Its been a while! things have got hectic here!
This weeks training help – Muzzle Training.
People are funny, they react in all sorts of negative ways to a dog in a muzzle, or to being told their dog would benefit from one. I don’t understand why!
Lets start with the dog that you see in the park with a muzzle on. How do you react? Most people will instantly tense probably show some sort of pain on their face (purposeful or not) and clip their dog on lead, or change direction. Some take it a step further – I’ve been told that I shouldn’t have such a dangerous animal in a dog park, or that it should be put down! The worst response though is the idiot that thinks he can cure your dog in one easy step – usually by saying ‘take the muzzle off and I’ll do xyz’. XYZ could be an alpha roll (rolling and pinning the dog), biting the dog hear or allowing it to bite and then yelling. NONE of these methods work. NONE. EVER.
I’m quite thick-skinned, but I’ve had owners in tears on the phone because of the know it all in the park. Most owners of muzzled dogs are super sensitive about it anyway, with this so-called help!
We all know that muzzles stop a dog biting, but what you don’t know is WHY that dog in the park is muzzled. Yes muzzles are a great tool for dogs that show aggression for one reason or another (often aggression is based in fear so that nasty dog, is probably just terrified of your friendly dog). But they are also used for dogs that have a special diet to stop them eating things they find on a walk, for dogs that have a high prey drive (retired grey hounds often haven’t seen anything other than other grey hounds ever, so muzzling helps protect cats and other small furries), or because of a legal requirement.
There are a number of banned breeds in the UK, and all round the world there are different legislative requirements for certain dogs to be muzzled. These dogs may be aggressive, or perhaps they were just unlucky enough to be born with certain head measurements that class them as ‘pit type’ meaning they can never go out in public with out a muzzle.
So we don’t know why that dog is muzzled, yet most still react badly. It is good manners to put your dog on lead if the other dog is, but is also polite to check if the muzzled dog is off lead if it is ok for yours to approach.
Owners that chose to muzzle their dogs are often some of the most responsible ones I meet. They have chosen to take precautions to ensure their dog is safe, be it from eating something that could cause issues or to prevent a negative reaction to other dogs, animals or people.
There are those that say if your dog is muzzled and set upon by another dog it is unable to defend itself, that’s true, but it is not a reason not to muzzle your dog. If you have a muzzled dog, not only will people avoid you but you will also be aware of the issues all the time – it’s a constant reminder which means you are less likely to be taken by surprise by another dog. Very few people have had their dogs set up on by another without any warning – usually it happens when they are all playing and it turns nasty, if your dog is muzzled and out of the action then the chances of an attack are reduced.
Don’t judge, them support them! I walk a dog in a muzzle who is terrified of other dogs, she is muzzled for safety although she has never bitten. She would love a dog friend that would let her walk near them without interacting, but every dog she sees is taken away. It’s quite sad when you think about it.
Choosing to muzzle your dog is just the first stage – you cannot just put a muzzle on and be done. It takes time, patience and lots and lots of rewards!
Imagine someone tried to put a muzzle on you, they might get away with it the first time if there was a surprise, but the second, maybe third time – you are ready!!
ALWAYS get a basket muzzle, not only can the dog still bite or pick food up through a cloth muzzle but they don’t allow them to pant either, leading to issue with over heating. Basket muzzles allow full mouth movement in the basket and dogs can drink and take treats though them. I’d also recommend getting a muzzle in a contrasting colour to the dogs fur – that way they can be seen at a distance and if you need space people will give it to you.
So stage 1 (I use ‘she’ in here, but obviously it works for boys too!)
Introducing the muzzle. Don’t even think about pushing it on or clipping the latch at this stage!
Get some super tasty food that is sticky and smelly – cream cheese, pate, dog meat etc.
Slather it on the inside of the basket, right down the end.
Let the dog chose to put her nose into the basket, just hold it still – don’t push it toward her or pull it away, when she puts her head in, praise her, even if she only does it for a second. Let her keep going back for as long as she wants, praise her every time.
Repeat 2 -3 times a day
Once she is confident and pleased to see the muzzle, try to encourage her to keep her head in there a little longer by putting less food in, and pushing it right to the end (she has to work for it!).
Once she keeps her head in the muzzle for a few seconds, start to introduce the muzzle command. Say ‘muzzle’ every time she puts her head in, and then praise (make sure there is still food in there!).
Start to say muzzle before she puts her head in, and she’ll soon learn that it’s a command to do just that.
Start moving the muzzle to a little further away from her nose, so she has to move to put her nose in it, once she actively does that you know she’s got the command down pat!
Once she knows the muzzle command, ask her to put her head in and then hold the praise for a few seconds, this encourages her to keep her head in there longer, extend it to 10 sec, 20 etc.
Start clicking the buckle of the muzzle (not around her head, just click it), when she is eating the treat in the end of the muzzle. The click is quite loud so you need to make sure she is expecting it when you finally do it up round her head.
Keep the praise up!
Start to move the straps into their buckle position, but don’t buckle them yet – let her get used to the fact that they come up round the head (some come across the bridge of the nose too). Praise & reward.
Once she lets you do what ever you want with the straps its time to buckle them, buckle and unbuckle immediately, then leave it closed a second or two, then five seconds and so on.
Make sure there is lots of praise and if she seems upset, take it off and repeat steps 4 and 5.
Before long she will happily wear the muzzle as it’s a pleasant thing, not a bad thing!
Blue Cross have a fab video to help you: