Introducing a Muzzle to a Dog
It is vital that your dog perceives the muzzle as a positive experience. Quite often the dog’s first encounter with a muzzle is in a stressful and fearful situation, such as the vet clinic, when the dog may become aggressive or difficult to handle because of fear, panic, or injury.
It is therefore prudent to introduce a dog to a muzzle over a period of time, irrespective of whether you ever intend to muzzle. Remember it may be a necessity at sometime during the dog’s life, so you should introduce this aid in a non-confrontational positive manner. Depending on what muzzle you are using, there are numerous on the market, ranging from the Baskerville type which is normally a plastic type muzzle, or a canvas type muzzle with or without pinprick holes.
The one I prefer is a 'mesh muzzle', which has tiny pinpricks that stop overheating of the skin, and allows treats to be fed directly into the dog’s mouth. This type seems to be acceptable to most dogs.
Depending on which one you choose, you must make the experience rewarding and positive. Most dogs will not be over happy at this type of restriction, so initially either drop a piece of food (cheese is ideal) into the basket muzzle or hold a titbit up to end of the mesh type muzzle and bring it up to the dogs nose. The dog will smell the food and press forward to get at the titbit pushing its face into the muzzle as he does so, carefully slide the muzzle a little way over the nose so he can get the treat then immediately remove it praising at the same time.
Do this a number of times, never attaching the muzzle or forcing the issue. You can use a word like 'good', or even 'muzzle' whilst you are sliding it over the nose. Continue these exercises over a number of days in different places in the house and garden, say 4/5 times a day, if possible.
After 3 or 4 days actually clip the muzzle on for a few seconds, then take it off immediately. Do this on a number of occasions gradually increasing the time the muzzle is left on from seconds to minutes then longer. Make sure it is not too restrictive and tight around the mouth and nose as this can restrict drinking and breathing and could distress the dog.
I do not recommend muzzles for anxiety related problems such as separation anxiety, whereby the dog is destructive, or for barking or howling problems, there are much safer and more appropriate techniques for these types of behaviour. Never leave the muzzle on for long periods and always supervise the dog when he is wearing one.
The use of a muzzle can be advantageous in a number of circumstances:
1. In certain veterinary procedures a muzzle may be required.
2. When introducing another dog or puppy into the household.
3. In cases of pain related temporary aggression.
4. When introducing cats and other animals.
5. Certain breeds are required by law, other breeds may be added to the list in the future.
6. Some behavioural modifications or training procedures may require a muzzle.
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