How to Muzzle Train a Dog

Three Parts:Getting the Right MuzzleBuilding a Positive AssociationPutting the Muzzle On

A muzzle can be a great training tool, especially for reactive dogs. If your dog is at any risk for biting people or other dogs, muzzle training is a responsible thing to do and will offer you some peace of mind. Some people even use muzzle to prevent their dog from eating unsavory things like fecal matter. Fortunately, with a patient approach laced with lots of treats, you can train a dog to accept (and perhaps even enjoy) wearing a muzzle.

Part 1
Getting the Right Muzzle

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    Choose the right kind of muzzle for your situation. There are many different kinds of muzzles available on the market, but the main criteria should be that your dog can sniff, drink, and pant while wearing it. The ability to accept treats through the muzzle is desirable too.
    • Basket Muzzles: These are the most commonly recommended muzzles for pet owners because they allow the dog to sniff, drink, and pant while wearing them. They also happen to make your dog look like Hannibal Lecter, especially if you get the kind with a wire instead of plastic or leather. Don't let that deter you. If you are going to muzzle your dog in any situation in which it is physically active (even just a walk), use a basket muzzle.
    • Fabric Muzzles: These look more comfortable (and less Hannibal) but they are only appropriate for short periods (30 minutes or less) and under close supervision because your dog will not be able to drink or regulate its temperature by panting. These are commonly used by veterinarians and groomers. This might be a good muzzle to use while clipping your dog's nails, though keep in mind they might be able to nip or pinch you.
    • Head Halters: These are mentioned here because many people think they are muzzles, but they are actually not. While they do wrap around the dog's muzzle, they will not prevent a dog from biting anyone or anything.
    • Police Muzzles: These are extra secure because they are used on police dogs which are trained to attack on command. This kind of muzzle is unnecessary and not recommended for pets.
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    Measure your dog for a good fit. While the ideal situation would be to go to a pet store and have your dog try on various muzzles, if you want to build a positive association, this is not the best way to start things off. If your dog reacts apprehensively to trying on muzzles, a negative association will be made and you'll have a much harder time muzzle training your dog. Instead, take measurements and compare this to a sizing chart provided by the manufacturer of the muzzle. There are usually two measurements needed:
    • from the tip of the nose to where the dog's own muzzle starts to slope upward toward the forehead
    • the circumference of your dog's own muzzle at its thickest part

Part 2
Building a Positive Association

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    Reward your dog for showing any interest in the muzzle. Put the muzzle on a table or hold it in your hand. Any time your dog looks at it, sniffs it, or shows any interest in it, reward your dog profusely. Give verbal praise, click, and/or give treats.
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    Use the muzzle as a treat dispenser. Hold the muzzle in your hand, with the opening facing the ceiling. Put your dog's favorite treats (cheese, chopped up hot dog, anything high-value) in the bottom of the muzzle so that in order to get to them, your dog has to stick its nose in the muzzle.
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    Smear peanut butter or cream cheese on the muzzle and freeze it. Allow your dog to put its nose in the muzzle so it can lick the sweet treat.
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    Make sure your dog is completely comfortable with (if not excited about) the muzzle before moving to the next part. This could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Be patient.

Part 3
Putting the Muzzle On

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    While your dog is eating or licking treats with its nose in the muzzle, lift the strap that goes around the neck. Just lift it and bring it back down. How does the dog respond? It might not care at all, or it might be wary. If your dog is wary at all, repeat this one out of every five times you give him treats through the muzzle until he is comfortable.
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    Try holding the strap up while the dog eats the treat. Again, see how your dog responds and if wary, practice it sporadically until the caution wears off.
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    Wrap the strap around your dog's neck and hold it as if was closed. Don't actually close it. Repeat sporadically until your dog is comfortable with this.
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    Secure the strap. This is best done with the frozen treat trick, so your dog can keep enjoying the treat while the muzzle is secured on his face. As soon as the treat is gone, remove the muzzle.
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    Put the muzzle on whenever you're going to do something that your dog enjoys. Obviously, the muzzle removes fetch from the equation, but there's still wresting, chasing, and whatever else your dog enjoys that a muzzle doesn't interfere with.
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    Gradually increase the time your dog spends wearing the muzzle. At first, it should be no longer than a few minutes. Eventually, your dog should be comfortable enough to wear the muzzle for a few hours.


  • People might give you a funny (even dirty) look because you muzzle your dog. There are lots of misconceptions surrounding muzzling, such as the idea that muzzling is inherently cruel, or even that only dog fighters use muzzles. Ignore them or educate them.


  • Do not use a muzzle to stop your dog from barking.
  • Do not use the muzzle to remedy situations in which your dog is fearful. If your dog is scared of strangers, don't think that just because you have a muzzle, you can bring your dog around strangers all the time. While the dog can't bite, it is still scared and will not become less scared just through exposure. A muzzle is not a substitute for good training.
  • A dog should never be left unattended with any kind of muzzle, even a basket muzzle.

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Categories: Dog Obedience