Muzzle Training Your Dog: When & How to Do It

Many pet parents depend on obedience training to foster a safe, loving relationship with their furry friends. It not only teaches key voice commands and helps instill acceptable social behaviors, but also helps enhance your relationship with your pet. Similarly, muzzle training can be another critical aspect in many dogs’ behavioral development.

To some, the dog muzzle can be a polarizing training tool; after all, they are often associated with aggressiveness. However, a correctly used muzzle will not hurt your dog in any way. On the contrary, muzzles promote obedience and control in dogs—and provide peace of mind to pet parents. 

Find the Right Muzzle

It’s important to find the right muzzle for your dog. Choose one that will fit comfortably over the mouth and accommodates your dog’s individual needs—preferably a breathable option that’s easy to apply and remove.

Useful for a variety of outdoor activities—including walks, runs, and dog park visits — muzzles help to calm aggression and promote safe socialization with other dogs. Modern muzzles even allow your dog to pant, drink water, and accept treats.

In other cases, your dog might benefit from a quick-fit dog muzzle, which helps them avoid behaviors like biting, barking, and unwanted chewing, while still providing the freedom to drink, eat, and breathe comfortably. Quick-fit muzzles are typically made of nylon and comfortably fit breeds of most sizes.

While basket muzzles are common, often made of leather, rubber, plastic or wire, these are more commonly used for larger breeds. If your dog is smaller in stature, you might want to try a short snout muzzle. Perfect for breeds like the Boston Terrier and English Bulldog, short snout muzzles cover your pet’s face in breathable material.

Make It a Positive Experience

Just like puppy potty training and crate training, muzzle training should result in a comfortable and uplifting experience for your dog. Dog trainers often recommend supplementing muzzle training with positive reinforcement to help your dog develop a strong association between obedience and reward.

There are many ways to make muzzle training fun for your dog. Consider including treats as a regular component of your muzzle training to keep your furry friend happy and invested in the training process. This is especially easy to do if you purchase a breathable muzzle that allows you to slip treats directly into your dog’s mouth during training.

Muzzles should never be used as a punishment. Punishing your dog with a muzzle will eliminate any benefits, and will make your dog fear the muzzle—and potentially you—during subsequent training. Instead, treat the muzzle like you would any training instrument, and use it lovingly to improve your dog’s behaviors. 

Put the Muzzle On Correctly

Whether you’re practicing voice commands or heading outside for a walk, ensure the muzzle is fitted correctly before training begins. A comfortable muzzle will make training easier, while a tight or uncomfortable muzzle leads to an unhappy dog and unproductive training sessions.

Once your dog has warmed up to the concept of a muzzle, slip the muzzle gently over their mouth and attach the straps behind your dog’s head. You might need to hold the muzzle in place while fastening the straps. If the muzzle has neck straps, secure those as well.

Take your time when applying any muzzle to your pet’s snout, and pay attention to their attitude to protect against any pinching or tightness. Make sure your dog can still achieve a full range of motion before you begin any training.

Gradually Increase Its Use

Many dogs respond better to a muzzle if you introduce it gradually. To start, include the muzzle during exciting activities so that your dog begins to associate the muzzle with fun. For example, hold up the muzzle before throwing a toy, or place treats on the inside of the muzzle and allow your dog to eat them freely.

Once your four-legged friend becomes comfortable with the muzzle, you can gradually begin to increase its use. Continue to apply treats or smear soft snacks to the inside of the muzzle over time until your dog is happy to see and wear it.

It’s important that your dog maintains a favorable relationship with the muzzle as long as you use it for training. This will make ongoing instruction easier, and will even excite your dog to continue training. 

Begin to Use It in Real-World Situations

Once your dog is fully comfortable with the muzzle, you can begin to use it in everyday life. Whether you’re taking your dog for a walk, frequenting the local park, or simply teaching your dog appropriate social habits, muzzles can keep your dog safe in a variety of situations.

You can also use a dog muzzle to keep your pet and others safe while you’re out and about. Particularly if your dog is likely to chew unfamiliar plants, bite other dogs, or dig in inappropriate areas, muzzles can keep your dog safe while exploring the outdoors.

While muzzles are valuable in a variety of real-life situations, it isn’t a permanent solution. Like most other dog-training methods, muzzles are meant to correct your pet’s behaviors to the point that the muzzle itself is no longer necessary. If you notice over time that the muzzle does not positively alter your dog’s behavior, consider alternative training methods.

Only Use Muzzles When Appropriate

You can use a muzzle in many situations to improve your dog’s behavior. If your pet becomes angsty during a dog-grooming session, a muzzle can reduce nipping and aggression. To safely walk a dog that might otherwise dig, pull, or bite other animals, consider a muzzle to promote comfort and improve your pet’s concentration.

In some cases, using a muzzle isn’t the best training approach. For example, when house training your dog, it’s likely better to use spot training or reward-based training.

Muzzles are only meant to be used for short training sessions. If you’re looking for a long-term solution to limit your dog’s aggression, a muzzle likely isn’t sufficient. Instead, consider using a muzzle in tandem with other training strategies to help your dog model better behavior.

Sometimes, other training items are more appropriate when you're teaching your dog how to behave. Consider the use of a dog gate, crate, or mat, particularly during potty training.

When familiarizing your dog with the outdoors, a muzzle likely isn't the best approach. Instead, use a gate, stake, or tie-out line to control your dog while allowing them the freedom to play and explore.