Muzzle Art Monday – February 3, 2014

This week’s muzzle art features some gorgeous photos sent to us from Muzzle Up! supporter Sean Clarke featuring his dog, Louie.



Muzzle Art Monday. Because there’s no reason safety can’t be stylish.

Send your muzzle art to

– 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 Art Monday – January 19, 2014

We have two installments for this week’s Muzzle Art Monday. First up is from a Muzzle Up supporter who also happens to be a dog, named Buddy.


Next is a little project we completed over the weekend involving patterned duct tape and a Baskerville size 5 muzzle.


Send your muzzle art to And remember: there’s no reason safety can’t be stylish!

– 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 comfort and style

Meet this gorgeous rescued whippet from Muzzle Up! supporter Leanne from the Warwick Dog Training Club.

“She is a rescued Whippet mix so wears a whippet muzzle. (She has a purple and a pink one! I’ve slightly modified them by putting fleece on the nose band),” Leanne writes. “She gets nervous around boisterous dogs and also when people she doesn’t know approach her. I feel so much more confident when she wears it in public. I have been able to take her to the beach, country park and public places where I would have worried before hand.”















Muzzle Up! is always eager to see photos of colorful and comfortable muzzles. Send yours to!

Muzzle Art Monday – January 13, 2014

Muzzle Up! is starting a new feature every Monday – a chance to show of some of our supporters’ snazzy and sassy muzzle art. Our photos this Monday come from supporter Carol Louise Bell, whose decadent, sparkly Baskerville muzzles are true works of art. Be sure to submit your muzzle art through our Facebook page or email us at And don’t forget, you can join our new Flickr group and use the hashtag #muzzleup to spread awareness.

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– 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



Explaining why your dog is wearing a muzzle

muzzle-cartoonsYou’re walking your dog and someone approaches. Maybe a neighbor, a coworker, or perhaps a complete stranger. And then comes the question you wish you didn’t have to constantly answer: “Why is your dog wearing a muzzle?” Sometimes, it’s asked out of pure interest. But most of the time, it’s tinged with many underlying fears and questions. Is that dog vicious? Will your dog attack me? Is your dog a bad dog? Many supporters of The Muzzle Up! Project face this question quite often, and they’ve come up with some great responses that erase stigma, ease anxiety and insert a little humor into living life with a muzzled up dog. Here are the brilliant ideas of our supporters. Enjoy!

  • I say, “My dog has an injury and sometimes also has issues with strangers approaching me, so I am being a responsible owner until we work through that.” Or something like that. – Christine
  • “She is scared of new folks.” And then I turn my attention to Diamond and ask her to do something to help her remain cognitive and build positive experiences with strangers around. And then I reward her cooperation. She has come a long way. More often than not, she now seems to have a more positive interest in strangers. – Angie
  • I have one who wears a muzzle as shes not keen on other dogs coming up to her and as she’s a big girl. I’m overly cautious. I also have a lead with “no dogs” printed on it and my boy wears a lead with ‘friendly’ on. Most people I see are nice but I’ve had a few comments. – Deanna
  • I have a greyhound and I muzzle her when we go to the groomers as they usually have little white fluffy lures in there. I explain I would rather be safe than sorry as she has been trained to chase.Then I say she is really a lamb. – Tracey
  • I once had someone ask me why my dog was wearing a hockey mask – made me cease and explain the situation, all whilst I had blood dribbling down my leg because I had just fallen over and was trying to sort a plaster. We must have looked a right pair! – Emma
  • I put my foster dog on my Facebook cover photo saying she is a DINOS Diva (Dog in need of space), just to change my own perception of using a muzzle and be comfortable being proactive by having her wear a muzzle when out. She looks kind of like a ‘super hero’ with her yellow jacket and her head gear. – Jo-Ann
  • She has a hard time trusting other people and other dogs, but she still deserves the same love and privileges as any other creature… I muzzle cuddles so that she and the other creatures around her can live a safe and normal life. – Кристина
  • Obviously, because he can’t wear two. – Luis
  • Mine used to wear one one when he was a pup “because he is a pig – and hovers up anything and everything and makes himself sick!” – Emma

Why using muzzles as punishment is dangerous

Photo by Animal Kingdom Hostpial/Flickr Creative Commons License

Photo by Animal Kingdom Hostpial/Flickr Creative Commons License

Imagine a child who, every time she misbehaves, is subsequently punished by being placed in a car with the seatbelt buckled. Each time the seatbelt clicks shut, she is left in the car for a period of time without explanation. The only association she has with the car and the seatbelt is as a form of punishment, causing her to dislike it.

Now, imagine that same child has to go to the emergency room. The only means of transport is a car. Faced with the prospect of having to endure what has historically been a form of punishment for her – the seatbelt – she resists, taking up precious time that could be spent driving to the hospital.

This scenario may seem a bit outlandish, and it should. Using a standard safety measure as a form of punishment is ridiculous and cruel, not to mention counterproductive for any life-threatening situation. Unfortunately, when people use muzzles as a form of punishment or time out for dogs, they create a situation not unlike a child being punished with a seatbelt.

Many dogs become fearful if placed in a muzzle without proper desensitization and counterconditioning. They will fear the muzzle even more if it is used as a means to reduce undesirable behaviors (especially if the person presenting the muzzle has a stern tone of voice and agitated body language, two things that often accompany punishment). Now add continual repetitions of the muzzle being used as punishment, and the dog acquires an ever-growing history of negative associations with it.

Why is this such a problem? The fact is, at some point, most dogs will have to wear a muzzle. It’s often the first step when applying pet first aid. It’s also used as a safety measure at the veterinarian if a dog is in pain. Dogs may develop fears at any point in their lives, which could result the need for a muzzle while training is underway. Dogs may even need to wear muzzles for non-aggressive behaviors like eating feces. In any of these situations, it is critical that a dog be desensitized and trained to enjoy wearing a muzzle, especially in the case of an emergency when time is of the essence and mucking around isn’t an option.

Even in non-emergency situations, training a dog to like a muzzle once he has developed strong negative associations to it will take eons longer than performing a standard muzzle training plan from the beginning; fears are easy for dogs to develop and difficult to overcome.

For all of these reasons, refrain from using a muzzle as a way to reduce unwanted behaviors. Your dog’s life may depend on it someday.

-Maureen Backman, MS
Maureen is the founder of The Muzzle Up! Project and owns Mutt About Town dog training in San Francisco.

Training Troubleshooting Series, Part 3: Splittiness

Steve Holt Photography (

Steve Holt Photography (

Originally posted on Mutt About Town.

Over the past week, I have been working with a client on muzzle training her dog. In doing so, I am reminded of the importance of “splits” in dog training, and why sometimes following a training plan won’t automatically get you the results you want.

A typical muzzle training plan looks like this:

  1. Provide treats upon showing the dog the muzzle
  2. Click and treat whenever dog touches muzzle with nose
  3. Shape behavior by selecting longer nose bumps to mark and reward
  4. Click and treat when dog places muzzle in opening, luring if necessary
  5. Add duration for placing nose in muzzle opening
  6. Work on attaching straps
  7. Adjust straps so that the muzzle fits closer to the head
  8. Gradually tighten the fit of the muzzle

Essentially, we sequentially train the dog to like the muzzle, like placing her nose on the muzzle, like placing her nose in the muzzle, like keeping her nose in the muzzle, and not mind attaching or adjusting the straps.

When working with my client’s dog, we started out with the basic plan. She responded well with steps 1-4, but got stuck on step five, the duration. Despite being heavily rewarded for placing her nose in the muzzle, the minute the treats stopped, she moved her nose from the muzzle opening.

If we continued barreling through the plan without getting her comfortable with duration, any positive associations with the muzzle would have gradually eroded, and we would have hit an even bigger roadblock. Clearly, we needed to add something extra to the plan.

In dog training, this something extra is termed a “split.” As the name implies, a split is essentially a bridge between two steps, so that instead of requiring a dog to go from step one to step two, we give her a 1a (and perhaps a 1b and 1c) to make the jump less difficult. Remember learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels and needing an adult to stabilize and launch you so you didn’t immediately fall off? Eventually you were able to start the ride on two wheels on your own, but the stabilizing hand of an adult eased you into it, minimizing bruises and injuries. It’s the same concept in dog training. Read More