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How can I introduce a muzzle to my pet?

Introduce a muzzle to your pet before you need to use it. This blog post will guide you through the 5 steps of muzzle training.

Restraining your pet means limiting their ability to move freely for their safety or yours, or to perform pet care or a veterinary procedure. Be respectful of your pet. Use restraining only when necessary, for the time necessary, and prepare your pet for restraining before you need to use it. 

A muzzle is a good option for:

  • Managing your pet's reactivity;
  • Preventing them from ingesting inappropriate items when out walking;
  • Being used as a safety tool while you work on your pet-related challenges! 

Choose a muzzle that allows your pet to breathe, eat (unless they used it to avoid eating), and drink easily. Take time to choose the right muzzle for your pet and get them used to it. Your pet may react negatively to a muzzle in an emergency if they are not used to it! 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every pet. Start with these recommendations, see how your pet reacts, and adjust your training. Introducing a muzzle to your pet may take some time, depending on how they react to unfamiliar objects. Take it slow and be patient. It will pay off in the future! 

STEP 1 — Make the first experience positive

  • Show the muzzle to your pet;
  • Reward them with a treat for looking at it; 
  • Take the muzzle out of their sight; 
  • Show it again, and repeat the steps.

🔄 Do this in several short sessions over several days until your pet is comfortable with this step.  

When you show the muzzle and your pet expects a treat, they have made a positive association with it.

STEP 2 — Turn the muzzle into a treat dispenser

  • With the muzzle facing your pet, hold the treats close to the muzzle;
  • Each time your pet takes the treats, bring the next treat closer to the muzzle;
  • Place the treat on the edge of the muzzle;
  • Move the treats along the muzzle to the bottom.

🔄 Do this in short sessions over several days until your pet is comfortable with this step. 

Give your pet something they love! If they are unwilling to eat the treats during training sessions, replace them with something they cannot resist.

Experiment until you find a suitable treat for muzzle training that motivates your pet. Every pet is unique, so your pet may enjoy regular food, special treats, solid or liquid food, playtime, or other forms of reward. 

STEP 3 — Insert the straps behind the ears

  • Lift the straps behind the ears without fastening them; 
  • Treat your pet through the muzzle. 

🔄 Do this in short sessions over several days until your pet is comfortable with this step.

🕗 Slowly increase the length of time the muzzle is worn from a few seconds to a few minutes and treat your pet while wearing the muzzle. 

STEP 4 — Fasten the muzzle and increase the time

 ðŸ•— Fasten the straps for just a few seconds at first, then increase the time; 

Encourage your pet to do activities they love while wearing the muzzle. 

🔄  Do this in short sessions over several days until your pet is comfortable with this step. 

 Playing with the muzzle on will distract your pet and help them associate the muzzle with fun and relaxing activities.

STEP 5 — Remove the muzzle when your pet is calm 

  • Briefly distract your pet momentarily with a toy or by clapping your hands;
  • When your pet is calm, quickly remove the muzzle.

🔄 Do this in short sessions over several days until your pet is comfortable with this step.

✋ Removing the muzzle when your pet is struggling to remove it may encourage them to repeat the behavior because it worked before. 

If you start to feel frustrated during muzzle training because your pet is not responding as you would like, stop, take a breath, and remember that this is challenging for your pet too. Stop the training if you feel it is not a positive experience for you or your pet, and start again later.

To summarize muzzle training, we prepared a Muzzle Introduction Poster for you. Check out our other bonus materials as well Ko-fi.

If muzzle training your pet is a big challenge, contact local pet trainers for help and advice! Their experience and knowledge can turn this experience into a fun family time!

That's it! 
Stay tuned for our next blog post.

Thank you for reading!
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  1. American Kennel Club- Dog Muzzles: When, Why and How to Correctly Use them
  2. Home of low stress handling, CattleDog Publishing- Desensitizing Your Dog to a Muzzle
  3. First Aid for Pets- How to make a safe makeshift muzzle for your dog

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