Muzzle Up! Online: What our training colleagues are saying


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 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 

Announcing Muzzle Up! Online: Peace of mind, less stress, more success

10406983_878508355500792_4172449915177937825_nWhen I created the Muzzle Up! Project over two years ago, 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

Throughout these two years, I have been humbled by the amount of support worldwide for Muzzle Up, as well as the feedback I have received from dog owners who have struggled to find a one-stop site for information, training tips and community engagement.

Muzzle Up! Online is the next step to enhance the reach and scope of The Muzzle Up! Project. Often, muzzle training is frustrating. Dogs come with varying levels of fear and behavioral issues, and dog owners feel the pressure from other dog owners, breed specific legislation, and their veterinarians to get their dogs wearing a muzzle as quickly as possible. While online videos demonstrating tips and tricks are helpful, one-on-one support with a trained animal behavior professional is the best way to ensure long-term success for you and your dog.

Enter Muzzle Up! Online, an exciting new training and coaching program that provides real-time, one-on-one training sessions for you and your dog from the comfort of your own home. Muzzle Up! Online is 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. 

It has long been my dream to coach dog owners across the world through the muzzle training process, and help owners not only successfully muzzle train their dogs, but make it an enriching experience that ensures safety, reduces stress, and provides opportunities for you to enjoy your dog.

Muzzle Up! Online offers two tiers of service. Soon, we will launch a special program geared specifically toward animal shelters and rescues. Each online client will receive video training from me through my business, Mutt About Town. (Read testimonials of satisfied customers, and check out my bio on Muzzle Up! Online).

To get started, email us at We’ll email you an initial questionnaire and help you set up your program. Don’t worry if you’re not technologically savvy – Muzzle Up! Online is designed to be accessible and easy for everyone.

So get excited, share with colleagues and friends, 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

Muzzle Q & A: Dr. E’Lise Christensen Bell, DVM DACVB

__1330294011Last year, we launched a Q and A series with veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists as part of Muzzle Awareness month. Due to its popularity, we are continuing the series, this time with Dr. E’Lise Christensen Bell, DVM, DACVB.

Dr. Christensen is a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and an international lecturer and author.  As the only board-certified veterinary behaviorist in Colorado, she sees patients with a huge variety of serious behavioral issues. She has contributed to articles in Dog Watch, Cat Watch, Cat Fancy, Dog Training Solutions, Real Simple, Newsday, and various other print media.  She has been a contributor and guest on’s “Pet Health” and “Studio B with Shepard Smith”, ABC News’ “Nightline,” and many other radio programs, television programs, and newscasts.  She enjoys lecturing internationally on an array of behavior topics including, but not limited to, small animal behavior, public health and animal sheltering topics.

Dr. C is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.  She is a member of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Speaker’s Bureau, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and The Association For Force-Free Pet Industry Professionals.

Why are muzzles so important in the world of dog behavior?

SAFETY!!!  If a dog can happily wear a muzzle, you can implement appropriate behavior modification with less risk.  In addition, an appropriately fitted and trained muzzle can keep our friends by our sides (within reason, of course) rather than isolated.

What are the most common reasons you recommend a client muzzle train her dog?

Really, every dog should be muzzle trained, even if you don’t think he/she will never need one.  In emergency situations, a muzzle may be used whether you think your dog needs one or not.  We have to make sure medical professionals can do their jobs quickly and without fear of a bite when time is of the essence.  If a dog is already comfortable with one, it will be one less stressor for him/her during a scary time.

Also, the last thing you want to do is have a bite AND THEN, because of the urgency of the situation, put a muzzle on a dog without appropriate training.  It can be done, but it’s not dog-friendly and it can shoot you in the foot for future work.

What are some situations that dog owners may encounter, both in and outside the vet office, that make muzzle training so important?

Low stress handling and restraint methods, while wonderful, are still relatively new in veterinary medicine.  You may not know when someone is going to muzzle your dog in the hospital.  Untrained staff may be more nervous and rough with a dog who isn’t wearing a muzzle due to fear of a bite.

A muzzle can also keep other people and their on-leash dogs away.  I LOVE that aspect of a muzzle and sometimes recommend them for dogs without any aggressive behavior for that very reason.  Not everyone understands the Yellow Dog Project’s work and we all know “No Petting” gear doesn’t always work either.  Muzzle’s aren’t 100% successful, but they can be helpful.  And don’t we all need whatever help we can get managing these kids?!

Name the biggest “myths” and misconceptions out there when it comes to muzzles and muzzle training.

My dog will be more aggressive while wearing a muzzle.  

My dog will be more fearful while wearing a muzzle.

-Both of the above COULD be true depending on each dog’s learning history.  That’s why you train comfort with a muzzle regardless of whether you need one.

-I have yet to see a dog trained to wear a basket muzzle be more aggressive while wearing one.

People will think my dog is “mean.”

– OK.  This one may be true, but people are crazy.  Do we want to change our behaviors to accommodate other people’s crazy ideas?  Do they know what’s right for your dog more than you?  NOPE.

Other dogs will pick on my dog because they “know” he/she is more vulnerable.

– That may happen depending on the dog group, but probably it’s more about the novelty of the muzzle than some perceived weakness on the part of the muzzle-wearing dog.

A muzzle is punishing for my dog.

-True only if you use it that way and your dog isn’t trained to like a muzzle

My dog can’t play while wearing a muzzle.

-False!  Your site shows some great options for object play and fetch that can work while wearing a muzzle.

If my dog is wearing a muzzle, I can put him/her in whatever situation I want and it will be OK.

-NOPE!  Come on!  DON’T DO THIS. Once I worked with a family whose dog had bitten multiple times.  They also had a toddler.  After much convincing they finally taught the dog to wear a muzzle.  At our next recheck, they reported allowing the toddler to handle the dog roughly (she was a toddler after all, that was normal behavior). Now *shocker* the dog was getting even more agitated.  Well, it’s not rocket science!  A muzzle is a safety tool, not a free pass to put your dog in a situation it can’t handle or enjoy, unless you absolutely have no other option (like emergency medical care).

My dog is “fine” in a muzzle so I shouldn’t have to train him/her to like it.

-Train your dog to like the tools you need.  It’s more fun for everyone and doesn’t increase the risk of fear and agitation.

Muzzles make dogs feel uncomfortable or sad.

-Dog’s believe what you tell them about muzzles for the most part.  Some are harder sells than others, don’t get me wrong.  But if you have a predictably pleasant interaction pattern with your dog, you have a really good chance at getting him/her to love a wearing a muzzle.

Muzzles are ugly.

– TRUE!  Most muzzles are ugly.  Why is that!?  Bling it out.  Stickers, non-toxic paints on the outside, tiny ribbons, whatever you like, plug ’em right on the outside.  Don’t let your dog eat that stuff though!

And let’s all just keep lobbying for some great company to step up here…Baskerville?  Are you hearing me?  We want colored basket muzzles ASAP!

A muzzle will make my dog look like Hannibal Lecter.

-Nuh uh!  Dogs are way, way to cute to look like sociopathic cannibals, no matter how many times they have bitten or threatened to bite.  In fact, that’s a problem for them.  If dogs were uglier, people would leave them alone and that would suit most of these dogs just fine, thank you!

How can vets and vet behaviorists begin to erase the stigma associated with muzzles?

I think we just have to keep fighting the good fight with education for the public, trainers, other veterinarians.

What is your favorite brand and style of muzzle?

Like so much in behavior-land, that depends.  Type of dog, why I’m recommending it, length of time I want it on, previous learning history with muzzles, etc.

Generally though, I like the Baskerville’s although I wish they came in better colors AND with a fast clip instead of the belt buckle collar.  A girl can dream, right?

When should dog owners contact a veterinary behaviorist?

ACK!  I hope no one every needs me.  Sadly not the case…

– If your dog is a danger to him/herself or others

– If there are medical problems complicating the dog’s behavior

– If the dog is experiencing significant panic (like separation anxiety or thunderstorm phobic dogs)

– If appropriate training programs have failed

– A training plateau has been reached

– If the patient isn’t improving as much as he/she should in a reasonable amount of time

– If the patient is generalizing to more and more triggers, etc, etc.

In your opinion, what are the critical elements to a successful muzzle training program?

SLOW DOWN and use some awesome food OR play if that’s what your dog loves the best

Be wary of incompletely “proofing” your dog to a muzzle and then only doing nasty things when it’s on.  For instance, doing a couple sessions of muzzle work and then only using the muzzle when you try to put in ear meds.  Let’s just say that increases the fail rate.  In fact, sometimes it’s an epic fail.

How can muzzle training prevent stress during a veterinary/vet behaviorist consult?

Well, now we all know the chance of a bite is much lower.  YAY!!!!  🙂

People (even veterinary behaviorists) think better when they aren’t worrying about getting bitten.  And clients can learn better, too, when they don’t have to be quite so on edge.

With a muzzle on board, even if our work accidentally triggers that patient, he/she isn’t getting another bite on the record.  And we can see the next case instead of being the next patient in a crowded human ER.

Many thanks to Dr. C for contributing to our Q & A series! If you are a veterinarian or vet behaviorist and would like to participate, please email us at

– Mauren Backman, MS, CTC

Maureen is the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and owns Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco, CA. Get in touch at and

Muzzle Art: The Duct Tape Muzzle

At the Muzzle Up! Project, one of our main goals is reducing muzzle stigma. After all, safety and style don’t have to be mutually exclusive!

Last year we created a new way to decorate muzzles using duct tape. Since then, Muzzle Up supporters have been amazing us with their muzzle decoration skills. Enjoy these latest works of muzzle art.

Pip (Photo: Kirsty Robson)


(Photos: Kelsey Robertson)


Send us your muzzle art and join our Facebook community!

** As many of you know, when not working on Muzzle Up, I am busy with my dog training business in San Francisco, CA. It’s currently up for best pet training in the Bay Area A List awards. If you have found the content on my website and on Muzzle Up helpful, please click on the link and cast your vote. I appreciate all your support, and many thanks for helping make Muzzle Up a great resource for all. **

– Maureen Backman, MS, CTC

Maureen is the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and owns Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco, CA. Get in touch at

A vote!


This year, Mutt About Town, the sister site to The Muzzle Up! Project, is up for the Bay Area A-List for best pet training, and I could use your support! If you have the time and can click on this link to cast your vote, I would really appreciate it.

I have some amazing colleagues on this list, too, so a vote for qualified force-free training is a win in my books! And most of all, I am so thankful you’ve given me the opportunity to work with you, your dogs, and increase education about muzzle training. The Muzzle Up! Project wouldn’t be possible without your support.

Many, many thanks,


Muzzle Training for the Vet: A “must” for every dog owner

10406983_878508355500792_4172449915177937825_n*This will be one of a broad range of muzzle-related topics that Maureen Backman, MS, CTC will be presenting at the Pet Professional Guild Summit 2015*

The vet can be a scary experience for even the most socialized of dogs. They’re poked, prodded, and touched by strangers with strange-looking implements.

Dogs who are ill or in pain are at higher risk of biting, even if they have previously been desensitized and counterconditoned to being handled at the vet. (This is why one of the first steps in pet first aid is to muzzle the injured dog to prevent injury.)

In a 2001 JAVMA report Dog bites to humans – demography, epidemiology, injury, and risk, Dr. Karen L. Overall and Molly Love write that “…veterinarians should be aware that pain, certain endocrine and neurologic conditions, and many sedative, tranquilizing and anesthetic agents … can make dogs more reactive and less predictable.”

Years ago, I had the experience of having my dog taken “to the back” by a vet tech to do a necessary procedure. In my dog’s case, he had a bee sting, and the stinger was still attached to his paw. Already shy about being handled by strangers, the addition of pain made any attempts to go near his paw impossible. The tech took my dog to another room, where he was restrained with a muzzle so the stinger could be removed. It was an unhappy and stressful experience for us both.

This was before I became a dog trainer, and before I understood the important role muzzles play in a dog owner’s toolbox of preventative tools.

My story is far from unique, and is a common one I hear from my private training clients and through discussions with members of the Muzzle Up! community. When people adopt dogs, or bring a puppy into their home, they come equipped with a checklist of training “musts” to  shape a well-adjusted, happy dog: Socialization, housetraining, leash manners, basic obedience, and so on. Now, proactive dog owners are even practicing husbandry exercises so their dogs happily allow them to clip nails, clean ears and brush teeth.

Unfortunately, muzzle training isn’t included often enough on that list of “musts.” Most muzzle training occurs after a dog has bitten another dog or human. Or, a dog is placed on a muzzle without any prior training due to an emergency or invasive veterinary procedure.

How wonderful would it be if dogs were conditioned to love wearing their muzzles early on, so that if they needed to wear one later in life, it would not be an aversive event for them?

When dogs come to the vet for a procedure, it’s not uncommon for them display anxious behavior. They may snap or bite at the staff out of fear, requiring staff to use a muzzle to prevent a bite. At this point, your dog is experiencing trigger stacked upon trigger, rendering him even more anxious and fearful with each added stressor.

As Dr. Jeannine Berger of the SFSPCA wrote in our veterinary behaviorist Q&A series last year, “Unfortunately, since the dog hasn’t been muzzle trained, it gets even worse from here. Your dog might get even more upset and start to resist as they try to place the muzzle.  The next step that follows is that the veterinarian now decides in order to complete the nail trim your dog needs to be sedated, adding additional costs to your bill and adding additional trauma to the dog.”

If dog owners prepare their dogs to wear a muzzle by using a muzzle training plan, so the dog associates the muzzle with positive, happy things, they will help reduce their dogs’ anxiety in the event he needs to wear one at the vet. Proactive muzzle training also increases the possibility of vets doing certain procedures without using heavy restraint or anesthesia.

Muzzle Up recommends owners arrive at the vet prepared by bringing their dog’s normal basket muzzle. This way, their dog wears his already well-fitting muzzle used during training.

Muzzle training will help you remove preventable trigger stacking during an unpreventable emergency or vet visit. Reduced fear for your dog, reduced stress for you. What better reason to put muzzle training on your list of training “musts” for your dog or puppy?

– Maureen Backman, MS, CTC

Maureen is the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and owns Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco, CA. Get in touch at

Muzzle training: Working through common trouble spots

10481424_488290024645016_4124303747210887978_n“I’m stuck.”

It’s a frequent occurrence among clients and colleagues when it comes to muzzle training. It usually comes near the end of the plan when the dog is comfortably wearing the muzzle with secured straps for short periods of time (seconds, maybe a few minutes). Anything longer and the dog will start pawing at the muzzle. The thought that you will have to work on duration second by second until you can take your dog for an hour-long walk on muzzle is a daunting one. Luckily, provided you have gone through the training plan accurately and have laid a solid foundation of positive associations with the muzzle, you can “unstick” yourself with relative ease. The keys are habituation and continued counterconditioning.

By definition, habituation, occurs when an animal learns to ignore a particular stimulus in the environment. Dogs habituate to stimuli that are frequent and annoying, but not necessarily frightening or startling. Think: ringing phones, the television, wearing a collar or a harness. Most dogs grow accustomed to these stimuli. They habituate, just as humans habituate to bike helmets, wool sweaters and the rumble of traffic.

It’s important to note that not every dog can habituate to low-grade stimuli. Equally important is reading a dog’s body language to detect any signs of fear or stress to prevent sensitization. Some dogs react to the sound of a doorbell or have an aversion to wearing a harness. Many dogs find the experience of wearing a muzzle annoying and frightening without being properly introduced with a gradual training plan. Instead of habituating, they sensitize: Their fearful reaction intensifies with repeated exposure to the stimulus. Hence the need for a thorough muzzle training plan that builds positive associations to the presence of the muzzle, wearing the muzzle, and having the muzzle secured to their head.  Read More

Muzzle Fetch: Cuz Toys

This week, The Muzzle Up! Project tested Cuz Toys from JW Pet, and we’re happy to report that they are an excellent option for muzzle fetch. The little “feet” at the bottom of the toys allows dogs to grab the toy through a Baskerville muzzle with the tips of their front teeth. The products are made from natural rubber and contain squeakers. Photos of our play session featuring The Good Cuz are below. Happy muzzle fetching!

IMG_0498 IMG_0497 IMG_0489

Muzzle Fetch: New toy options

The Muzzle Up! Project is always on the lookout for new ways to provide muzzled dogs enrichment. We recently discovered some new options for muzzle fetch from West Paw Design. We tested the Tizzi and Bumi toys from their Zogoflex line and found them to be a great muzzle fetch option for dogs who wear Baskerville muzzles. The toys are slim enough to fit through the front gap of the muzzle, allowing dogs to retrieve and tug with the tips of their front teeth. Another perk: the toys come with a lifetime guarantee!

Those in the UK can purchase these toys from K9Active.

Pictured below is Stella playing fetch with West Paw’s Tizzi toy.



– Maureen Backman, MS, CTC

Maureen is the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and owns Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco, CA. Get in touch at












Muzzle Q & A: Dr. Meredith Stepita

Meredith and Chewy head shotThe final installment of this month’s Muzzle Q & A series is Dr. Meredith Stepita. Dr. Stepita grew up in Maryland, but now calls Northern California home. She received her DVM from the University of Tennessee in 2006. After completing an internship and working in general practice in Arizona she entered into the Clinical Veterinary Behavior Residency Program at the University of California-Davis, becoming a Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist in 2011.She spends most of her time in the San Francisco Bay Area helping pet owners improve their pet’s behavior problems, and finds working with dedicated pet owners to be highly rewarding. She is the owner of Veterinary Behavior Specialists. Her research involves the frequency of parvovirus in puppies attending puppy socialization classes, finding that vaccinated puppies attending these classes were no more likely to be diagnosed with parvovirus than those not attending these classes. She has authored book chapters on canine aggression, feline house soiling, feline anxiety, and mourning behavior in veterinary texts and is a local and national speaker. Her areas of interest include canine and feline anxiety and aggression, the human-animal bond, and animal welfare. She shares her life with her husband Chris and their dogs (Chewy and Snoopy), cats (Maddie, Cali, and Tarzan), and the occasional foster dog.

Why are muzzles so important in the world of dog behavior?

The #1 reason is safety. When properly fit the dog should not be able to bite with a muzzle on. Another reason is to give the owner and others around the dog confidence that the dog cannot bite, which in turn makes everyone calmer. This is particularly helpful when working with an aggressive dog to change their emotional response to their triggers for aggression. If people are nervous, the dog will pick up on their anxiety and it will be difficult to teach the dog to be calm and happy.

What are some situations that dog owners may encounter, both in and outside the vet office, that make muzzle training so important?

Close proximity to people, other dogs, cats, birds (other prey) as well as handling and procedures, some of which can be uncomfortable, by unfamiliar and familiar people. If there is a possibility that an aggressive dog could escape from the handler during a walk a muzzle is recommended. Muzzles are also required regardless of temperament for dogs who accompany their owners on public transit in some cities.

Name the biggest “myths” and misconceptions out there when it comes to muzzles and muzzle training.

The biggest myth is that only “bad” dogs wear muzzles. This is not true. Aggression is a normal behavior; the way dogs communicate. Many aggressive dogs are actually very smart dogs- they have figured out that something scary is going to happen and communicate in the only way they know how. Since aggression is normal, we do not cure it. That would be like asking a person to never yell again. Therefore muzzles are necessary for safety reasons.

How can vets and vet behaviorists begin to erase the stigma associated with muzzles? 

Education of the general public and animal professionals as to why muzzles are important and to dispel myths.

What is your favorite style of muzzle?

Basket muzzles. These allow the dog to eat, drink from a deep bowl, pant, and vomit. If a dog is wearing a cloth muzzle and can perform these activities, he can also bite. Cloth muzzles are good for short procedures, such as giving a vaccine, but can be dangerous if not removed quickly.

When should owners not use a muzzle?

When the pet is alone as it could get caught on something, injuring or rarely killing the dog. Muzzles should also not be used to put a dog in a situation where they are uncomfortable and/or aggressive. A muzzle will not help to change the dog’s emotional response and fix behavior problems- a specific behavior modification plan is needed for that. Muzzles should be used for safety when working on the problem.

When should dog owners contact a veterinary behaviorist?

As soon as you notice your dog is having a problem. Rather than wait for the problem to create significant distress contact a veterinary behaviorist early so that we can begin the process of improving your relationship with your pet and your pet’s health. Generally the sooner we work on the problem the better the prognosis (ie chance your dog will improve).

In your opinion, what are the critical elements to a successful muzzle training program?

Go at the dog’s pace and use a favorite treat. Sticky treats such as peanut butter or easy cheese work well. Rather than forcing the muzzle on, allow the dog to put his nose in the muzzle for treats. This may take a little more time up front, but you will save time in the end and not end up with a dog that runs away from the muzzle.

How can muzzle training prevent stress during a veterinary/vet behaviorist consult? 

Applying a muzzle to an already stressed pet can create more stress. Some pets will even become aggressive to their owners if they try to place a muzzle in this situation. Doing some prep work and making the muzzle into a treat basket for the dog will make veterinary visits less stressful for dogs that are at risk of becoming aggressive during veterinary visits.