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.

–  Maureen Backman, MS, CTC, PCT-A is the owner of Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco. She is also the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and Muzzle Up! Online. To get in touch, email her at muttabouttownsf@gmail.com.  To purchase her training DVDs, visit Tawzer Dog

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Announcing the Veterinary Partners Program

10405602_10104866618120157_1407600026303849398_n.jpgThe Muzzle Up! Project is excited to announce its newest branch of services for veterinary clinics across the world: The Veterinary Partners Program.

The goals of the program are:

  • Increasing successful muzzle training outcomes
  • Reducing fear and stress during veterinary visits
  • Providing clinics resources to further support clients, improving quality of care and value of services
  • Improving client compliance for training follow-through

Launching in spring 2016, the Veterinary Partners Program will consist of webinars created and narrated by the project’s director, Maureen Backman, MS CTC PCT-A, and will focus on four core competency areas related to muzzle training and husbandry:

  • Why dogs wear muzzles
  • Building and executing muzzle training plans; troubleshooting common training problems
  • Equipment, modifications and safety
  • Evidence-based counseling techniques to increase successful outcomes

Once clinics complete these webinars, they will receive certification from The  Muzzle Up! Project and follow-up materials for staff and clients. Clinics who complete the program will be eligible for in-person seminars and staff trainings, and will receive a quarterly newsletter containing staff and client training tips, updates on best practices, and interviews with clinicians.

The Muzzle Up! Project has established itself as comprehensive, evidence-based resource on muzzle training and husbandry for dog guardians, dog behavior professionals, and veterinarians. Maureen, its director, has produced two training DVDs for Tawzer Dog, and presented on The Muzzle Up! Project at the Pet Professional Guild’s inaugural educational summit in 2015. In 2017, she will be representing the project at Woof!2017, listed as one of the world’s top dog training conferences by The Modern Dog Trainer.

To stay informed of the program’s launch , sign up here. For questions, contact the Muzzle Up! Projects director, Maureen Backman, at muzzleupproject@gmail.com.

–  Maureen Backman, MS, CTC, PCT-A is the owner of Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco. She is also the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and Muzzle Up! Online. To get in touch, email her at muttabouttownsf@gmail.com.  To purchase her training DVDs, visit Tawzer Dog

Why muzzles matter

813front-01-2When I first launched The Muzzle Up! Project, I developed it with three objectives:

1) Reduce stigma surrounding muzzles

2) Provide high-quality information about muzzle training and safety

3) Give owners whose dogs wear muzzles a supportive platform to interact and share ideas

Supporters from across the globe have amazed and inspired me, sending photos of their dogs living full and enriched lives while wearing muzzles. The Facebook community page has grown to almost 5,000 supporters, including leaders in the training and veterinary fields. This positive feedback shows how we as humans can use the foundations of animal learning to train dogs to enjoy wearing their muzzles and help others realize muzzles don’t have to mean a prison sentence for a life bereft of enrichment.

What sets The Muzzle Up! Project and its online training program apart from basic muzzle training available on the web is the use of parameters and games so that dogs not only tolerate wearing their muzzles, but enjoy wearing them. Many plans end with putting the muzzle on the dog, when in fact securing the buckle of the muzzle strap is just the beginning. After all, just because a dog is OK with wearing a muzzle for a few seconds doesn’t mean he has learned to play, run, or interact with the environment while wearing it.

Some dogs are uncomfortable moving their heads when wearing a muzzle. Other dogs freeze when they get outside, unsure whether it is safe to sniff or run. Still other dogs need help learning to eat and move while wearing one.

Using the principles of operant and classical conditioning, Muzzle Up Online works with clients and their dogs to facilitate play, loose and comfortable body movement, and teach a variety of games and activities. We use the dog’s favorite motivators to make muzzle time rewarding and fun, whether it be fetch, soccer, nose work, or simple agility moves.

The results are heartwarming and beautiful. Imagine a fearful dog gaining confidence and weaving around agility poles while wearing a muzzle. Or a shy dog running toward the muzzle from across the room in order to place her snout in the basket, eagerly anticipating her reward. These aren’t just pipe dreams; training makes them possible for dogs of varied breeds, backgrounds and temperaments.

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.

2015 has been a momentous year at Muzzle Up. Many thanks to all our supporters, including Tawzer Dog and the Pet Professional Guild, whose DVDs and inaugural summit have helped Muzzle Up’s message reach dog owners and pet professionals across the globe. Onward to 2016!

–  Maureen Backman, MS, CTC, PCT-A is the owner of Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco. She is also the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and Muzzle Up! Online. To get in touch, email her at muttabouttownsf@gmail.com.  To purchase her training DVDs, visit Tawzer Dog

Muzzle Up! Online: More than just muzzles

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In the months since the launch of Muzzle Up! Online, I’ve noted a theme among all my clients: The program’s benefits extend far beyond the primary goal of muzzle training.

While not surprising, seeing this theme in action is rewarding and inspiring. The following are some snapshots to inspire you, or someone you know, to participate in Muzzle Up! Online.

More Trust

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.

Muzzle Up! Online teaches clients to watch their dogs’ body language carefully. If the dog shows any signs of discomfort, I help the client take a step back in the training plan. At each step of the way, the dog has the right to say “I’m not comfortable with this, please stop.” By moving at the dog’s pace and paying attention to body language, clients build, and in some cases establish, a foundation of trust. And when dogs and owners establish trust, the dog becomes comfortable not just wearing a muzzle, but engaging in other play and exploratory behavior.

“Ellie was just playing with me (eeee, this still is new and heartwarming!) so I got out her muzzle – and her reaction was the same as for dinner time! She shoved her nose in it and I did it up while she wiggled her tail, and then she got some hard treats that she had to chew a bit. No problem! She was wiggly and happy. She then chased me around the house and out into the backyard (wearing the muzzle!) and got some more hard treats, and was super bouncey – almost zoomie!” – Cara and her shy dog, Ellie

Better Body Handling 

Many Muzzle Up! Online clients have dogs who are also sensitive to handling. Common examples include fear of: Hands reaching over and touching a dog’s head, various grooming implements touching the body, gentle restraint for veterinary and grooming procedures, and harnesses/head halters being placed on the body. Even though the online program focuses on muzzle training, many clients have reported an improvement in their dogs’ handling sensitivities.

Why? For starters, the program trains the owners to become highly skilled at implementing classical conditioning procedures, meaning their training for other types of procedures is more efficient. Secondly, clients’ dogs learn that various handling procedures involved in the muzzle training program lead to safe, fun activities. To effectively muzzle train dogs, I teach clients to incorporate various body handling activities in the initial preparation stages so that later on, the necessary fiddling with buckling the muzzle and hands moving around the dogs’ head doesn’t cause the dog stress. These exercises are helpful not just for muzzle training, but a myriad of other body handling sensitivities.

“I am so grateful I found Muzzle Up! Online. I could not find anyone who really did this type of training. Mostly they would just send me a PDF or link to sites for examples. Thank you.” – Yvette E.

Enrichment and Play

Believe it or not, muzzles are a gateway to a variety of enrichment games, which clients and I incorporate into the online sessions. Games and the element of play are important for any dog, but especially so for fearful dogs. Due to the reasons why dogs need to be muzzled, many Muzzle Up! Online clients have dogs with fear and anxiety. Since I believe dogs should actually enjoy wearing the muzzle, not simply tolerate it, clients and I create muzzle games based on their dogs’ individual play styles. The results are heartwarming and result in increased confidence and exploratory behavior, not to mention a tired and happy dog!

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“Maureen, look what we did to MooMoo. She is going to nap the day away. Happy puppy, happy mom. Thank you for the wonderful session ❤.” – Joanna and her fearful dog, MooMoo

This year will be an exciting one for The Muzzle Up! Project. In September, I will be leading a seminar in conjunction with Helping Idaho Dogs, Inc. and Tawzer Dog addressing muzzle education, advocacy and training. In November, I will be presenting on The Muzzle Up! Project at the Pet Professional Guild’s inaugural Force-Free Summit, with the goal of encouraging force-free trainers across the world to elevate muzzle training to a higher standard.

Continue watching this space for more updates throughout summer and autumn.

Thank you to all supporters of The Muzzle Up! Project. Together, we can elevate muzzle training to a higher standard and change the lives of dogs for the better.

– Maureen Backman, MS, CTC, PCT-A is the owner of Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco. She is also the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and Muzzle Up! Online. To get in touch, email her at muttabouttownsf@gmail.com. She will be presenting about Muzzle Up at this year’s Pet Professional Guild Summit in Tampa, FL. Get in touch at muttabouttownsf@gmail.com.

Elevating Muzzle Training to a Higher Standard

Ellie, eagerly anticipating her muzzle training session. Ellie's guardian is Cara Lynne Moynes, owner of Pup Tent in Toronto, Ontario.

Ellie, eagerly anticipating her muzzle training session. Ellie’s guardian is Cara Lynne Moynes, owner of Pup Tent in Toronto, Ontario.

When I first launched The Muzzle Up! Project, I never predicted its potential impact on muzzle education, awareness, and the lives of humans and their dogs. Supporters from across the globe have amazed and inspired me, sending photos of their dogs living full and enriched lives while wearing muzzles. Most importantly, feedback from supporters shows how we as humans can use the foundations of animal learning to train dogs to enjoy wearing their muzzles.

Muzzles don’t have to mean a prison sentence for a life bereft of enrichment.

This spring, I launched Muzzle Up! Online, an online training program to coach dog owners through the muzzle training process, giving them real-time support to ensure peace of mind and a successful training process. The initial launch has been nothing short of inspirational.

Beyond Safety

Many of my training colleagues have been gracious enough to participate in the program with their own dogs. Many of these dogs are fearful, whether it be generalized fear and anxiety, resource guarding, handling sensitivity, or previous scary experiences with muzzles.

Not all of the dogs participating in Muzzle Up! Online’s initial launch need to wear a muzzle for public safety. Not all of them have a bite history, or a history of dog- or human-based aggression. Their humans are participating in the program because they want to refine their muzzle training skills and want their dogs muzzle trained as a preventative measure. And, most importantly, they want to increase their trusting partnership with their dogs through a force-free training experience.

“When folks ask why I’m muzzle training sweet little Ellie, sometimes I mention her bite history, sometimes I mention prevention and liken a muzzle to a seatbelt or helmet, and other times, I show them photos like these.

Why muzzle train? To see more of these faces! Happy face doesn’t have to be just for dinnertime.” – Cara Lynne Moynes, owner of Pup Tent in Toronto, Ontario

Cara and her dog, Ellie, are an excellent example of how muzzle training has benefits beyond safety and prevention. Because Cara and I are training Ellie using the principles of counterconditioning and desensitization, she has been comfortable and happy during each step of the training process. Ellie is elated when she sees her muzzle, because she knows, through gradual training, that she will have a fun and safe experience (and also get lots of liverwurst).

For other fearful dogs, muzzle training further helps them develop confidence. They learn new skills, continue making positive associations with their environment, and engage in games and activities that promote positive associations.

A higher standard for muzzle training

What sets Muzzle Up! Online apart from basic muzzle training is the use of parameters and games so that dogs not only tolerate wearing their muzzles, but enjoy wearing them. Many plans end with putting the muzzle on the dog, when in fact securing the buckle of the muzzle strap is just the beginning. After all, just because a dog is OK with wearing a muzzle for a few seconds doesn’t mean he has learned to play, run, or interact with the environment while wearing it.

Some dogs are uncomfortable moving their heads when wearing a muzzle. Other dogs freeze when they get outside, unsure whether it is safe to sniff or run. Still other dogs need help learning to eat and move while wearing one.

Muzzle Up! Online addresses all these factors, using the principles of operant and classical conditioning to facilitate play, loose and comfortable body movement, and teach a variety of games and activities. Together with the dog’s humans, I use the dog’s favorite motivators to make muzzle time rewarding and fun, whether it be fetch, soccer, nose work, or simple agility moves.

The results are heartwarming and beautiful. Imagine a fearful dog gaining confidence and weaving around agility poles while wearing a muzzle. Or a shy dog running toward the muzzle from across the room in order to place her snout in the basket, eagerly anticipating her reward. These aren’t just pipe dreams; training makes them possible for dogs of varied breeds, backgrounds and temperaments.

2015 and beyond

This year will be an exciting one for The Muzzle Up! Project. In September, I will be leading a seminar in conjunction with Helping Idaho Dogs, Inc. and Tawzer Dog addressing muzzle education, advocacy and training. In November, I will be presenting on The Muzzle Up! Project at the Pet Professional Guild’s inaugural Force-Free Summit, with the goal of encouraging force-free trainers across the world to elevate muzzle training to a higher standard.

Continue watching this space for more updates throughout summer and autumn.

Thank you to all supporters of The Muzzle Up! Project. Together, we can elevate muzzle training to a higher standard and change the lives of dogs for the better.

– Maureen Backman, MS, CTC, PCT-A is the owner of Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco. She is also the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and Muzzle Up! Online. To get in touch, email her at muttabouttownsf@gmail.com. She will be presenting about Muzzle Up at this year’s Pet Professional Guild Summit in Tampa, FL. Get in touch at muttabouttownsf@gmail.com.

Guest Post: Take the Two Week Muzzle Challenge

14 - 1Many thanks to Katie Grillaert, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, CBATI, of Fetch Dog Training and Behavior for this guest blog post. Grillaert, who specializes in training fearful and aggressive dogs, also started a community initiative called Fetch-for-Fosters, dedicated to educating people about the importance of training and to providing low-cost training services to rescue dogs. 

Dog-industry professionals are working hard to change the public perception for muzzles. Trainers are teaching how to teach your dog to love the muzzle through a simple “treat basket” exercise. Behavior consultants are emphasizing how muzzles can improve the quality of life for dogs that are fearful, aggressive, or have pica. And veterinarians appreciate the added safety of a muzzle-trained dog during medical emergencies. But owners are often hesitant to use a muzzle on a regular basis. From personal experience, I can vouch that they’re missing out on the benefits of a great tool!

As a certified behavior consultant, I work with a lot of fearful and aggressive dogs – dogs that have a bite history, and dogs that are a bite risk. I teach all of my students how to muzzle train their dog and I provide strict recommendations regarding when a muzzle should be used. And I tend to be on the conservative side of things – I’d much rather go slow, wear the muzzle a little more often and a little longer than necessary – than to put the dog’s life in jeopardy due to a bite incident.

I’ve fitted muzzles to many dogs, and I’ve trained my own dogs to wear muzzles. But I hadn’t personally needed to use a muzzle in public with my dogs until I moved to a major metropolitan city. Before the move, I planned my behavior modification plan carefully, and decided that my fearful/aggressive Border collie mix, Oliver, would wear a muzzle at all times in public while we were transitioning to a new environment. I didn’t know how many off-leash dogs to expect, I didn’t know how many children or bicycles would come bearing down upon us without warning. I didn’t know if lots of people would try to pet him and how he would react to people stepping out of buildings onto the sidewalk right in front of him. And I knew that despite my best intentions, I wouldn’t be able to look around every single corner to check for a dog coming straight in our direction.

I knew Oliver would undoubtedly be experiencing higher levels of stress for the several weeks (or months!) due to the great environmental change, and I didn’t want anything to go wrong. It’s worth noting that others in this situation may choose to consult with a veterinary behaviorist as well, to discuss if a medication would be helpful during this transition. Ultimately, I decided not to pursue this with my dog right away, although it always remained an option should he have difficulties.

So, we set out on muzzling for our daily tasks – every elevator ride, potty break, and walk down the street. And while some people opined that wearing the muzzle must be so difficult for Oliver, he paid it little mind. The biggest difference the muzzle made? It was in me, which came as quite a surprise!

I regularly help people develop personal techniques to be calm while handling their reactive dogs, and I coach leash handling and body posture that further contribute to calm communication. I would often initially have better results with reactive dogs than their owners did, simply because I was more relaxed than the owner. I wasn’t too worried about my skills handling my own dog. But now, as my own “coach,” I discovered a huge improvement thanks to a mental exercise that I didn’t know I was missing! Since I didn’t worry about my muzzled dog injuring anyone, my brain allowed small muscles in my body to relax – muscles I hadn’t even been aware were tense. Maybe I even reduced my own production of cortisol, a primary hormone produced in response to stress.

How did I notice this? Well, my dog told me. Dogs are incredible observers of human body language, and Oliver could detect a difference. If I was a bit stressed, it probably caused him to think that there might be something worth being a bit stressed about. By regularly wearing a muzzle, going outside became less stressful for both of us, and we enjoyed our time together more. Of course, I still prioritized proactively responding to our environment, but my subconscious (or conscious!) worry was greatly reduced.

Now, this isn’t exactly new. Most trainers will tell you that owners are always more emotional when handling their own dogs. Often, owners can swap dogs in a reactive dog class, and the dogs all seem to behave better! Maybe you feel like you personally aren’t emotional – but you have a mental preparation to use a leash pull to keep your dog away from trouble. The simple act of planning this strategy in the secondary motor cortex likely causes a skeletal-muscular preparation and – you got it – an increase in tension in your body.

So, I challenge you to “hack” your brain and take my Two Week Muzzle Challenge. Even if you think you’re not the type of person who needs it – you’re cool as a cucumber. Even if you think your dog doesn’t really need to wear one.

First, spend the time to properly desensitize and train your dog to wearing the muzzle. Then, use it every time you go out in public, for two weeks in a row. Consider keeping a short journal of your dog’s behavior and your emotions. Give this a try for two weeks and you might be pleasantly surprised with the results. Even armed with my professional skills, I think that this simple mental trick helped me to guide Oliver and improved his progress. And now, I am so thankful to share many experiences with him – taking the train, relaxing at the park, having dessert at the coffee shop – stress free for both of us.

– The Muzzle Up! Project promotes safety and education on muzzles and dog behavior, provides online muzzle training and support, and aims to reduce the stigma associated with dogs who have to wear them.

Coercion: A cry for help that calls for empathy

Mutt About Town - The blog

Coercion is not the root of all evil, but until we adopt other than coercive ways to control each other’s conduct, no method of physically improving our species will keep our survival timer from running out. A developing science of behavior may again give people of good will cause for optimism about our chances for survival.” – Dr Murray Sidman, Coercion and Its Fallout

11024732_10104031911728457_1320314545778060191_nOver the years, I’ve witnessed corporal punishment in various forms and environments. As a social worker, I worked with individuals who were the victims of corporal punishment, and with individuals who inflicted corporal punishment on others. As a dog trainer, I see examples of corporal punishment toward dogs on an almost daily basis.

Using pain, fear and intimidation as a means to modify behavior is contentious topic, isn’t new, and isn’t one that that’s going to be solved by one blog post. The more I work…

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Modifying your dog’s muzzle: An equipment guide

For many dog owners, finding the best muzzle for their dog often involves modifications, whether to prevent skin chafing, provide a more secure fit, or ensure more efficient delivery of treats. The following is a compilation of resources to help you create the most comfortable fitting muzzle for your dog.

If you are still searching for a muzzle, take a look at our equipment guide, and check out our Facebook page for frequent updates and more photos from our supporters.

Chafing Prevention

Muzzle Up! supporter Rochelle Riri Kneale used yarn to pad a Baskerville muzzle for her dog, Tia

Muzzle Up! supporter Rochelle Riri Kneale used yarn to pad a Baskerville muzzle for her dog, Tia

Soft, anti-irritant fabrics wrapped around the basket portion of the muzzle, the straps, or both are a great way to prevent your dog’s skin from becoming irritated from rubbing against the muzzle. For dogs with hard-to-fit snouts, placing a bit of support at near the nose bridge helps prevent slipping and rubbing. There are a large variety of materials that work, but here are some of our favorites:

Fleece wrap for the muzzle straps (also useful if your dog’s harness causes irritation)

Boot liners from Ruffwear, cut up into strips for either the straps or plastic portion. We love this fabric because it’s breathable and quick-drying, perfect for dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors.

– If using a Baskerville muzzle, soften the plastic by placing the muzzle in hot water or put it through a full hot cycle in the dish washer. This helps the plastic chafe less and makes it more pliable.

An example of muzzle padding from supporter Laurie Thomson.

An example of muzzle padding from supporter Laurie Thomson.

– Moleskin wrapping (for either the plastic or the straps), available at most health stores and on Amazon.

– Replacing the nylon straps with leather or soft cording for dogs whose skin becomes irritated with the common nylon options.

– Duct tape wrapped around the basket of the muzzle (also great for muzzle art!).

– Memory foam or gel foot pads for use on the plastic portion to prevent rubbing and chafing (examples here and here).

Food Delivery

Photo of Simba wearing modified muzzle for easier treat delivery, from supporter Victoria Maclennan.

Photo of Simba wearing modified muzzle for easier treat delivery, from supporter Victoria Maclennan.

Many muzzles come with wide enough gaps to allow for efficient delivery of food. But, if you use an Italian style basket muzzle, or if your dog has difficulty receiving treats through the muzzle, here are some modification ideas:

– Cut out the front portion of the Italian basket muzzle, seen in the photo to the right.

– Use soft treats like peanut butter or cream cheese and deliver through a squeeze tube.

– By Maureen Backman, MS CTC. Maureen is the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and owns Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco, CA. She will be presenting about Muzzle Up at this year’s Pet Professional Guild Summit in Tampa, FL. Get in touch at muttabouttownsf@gmail.com.

Jumpstart your muzzle training with technology: The Treat & Train

Since founding the Muzzle Up! Project over two years ago, I’ve talked to many clients, veterinarians, trainers and dog owners across the world about the challenges of muzzle training. I’ve noted three overarching themes from these conversations:

1) Managing the treats while holding the muzzle
2) Increasing the amount of time the dog is comfortable wearing the muzzle (building duration)
3) Making the process a fun and rewarding one for both human and dog.

The Treat & Train, an automated treat dispenser developed by the late Dr. Sophia Yin, is a valuable tool for each of these challenges. In addition to dispensing treats via an automated program or via remote control, dog owners can also set the Treat & Train to dispense treats at various time intervals, including fixed and variable ratios.

Dogs develop a rapid and strong positive association to the machine – after all, it dispenses treats – making it a perfect match for muzzle training, where dogs need all the positive associations and enrichment they can get. Because the machine takes care of dispensing the treats, dog owners have more hands to handle the muzzle, and more bandwidth to observe the dog’s body language, and another way to incorporate fun and games into the muzzle training process.

Before using the following techniques during muzzle training, I recommend training your dog to enjoy the Treat & Train without the muzzle. The user guide that accompanies the machine has some excellent tips and games to help you get started.

For those who have already used the Treat & Train with your dogs, the following is an enrichment plan to jumpstart your muzzle training plan, help you build duration and provide your dog with a fun muzzle game. Make sure to start any muzzle training program with our step-by-step muzzle training plan.

Teaching your dog to place his snout in the muzzle 

1) Place high-value treats in the dispenser, and either set the machine to a 5-second variable ratio, or dispense via remote control at a high rate.

2) Place your dog’s muzzle near the base of the Treat & Train, so that your dog has to place his snout in the muzzle to retrieve the treat. You can prompt him initially by placing a few treats into the muzzle by hand, or placing a small amount of peanut butter on the inside of the muzzle.

3) Continue reinforcing at a high rate as your dog eats the treats through the basket of the muzzle. Use your voice to keep him engaged in the activity!

Building duration while wearing the muzzle

1) Place high-value treats in the dispenser.

2) Place the muzzle on your dog and begin dispensing. Start at a 5-second variable ratio. You can increase the machine’s dispensing ratio to 7 seconds, 12 seconds, 15 seconds, etc., as long as your dog is enjoying the game and is not showing any signs of distress.

For real-time, one-on-one training sessions for you and your dog from the comfort of your own home, check out our latest offering, Muzzle Up! Online – available to anyone across the globe. When you become a client, you can be assured you are receiving the highest quality training and coaching to ensure peace of mind, success, and a rewarding training experience for you and your dog.

So get excited, get creative, and most importantly … Muzzle Up!

– Maureen Backman, MS, CTC Maureen is the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and owns Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco, CA. She will be presenting about Muzzle Up at this year’s Pet Professional Guild Summit in Tampa, FL. Get in touch at muttabouttownsf@gmail.com.

Muzzle Up! Online: What our training colleagues are saying

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Muzzle Up! Online founder and trainer, Maureen Backman

Wondering whether Muzzle Up! Online is the right program for you? Check out what some of our training colleagues are saying:

“Your dog cares much more about missing out on walks, trips to the dog park and other fun activities than he does about wearing a muzzle. Let’s get you as comfortable as your dog in understanding that a muzzle doesn’t restrict and limit life but instead provides the freedom to enjoy it. Imagine the great times awaiting you and your dog – Muzzle Up! Online can help to make those dreams a reality.”

– John Visconti, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, CDPT-KA
Rising Star Dog Training
Fetch More Dollars

“I was so excited when the Muzzle Up! Project was created. This concept was years in the making by an innovative trainer, Maureen Backman, who dreamed of helping dogs thrive in a larger world. I am often sending those who could benefit to this comprehensive site for support and valuable information. Now there is coaching available by the founder herself. Two paws up!”

– Heidi Steinbeck, CTC, CPDT-KA
Great Shakes Dog Training

“Muzzles keep veterinary staff and dogs safe during potentially scary or painful treatments, which is why we suggest muzzle training for all our students’ dogs. I love that we now have such a great online resource to refer them to.”

-Anne Springer, B.A. Dipl., CTDI, CAPCT, VA
Paws for Praise

You can also read what veterinarians are saying about The Muzzle Up! Project in our Vet Q & A series.

Ready to get started? Email us at muzzleupproject@gmail.com today!

– Maureen Backman, MS is the owner of Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco. She is also the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and Muzzle Up! Online. To get in touch, email her at muttabouttownsf@gmail.com.