Absolute Dogs’ Training Tips: Overcoming Muzzle Misconceptions

The idea that only aggressive dogs wear muzzles is a misconception. Contrary to this misbelief, muzzles can bring a wealth of benefits to dog training. Lauren Langman and the Absolute Dogs training pros challenge this stigma and promote responsible muzzle training. Here, they explain how muzzles can support your dog and share steps to get your dog to wear a muzzle happily and confidently.

When Your Dog Can Benefit From Wearing a Muzzle

It doesn’t matter whether your dog is usually calm, anxious, or reactive. Times will crop up when a muzzle can be helpful. Examples may include any time your dog:

  • Is training or playing. Many owners aren’t sure how their dogs will react when training or playing, especially when other dogs are involved. In this case, a muzzle can help you master training goals or allow your dog to play without any physical risks.
  • Needs to visit the vet or groomer. Even the calmest of dogs can be difficult to handle if they’re stressed or in pain. Muzzles can also be helpful if your dog isn’t familiar with the vet or groomer who is treating them.
  • Has an injury. A muzzle can prevent your dog from making an injury worse, helping them heal quicker.
  • Tries to sniff or eat a dubious delicacy when out and about. A muzzle will keep your dog safe and help them learn to ignore not-so-savoury temptations.
  • Is on an adventure where muzzles are compulsory. Countries with rules about wearing muzzles include Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, and Denmark. Absolute Dogs encourages owners to think of muzzles as a dog’s passport to a wider world.
  • Feels anxious or fearful. In this case, a muzzle can promote relaxation for both your dog and you.

Proactive muzzle training can prepare your dog to respond well when unpredictable events arise. When you train your dog for situations instead of in situations, they’ll likely be able to handle these exciting, frightening, or stressful scenarios with more optimism and confidence.

How To Measure Your Dog for a Muzzle and Choose the Right One

When choosing a muzzle, opt for a basket muzzle. These allow your dog to drink, eat treats, and pant fully while wearing them. A versatile option, there are basket muzzles available for dogs of many breeds and sizes.

Choose a muzzle that fits your dog well to help them feel safe and comfortable. To measure your dog for a muzzle:

  • Measure the snout circumference while your dog’s mouth is open (for panting).
  • Measure the snout length from the tip of your dog’s nose.
  • Measure the snout height from the tip of your dog’s nose.
  • Add 1 cm to each measurement.

Use these measurements to choose a muzzle with a snug, comfortable fit. When you try a muzzle on your dog, ensure it doesn’t sit on their nose, touch their eyes, or block their vision. The muzzle should be wide enough to sit comfortably on your dog’s head. However, it shouldn’t be so large or loose that it slips or that your dog can pull it off.

Help Your Dog Feel Comfortable Putting Their Nose in Objects

Once you’ve found a good-fit muzzle for your dog, you’ll need to help them feel comfortable wearing it. Absolute Dogs’ Cone Game is a great place to start. Rather than fitting your dog’s muzzle right away, play this game to help them feel optimistic and confident as they place their nose in a cone or similar object.

How To Play Absolute Dogs’ Cone Game

You will need: treats and a cone or any item large enough for your dog to safely put their head inside. Item ideas include a mug, hat, plant pot, or yoghurt pot.

  • Introduce the cone to your dog and reward their initial reaction. It doesn’t matter how small this reaction is. While some dogs may step towards the cone, others may glance towards it. Either way, use a cue like “Yes,” and reward your dog by tossing a treat away from the cone to reset the game. Reward your dog every time they interact more closely with the cone.
  • As your dog becomes more comfortable with the cone, they may be happy to put their head inside. Work at your dog’s pace, watching for any signs that they feel unsure. Never place the cone over your dog’s face.
  • When your dog understands the value of putting their head in the cone, delay the reward. Notice whether they continue to engage as they eagerly await their reward. Increase the duration, allowing your dog to lead their learning.
  • As your dog progresses with this game, swap the cone for other items (see the ideas in the “you will need” list). This will help generalise their learning.

You can also switch up the way you reward your dog. This can help you reinforce the value of interacting with the cone, instead of rewarding away to reset the behaviour.

For example, if you have a cone with gaps or a hole in the end, feed your dog through the gaps or drop treats directly into the cone. Rewarding this way can help your dog see the cone as a great deal.

Teach Your Dog to Love Their Muzzle

Once your dog has mastered the Cone Game, your dog should happily put their nose in all sorts of objects. Now, it’s time to introduce their muzzle with Absolute Dogs’ training game: Muzzle Master.

The main difference between a cone and a muzzle is that the latter comes with a strap that secures the muzzle onto your dog’s face. As a result, it’s essential to keep every step of this training positive and fun. Let your dog stay in control, and remember that it’s okay not to work through every step of the game in one training session.

How To Play Absolute Dogs’ Training Game: Muzzle Master

You will need: treats and your dog’s muzzle.

  • Present your dog with their muzzle and reward their initial reaction. Like with the cone, this reaction may be as small as a glance towards the muzzle. Reward your dog by throwing a treat away from the muzzle.
  • When you reset the game, wait for your dog to put their nose inside the muzzle. Reward them when they do, and throw a treat away from them to reset the game again.
  • In the same way that you did with the cone, build duration into the behaviour. If your dog needs a little more encouragement, smear a tasty surprise inside the muzzle for them to enjoy when they put their nose inside.
  • When your dog happily puts their nose into the muzzle for some duration, briefly hold the strap in place without clipping it on. Then, take the strap off and reward your dog.
  • When your dog is happy with you holding the strap, bring the strap around and clip the muzzle on. Watch your dog to ensure they’re still confident and engaged.
  • When your dog is wearing their muzzle, continue developing their confidence by engaging them in their favourite behaviours. Ideas might include left and right spins and behaviour chains like sit, down, stand, or bow. Alternatively, play fast-paced food following games. Then, unclip the muzzle and reward your dog.

When your dog is comfortable with the Muzzle Master game, introduce short walks and rest periods where they wear the muzzle. If they show discomfort at any point — perhaps by pawing at the muzzle — remove the muzzle and take a step back in this training.

Never Use a Muzzle as a Punishment

Absolute Dogs emphasises that owners should never use muzzles to punish dogs. In fact, punishments shouldn’t have a place in training at all. If a dog behaves inappropriately — perhaps by biting, barking, or counter-surfing — this is likely because they don’t yet have the skills to respond well.

Muzzling a dog will not “teach them a lesson” or address the cause of their inappropriate behaviour. Instead, a dog will likely develop unhelpful negative associations with the muzzle.

The muzzle should always be a positive training tool, one that helps your dog understand disengagement, calmness, and the value of proximity.

About Absolute Dogs

Absolute Dogs has developed numerous fun-filled, concept-focused dog training games that empower owners to train their dogs with confidence. Muzzle training is just one of the approaches that experts use to help dogs make great decisions in day-to-day life.

Owners can join Absolute Dogs’ Games Club to guide their dogs through every step of training. Members follow a Success Path, earning points to level up and eventually become a Games Master.

They have access to over 300 videos, weekly challenges, bonus weekly training videos, downloadable resources, and additional short courses. On top of this, they join a private online community of like-minded dog owners.

The first month of membership is just £5, and Absolute Dogs offers a 90-day money-back guarantee.

Become a member of Absolute Dogs’ Games Club.