10 Steps to Muzzle Training your dog

An American XL Bully dog wearing a basket dog muzzle

Very sadly, due to the new rules around the banning of XL Bully dogs, muzzles are now having to be worn by all ‘XL Bully-Type’ dogs in public. Muzzle training is an important process that should be done gradually and positively to ensure your dog is comfortable wearing a muzzle. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help your doggy become accustomed to wearing a muzzle:

Step 1: Choose the Right Muzzle

Select a muzzle that fits your dog comfortably. There are various types like basket muzzles or cloth muzzles. Make sure it is big enough to allow your dog to pant, drink, and breathe comfortably.

Step 2: Introduce the Muzzle

Start by showing the muzzle to your dog. Let them sniff it and reward them with treats and praise when they show curiosity or approach it willingly. This helps create a positive association with the muzzle.

Step 3: Associate the Muzzle with Positive Things

Next, associate the muzzle with positive experiences. Place treats inside the muzzle or feed treats through the muzzle’s holes, allowing your dog to willingly put their nose inside to get the treats.

Step 4: Gradual Introduction

Start touching the muzzle gently, rewarding your dog for calm behavior. Gradually touch and hold the muzzle for longer periods while continuing to reward them. This helps them get used to the feeling of the muzzle around their face.

Step 5: Practice Wearing the Muzzle

Once your dog is comfortable with the muzzle touching them, begin to introduce putting it on for short periods. Open the muzzle and gently place it on their snout, then remove it after a few seconds. Gradually increase the time your dog wears the muzzle, always rewarding them during and after.

Step 6: Increase Duration and Associate with Activities

Extend the duration your dog wears the muzzle while engaging in various activities they enjoy, such as going for walks or playing. This helps them associate the muzzle with positive experiences and not just something they wear when they're unhappy or anxious.

Step 7: Maintain Positive Reinforcement

Throughout the process, use positive reinforcement, treats, praise, and patience. Never force the muzzle on your dog, as it can create fear or resistance. Always make it a positive and gradual experience.

Step 8: Generalize the Training

Practice muzzle training in different environments and situations to ensure your dog remains comfortable wearing it in various contexts.

Step 9: Regular Practice and Patience

Consistency is key. Practice sessions regularly but keep them short (around 10 minutes at a time) and positive. Some dogs may take longer to adjust, so patience is essential.

Step 10: Seek Professional Help if Needed

If your dog shows extreme fear or aggression during the training, consult a professional dog trainer or behaviourist for guidance.

Remember, muzzle training should always be a positive experience for your dog. It's about ensuring their safety and comfort in situations where a muzzle is necessary.