, tasty treats, a clicker (optional).

OSCAR Chicken Liver Training Treats
  • Bring out the pot or muzzle, immediately give your dog a treat (after using the clicker or a marker word like ‘good’). Repeat until your dog is anticipating a treat when the muzzle appears.

  • Place a treat in the pot/muzzle. If your dog moves towards the muzzle click/mark and give a treat. Some dogs will stick their nose straight in, others may get closer in stages.

  • Once your dog is putting their nose into the muzzle you can hold the treat outside and pop it in once the nose is in.

  • When your dog is confidently sticking their nose in the muzzle for a few seconds add a word which you can use as a cure for them, ‘muzzle’ ‘party hat’ ‘nose cone’… it doesn’t matter what word you choose, but be consistent.

Once your dog is happy to have their nose in the pot/ muzzle for a reasonable period of time before a treat, the next step is to fasten the strap. Some dogs don’t like this so you may need to work on it separately.

  • Make the neck strap into a big loop and hold it so the dog can see. Click/mark and give a treat.

  • Hold a treat near the loop, click and treat.

  • Hold the treat on the other side so the dogs puts their nose through… click and treat.

  • Move the treat so the dog puts their neck through. Once your dog is happy to put their neck through lift up the muzzle and ask them to stick their nose in for a reward.

  • Once the nose is in, gradually tighten the neck loop.

  • Slowly build up the length of time your dog wears the muzzle. They should wear it for things they enjoy such as sofa snuggles, grooming, trick training, and then out on walks.

During training it is important not to overfeed! You can use some of your dog’s normal food, or choose small tasty treats such as OSCARs Meaty Rolls cut into small pieces. If your dog is on Breakthrough you should only use the Breakthrough TrainUp Training Treats to ensure the diet works as planned.

Dogs might feel anxious the first time they meet people and dogs in a muzzle as they can’t communicate with their facial expressions as effectively. If possible, do some training sessions with other friendly dogs around. At all times during training monitor your dog for signs of stress.

Dog looking unsure

What do I do if my dog tries to remove the muzzle?

If your dog starts pawing at the muzzle during training, it is likely that you have gone too fast and skipped a few stages. Go back to the last point your dog seemed comfortable and build up more slowly.

If your dog occasionally tried to remove the muzzle on walks, instead of telling them off try asking for a behaviour they can do such as sit or give paw to distract them, and so you can pay out a tasty reward.

If your dog has been good in their muzzle, but then starts trying to get it off check carefully for damage to the muzzle or skin irritation that could be making it uncomfortable to wear.

Using a muzzle in an emergency

Sometimes during muzzle training it will be necessary for your dog to wear a muzzle even though they are not fully comfortable and this risks setting back your training. Situations where this might be necessary include a vet, behaviourist, or groomer visit. In these cases try to use a different type of muzzle to the one you are training with, and go back several stages on your next training session.

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email