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Accustoming a dog to a muzzle

JudyN

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I'm posting this as part of a set of helpful 'easy reference' articles for common questions and problems. Feel free to add additional info on muzzle training in this thread but please start a new thread for specific questions relating to your dog.

This article was written by Jacksdad (with very minor edits) - thank you @JacksDad :)


Audition different food items with your dog. Don't expect behaviors. just give a bit of a bite of something dog safe, but real food and watch the reaction. Does your dog start offering behaviors, or behaving on some manner that suggests "more please"? Now you know what gets your dog's attention and will likely work for. Don't focus on what you can buy from the pet store, often dog safe real food is the actual good stuff from the dog's perspective. Real food is often cheaper, as well as healthier in most cases. For example, you can do a heck of a lot of training with plain cooked chicken breast without your dog getting a lot of weight gaining calories.

When needs like this come up, they often come with the "I need this trained YESTERDAY" urgency. which leads to the tendency to just "pop" the muzzle on, which results in early "success" followed by resistance in future attempts to place the muzzle on.

Having something like a muzzle can be uncomfortable. this weight on your dog's face. the confinement. the restriction of breathing, drinking, barking etc. the degree to which differs depending on the muzzle.

So taking into account what just the muzzle in your hand, or its appearance or it moving towards your dog's face predicts is definitely something to factor into your training. muzzle appears...SUPER YUMMY TREAT. muzzle disappears, no treat. muzzle laying on the ground, dog pokes at it...SUPER YUMMY TREAT. Muzzle in hand moving just a bit towards the face, SUPER YUMMY TREAT. So, what does this object we call a muzzle predict to your dog and thus become associated with. option 1...uncomfortable thing "slapped" on dog or option 2, it predicts SUPPER YUMMY TREATs.

So building what is called a Conditioned Emotional Response (or CER. this is related to classical and/or respondent conditioning) really helps with the training. your dog learns to associate the muzzle with good treats and fun time with you.

Next you do want to break down putting on the muzzle and security. lots of possible small steps in there that can be paired with LOTS of SUPER YUMMY TREATs and this is a training that you do not want to be stingy with. for example, your dogs pokes their nose into the muzzle. Does that earn one treat or more than one? The answer should be more than one. I like to use 5 one after the other and always given through the muzzle. do not deliver the reinforcement when your dog has backed out, otherwise you are reinforcing the back out of the muzzle vs putting face in to muzzle.

example of break down of pieces to train.

apearance of muzzle
muzzle in your hand
muzzle in hand, moving towards dog
muzzle in hand, with bit of food in muzzle luring dog into muzzle. give second, third, fourth treat while nose is in muzzle. treats happen where you want the dog "to be" at this point.

So just seeing, having it move towards, poking nose in are all independent skills that build on each other. holding nose in the muzzle for any length of time is an additional skill.

So, now you want to get your dog to hold their nose in the muzzle.
hold muzzle in one hand, with something to lure your dog into the muzzle already in the muzzle. soon as dog puts nose in...one, two, three, four, five treats give at about 1 second intervals, do the best you can. The pause...one thousand and one...and a final treat IF your dog stayed in the muzzle.

you have just took the first step for you dog to hold their nose in the muzzle for 5 seconds. you want to work on phasing out the treats in the first 5 seconds, so that the reinforcement will be based on 5 seconds of nose in the muzzle.

lure dog into the muzzle. one thousand and one, then 1, 2, 3, 4 treats, pause and if your dog again does not pull out of the muzzle, one more treat.

then when your dog is ready for the next step. lure into muzzle. one thousand and one, one thousand and two, then if still in muzzle, 1,2, 3 treats...pause...if still in the muzzle one more treat.

this could take a couple days easily to work through at this point.

The first time your dog holds it's nose in the muzzle for 5 seconds before getting a treat, the reinforcement is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

now is time to work on just holding up the muzzle, see if your dog all on their own puts their nose in the muzzle. if so, big reward.

next start building duration. you want a good solid reliable 10 seconds. while working on that. start moving your hand towards the straps, moving them closer and closer to the goal of being able to hold the muzzle, dog puts nose in all on their own, you then strap/buckle, then the big reward.

if you go to fast and your dog opts out...that is fine. don't panic, don't think anything other than "ooops, went to fast, asked to much". slow it down, go back to your most recent successful place, start back towards your "failure" point.

be sure to pay well with the treats, do not be stingy. your dog is learning to tolerate something unpleasant. you MUST make it worth their while or it will always be a battle.

if you have questions, do not hesitate to ask.
 
A couple of things to add: open 'basket' muzzles are much safer for dogs than the sort that hold their mouths shut. Even if the dog only wears the muzzle for a short while, e.g. at the vet, his breath rate will increase through stress, and he needs to be able to pant.

A good-fitting muzzle will allow a dog to pant, drink, and take treats. And, I have found, steal tennis balls and eat cow poo, but hey... Here is Jasper modelling his, though obviously different breeds would need different designs - you can see how much room he has to open his mouth (he has a lighter 'summerweight' one that allows even more airflow for hot weather):

38528582476_c14cd5e045_c.jpg


If necessary, a dog can be muzzled the whole time on walks and accept it as readily as you accept wearing shoes. And I've never had any negative comments from other people, though this isn't the case for everyone - either people just assume that he eats rubbish, or they tell me how responsible I'm being. If your dog is a little unpredictable, it also means that you can be calmer, which will transmit itself to your dog. However, you should never use it as a reason to put a dog in a position where you think he might react just because he's 'safe'. It's like the airbag in a car - you only need it if you, or someone else, has messed up.
 
A couple of things to add: open 'basket' muzzles are much safer for dogs than the sort that hold their mouths shut. Even if the dog only wears the muzzle for a short while, e.g. at the vet, his breath rate will increase through stress, and he needs to be able to pant.



A good-fitting muzzle will allow a dog to pant, drink, and take treats. And, I have found, steal tennis balls and eat cow poo, but hey... Here is Jasper modelling his, though obviously different breeds would need different designs - you can see how much room he has to open his mouth (he has a lighter 'summerweight' one that allows even more airflow for hot weather):

38528582476_c14cd5e045_c.jpg


If necessary, a dog can be muzzled the whole time on walks and accept it as readily as you accept wearing shoes. And I've never had any negative comments from other people, though this isn't the case for everyone - either people just assume that he eats rubbish, or they tell me how responsible I'm being. If your dog is a little unpredictable, it also means that you can be calmer, which will transmit itself to your dog. However, you should never use it as a reason to put a dog in a position where you think he might react just because he's 'safe'. It's like the airbag in a car - you only need it if you, or someone else, has messed up.

What a lovely hound. Have you had him from a pup? Handsome and elegant.
 
What a lovely hound. Have you had him from a pup? Handsome and elegant.
Thank you:) Yep, had him from when he was 7 weeks old.
 

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