Muzzle training: Not just about the muzzle

Many dogs who need to wear muzzles are also fearful of hands reaching, touching and restraining them on the face, ears and snout. It’s a frustrating irony; after all, most muzzle training plans require guardians to do at least one of those things. No matter how strong a positive association a dog has to the muzzle itself, if he is uncomfortable with someone reaching around to buckle the strap or adjusting the muzzle on his snout, he’s not going to feel completely safe. Depending on the severity of the fear of reaching and handling, the dog’s positive association to muzzle training can erode over time, even if the trainer was diligent in desensitizing the dog to the actual muzzle.

Fortunately, it’s possible to teach dogs positive associations to reaching hands and handling around the head before worrying about buckling straps or placing the basket over the snout. The following videos demonstrate how to prep a dog for muzzle training, ensuring a stress-free and fear-free session.

Step 1: Desensitization and counterconditioning to reaching hands

Step 2: Desensitization and counterconditioning to handling the face, ears and snout

As dog owners, want our dogs to trust us. We want our dogs to feel comfortable in our presence. We don’t want our dogs to be scared of us. When done the proper way, muzzle training can increase the trust in you and your dog’s relationship, because in every dog’s training plan, trust is not only the foundation, it’s the terminal behavior.