Muzzle Training To set your dog up for success with muzzle training, the emphasis must be on making your dog see the muzzle as the best thing in the world! As previously mentioned, you do not need a perfectly fitting muzzle to begin training, as long as the muzzle basket is wide and deep enough for your dogs snout to fit inside (In fact, you could even start with a plant pot if your muzzle hasn’t arrived yet). The perfect fit can come at a later point, once they are comfortable placing their snout into a muzzle, plus you will then have a better idea of the size they need based on how their initial one fits. Tips to remember Avoid always using your muzzle in the same places and contexts while you are training. Play around with working on muzzle training in a range of locations, and at different times of the day. Take it easy with the training sessions. Most dogs benefit from short sessions of 1-2 minutes several times a day. You’ll progress more quickly than if you lump all your training into a single 20 minute session each day. Training is not linear! You will find that some days you feel like you are going backwards. Keep working, think about what you could change if necessary and give your learner your time and patience. Reward generously! To begin the training choose some very high value rewards for your dog, we suggest hot dog pieces, chicken pieces or squeezy cheese, but please keep your dog’s dietary requirements in mind. Don’t be afraid to throw in other behaviours while you are working with your muzzle. Many dogs prefer sessions that ‘ping pong’ between behaviours instead of training one thing solidly. Step 1 The first step is to build an association between the muzzle and food! In a quiet familiar place, with the muzzle behind your back and your dog in front of you, bring the muzzle into view and hold it there until your dog looks as it. As soon as you see your dog look at the muzzle, throw them a treat, slightly away from them. Repeat this 5-8 times during the training session. Repeat these sessions over a few days, at different points through the day, in different locations within your home. After this time, your dog should instantly look at the muzzle when brought into view, with the expectation of receiving a reward. If your dog is trained to a marker such as a clicker or word, mark when your dog looks at the muzzle. You can find more information on clicker/marker training here. Step 2 Now, you can get your dog used to in and around the muzzle its self. Place the muzzle on the floor and scatter some treats around it. If your dog is wary of eating directly around it, increase the distance of the treats from the muzzle and then slowly reduce it again as your dog gets more comfortable with this. Once your dog is unfazed by this you can place the treats inside the opening of the muzzle. If you are using a marker, mark when your dog place their nose into the muzzle, this may just be into the opening to being with. Step 3 Hold the muzzle in a cupped hand with the end into your palm and the opening upwards as seen below. Place a treat through the muzzle opening, into your palm and offer it to your dog. Your dog should be happy by this point to put their face in the muzzle to retrieve the treat. Alternatively, you could use a spreadable treat such as squeezy cheese or pate, and spread it on the inside of the end of the muzzle. Repeat this 5-10 per training session, a couple of times a day until your dog is comfortable taking the treat from the end of the muzzle. If you are using a marker, mark when your dog places their nose towards the end of the muzzle, just before they reach the treat. Step 4 The next step is rewarding your dog after they have put their face into the muzzle. Hold the muzzle as it will sit on the dogs face, with your hand underneath, the end facing towards you and the opening away from you. Have a treat to ready in your other hand. Hold the muzzle at your dog’s head height and hold it still (Do not be tempted to move it towards your dog). Your dog should place their face into the muzzle anticipating a treat to be at the end like there has been previously. Once their nose is inside the muzzle, with your free hand, hold the treat through the end of the muzzle so your dog can get it. This can be a little fiddly, so use treats small enough to fit through the muzzle but big enough for your dog to easily grasp. Again, you could use a squeezy reward and post the nozzle of the tube through the end of the muzzle to squeeze a little into your dogs mouth when they place their face into the muzzle. If using a marker, mark when your dog places their nose towards the end of the muzzle. This is where timing gets important! Be sure you are marking when they dogs head is moving into the muzzle or still at the end of it, not when they are pulling out. Step 5 Time to work on increasing duration! Instead of giving your dog a single treat through the muzzle, have a few treats in your hand and feed them one after another to encourage them to keep their head in the muzzle. Once they are doing this, you can gradually increase the time between these rewards with the aims that your dog keeps their head in the muzzle whilst waiting for these rewards to come. Step 6 At this point it can be useful to get your dog used to taking steps with a muzzle on. Whilst standing, offer your dog the muzzle, when they put their face into the muzzle have the treat ready in your hand but don’t allow them to have it just yet. Take a step back, moving the muzzle with you a little. Initially, you are only asking for a your dog to take a single step whilst keeping their face in the muzzle so you only need to move a little. Gradually increase the number of steps until you can walk backwards holding the muzzle and your dog will happily follow, keeping their nose in the muzzle. Step 7 Now, you can start working towards closing the straps of the muzzle. Whether your muzzle is a clip or buckle fastening, the noise these make can be unusual for your dog. To get them used to this, hold the muzzle out of your dogs reach, close the fastening and reward your dog. Repeat this 5-10 times so they are familiar with the noise. Step 8 Up until now, you hands have stayed in front of your dog whilst working with the muzzle. Before we just to fastening up the muzzle, we need to get your dog used to your hands moving around them whilst keeping their face in the muzzle. To do this it can be helpful to sit and hold the muzzle between your knees so that both of your hands are free. It may take a moment for your dog to understand that you are still asking for the same, you are just holding it in a different way. You may need to do a couple of repetitions of them placing their face into the muzzle to kick things off. Once your dog’s head is in the muzzle, slowly move one hand slightly toward the side of their head then back to the front. If your dog keeps its head in the muzzle, reward through the end of the muzzle. If they removed their head to follow the moving head, try again with smaller movement. Repeat this, gradually increasing the range of movement (Remember to practice with both hands) until your dog will happily keep their head in the muzzle as you move your hands around their head. Step 9 Now you can introduce touching the straps. Holding the muzzle in one hand, or in the method mentioned above, reach down the side of your dog’s face and hold the strap on one side for a second then release it, rewarding your dog through the muzzle for keeping their head in it. Repeat this for the straps on both sides, gradually working towards draping the straps over the back of the neck, one at a time, and letting them fall. Step 10 Next, try moving both of the straps together behind your dog’s head, holding them for a second, then let them fall. Reward your dog through the muzzle for keeping their head in it. Repeat this, extending the hold gradually until you reach about 5 seconds. Step 11 Your dog should now be ready for you to secure the muzzle. Do the clip/buckle up, reward your dog then immediately release the fastener. Repeat this, slowly building up the length of time the muzzle is secured. You can reward multiple times between closing the muzzle and releasing it as the duration increases or eventually scatter a number of treats on the floor for your dog to eat while wearing the muzzle. Step 12 Now your dog is happy having the muzzle put on, you can get your dog working on their other trained behaviours while wearing their muzzle. Try some sits and stays, some recall and introduce some lead walking. Whilst doing this still be aware of duration and slowly build the length of time your dog is wearing the muzzle. Step 13 t this point, your dog should be ready to try going for a walk wearing their muzzle. Keep the walk short and in a familiar area to being with, giving plenty of rewards! Slowly build the length of the walk and explore new places to gradually acclimatise your dog to muzzled life. Even when your dog is at the point where they are comfortable wearing a muzzle in their daily life, its a good idea to occasionally refresh their training by going back to steps 6, 7 and 11, still using plenty of treats and praise to keep that positive association strong.