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There may well come a time when you need to put a muzzle on your dog and this could be for a multitude of reasons. It could be because your pet is a bit wilful or slightly aggressive and you want to take them to a training class for the first time or maybe because they get scared when you take them to the vet and turn aggressive. For whatever reason you need to put a muzzle on your dog the last thing you want is to frighten them which could end up in having a fight on your hands every time your pet needs to wear one.
It's really important for your dog to be calm and not get stressed out and anxious every time you pick up their muzzle because this could lead to a lot more problems. However, you should not expect your pet to just sit there and accept you putting a muzzle on them if they have never had to wear one in the past and you should never try to force a dog to wear one either.
Like all new things, you need to introduce a muzzle to your dog gradually. It's important to understand that the whole concept of wearing a muzzle can be pretty scary for a dog so when a person they have come to learn to trust, suddenly tries to put something on their faces that restricts them, it can be very confusing for our canine friends who don't understand what is going on.
There are various muzzle designs around but by far the best is the Baskerville which is a basket type one that allows dogs to breathe more easily as well as drink and be given a treat. It's really important that when a dog has to wear a muzzle that they can pant because this is one of the only ways they can regulate their body temperature – the other way a dog sweats is through their paw pads but this negligible.
It's also crucial to invest in the right size muzzle for your dog and you should never try to put one on a puppy or very young dog as this will not only confuse them but frighten them too which could lead to serious trust issues. Muzzles should only ever be used on dogs that have reached the end of their training.
Dogs learn things through association so it's important they associate wearing a muzzle with something very good. A favourite treat can be used to achieve this and you should always use the same treat as this builds up the "good" association your dog connects to wearing a muzzle.
You need to get your dog to "sit" and then introduce the muzzle in one hand and then immediately give them the favourite treat with your other hand before putting the muzzle out of sight behind you whilst praising your dog. You need to repeat the process several times but never more than 4 to 6 in any one day. Pretty soon your dog will associate the muzzle with a favourite treat and some dogs will even seek out the muzzle pretty quickly as you hold it behind you because they know they will get a treat if they do.
So as not to frighten your dog, you need to offer them a treat through the muzzle without asking them to put it on unless your pet is perfectly happy to do so. You need to do this 4 to 5 times in succession making sure your dog puts their noses into the muzzle rather than you put it on them. Without any stress or forcefulness, your pet will soon be quite happy with the muzzle and if all is going well you can then take it to the next step although this is best left until the following day.
Once your pet is happy with the muzzle on their noses, the next stage is to clip it on behind their necks leaving it loose around their chins whilst calmly praising your dog and giving them a favourite treat. It's important at this stage to remove the muzzle and put it back on several times without overdoing it – 4 times is sufficient. If your dog looks worried or anxious, take the muzzle off and try again the following day. The one thing you don't want is your dog developing a negative association with the muzzle.
Once your dog is happy with their muzzle being placed on their noses but left hanging loosely, it's time to leave it on for longer periods of time. It's essential to reward and praise your dog throughout this stage. If they are relaxed and happy about things, it's time to fit the muzzle properly and to do all the clips up. If at any time your dog gets anxious, you should calmly take the muzzle off and then try again a little later when they have settled down.
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