So as a Security Dog Handler my dog have to learn to wear a muzzle to pass the course. Allowing us to work the dogs in them, should the employer request it.
Muzzles are seen as a tool in the Security Dog industry, but for pet dog owners many see them as an indicator for dangerous dogs when out and about. But for many their dog are muzzled for a completely other reason, such as for hoovering food/rubbish when out on a walk.
I think all dogs should be taught to wear a muzzle, regardless of breed, age and behaviour. They are often required in times of great stress, mainly after an accident. You are adding to the stress by making your dog wear a muzzle, it might be needed for the dogs own safety, but you can save a lot of unnecessary stress by teaching your dog to accept the muzzle.
Training can be one of several ways, the main ones I teach will be described below, but remember you can teach these things how ever you want. These are ideas based on common sense training and experience.
1. Just shove it on:
What it says on the tin really, and it is how I have introduced my own dogs to the muzzle. We put the muzzle on, made sure it fit and then walked the dog around until it learned to accept it as part of the training. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea way of doing it, but it has worked for all of my dogs and they are fine to wear it both for the vets and working.
My White German Shepherd, a fully qualified NTIPDU Security Dog wearing a leather basket muzzle, for at work or emergency situations. He is happy to wear it, and works in it well. This type of muzzle is only for short term use as the dog cannot drink with it, but can pant.
2. Teach them to put it on:
This is great to do combined with other training such as target training, or clicker training. I don’t use both as I find them difficult, but its easy enough to do with some treats and patience. Basically put the muzzle in your hand, as soon as the dog shows interest tell them how good they are and treat them. Basically you are going to teach them to see the muzzle as a good thing, and a treat dispenser. Once they get the idea is holds treats, then you start width holding the treats until they go closer, the put their nose in the muzzle. This builds up to them putting it on by themselves, and wearing it strapped on. It;s a long process but it builds up the dogs to be used to their muzzle without stress, or fear. You have to keep training it as a good thing. You can also do this training with a toy, or reward item. Making the dog work to get the toy via putting the muzzle on.
My Springer Spaniel Drugs Dog, a fully qualified NTIPDU Scent Detection Dog. He is used to wearing a muzzle for emergencies. Which came in useful recently after he broke his dew claw and needed to have an operation. He wears a fabric muzzle which are only used for emergencies as if worn correctly, the dog cannot pant at all. It is supposed to clamp the mouth shut so the dog cannot bite.
Bibery is not training with treats, it is basically popping something nice at the end of the muzzle like peanut butter (Good quality without xylitol), marmite or cream cheese. Anything that sticks to the edges, letting the dog find it and start licking it in the muzzle. Then putting the muzzle on with them still after the treat at the end. It’s pure bribery combined with distraction. Works well fro many dogs, and is actually very good for dogs with aggression out of the house, as it gives the owner confidence their dog can’t hurt anything and the dog is distracted by the food.
My Female German Shepherd wearing a Baskerville muzzle. The most common type out there and perfect all rounder for both pets and working dogs. They are easy to shove treats into if needed, they can pant, bark and drink with them on without harming other dogs, themselves or people. OR for many they can’t eat things off the ground.
However you decide to train your dog to wear a muzzle, please do train them to wear one. It is so much easier in stress situations if the dog is already used to the muzzle.
Also once you have trained them to wear one, keep practising the training. Dog’s can forget about them after a long period without them, so aim to practice at least once a month once they are comfortable wearing them.
If you are unsure of where to start with the training and need some help, then feel free to get in touch to talk about the training or have a one to one session to get it started.
A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour