Don’t you think that we see more dogs wearing a muzzle on their walks than we used to? Yes, one of the reasons (here in Auckland, New Zealand) is the council’s regulation that requires all dogs identified as menace to wear a muzzle. But some dogs are wearing one for other reasons, such as a precaution for a reactive dog or a scavenging dog.
I don’t put a muzzle on my dogs on our walks but sometimes I need to put one on Cinnamon who can get nippy when she is being examined closely at the vet.
Last week a student in a tricks class asked me about muzzle training. Her dog was able to put her nose to the end of her muzzle to earn treats, but she was unable to sustain the contact.
After giving the student some advice, I decided to muzzle train Cinnamon, as I knew that she had not been comfortable wearing a muzzle when she needed to.
- Present a muzzle in front of your dog.
- Mark and reward for touching the muzzle with the nose.
- Repeat Step 2 many times.
- If your dog looks comfortable doing it, start delaying the mark and reward.
Although I have seen some dog trainers giving treats through a muzzle, I think that you need to be careful so that your dog doesn’t start comparing the fear of the muzzle and the value of the treats. Even if you are intending to reinforce the behaviour positively with treats, the treats can enhance the fear for some dogs. So, if your dog is very scared of a muzzle, I advise you to think twice before luring your dog with food into the muzzle.
At the end of the above video I tied the strap and quickly untied it. However, she didn’t look comfortable about it. So, next time I might try “tying and untying the strap behind the neck” without putting the muzzle on her.
If you progress slowly so that your dog doesn’t get stressed, you can do this training as just another fun trick. So, enjoy “muzzle training” with your dog!! I will with Cinnamon!