Dog Training

A Muzzling Situation

MANY PEOPLE ARE FAMILIAR with muzzles as a device for bite prevention, and they tend to have a certain stigma attached to them. A large part of this negative image seems to be due in part to the appearance of a dog wearing a muzzle.

Some people are of the opinion that only ‘bad’ dogs need to wear muzzles. This is unfortunate, since, when used correctly, muzzles are very useful tools that can make you and your pet more comfortable.

Muzzles can be used as training tools as well as in situations that may be troublesome or intimidating for your pet.

Which kind do you need?

There are several different types of muzzles available, depending upon your specific needs. There are basket muzzles, which prevent biting and chewing, but still allow your dog to bark and pant.

Then there are the more typical snug-fitting muzzles which are made from a variety of materials such as leather, neoprene or vinyl.

In general, these muzzles prevent barking as well as biting and chewing. If the muzzle is sized appropriately, it will still allow your dog to pant a little. Products such as the gentle leader or the haltie are not actually muzzles.

As such, they do not prevent biting or barking, but they will give you more control over your dog’s head. This can make your training more effective, especially when introducing your dog to new people, animals and situations.

Helping anxiety

Every pet has different anxieties and behavioural quirks that make them individuals, but which may also necessitate the use of a muzzle in certain situations.

Some dogs require muzzles for trips to the vet or just for specific veterinary procedures such as having blood taken.

Other dogs may need to wear a muzzle during a visit to the groomer, or perhaps when encountering new people and animals. Your veterinarian can help you to assess your pet’s behavioural issues and determine if a muzzle may be beneficial or required at a particular time.

Remember that if there is a time when your pet needs a muzzle, it is as much for their safety and comfort as it is for everyone else’s. When used appropriately, muzzles can reduce your pet’s anxiety in problem situations.

If the muzzle is selected carefully for your dog’s size and needs, it will not cause your dog harm. However, muzzles should never be used without supervision, and certain muzzles should not be left on for extended periods of time.

For instance, while a tighter-fitting muzzle may allow some panting, some dogs can become overheated when they are left on for too long.

If you decide to try a muzzle, look for durable materials and quick-release clasps as well as for a product that is fitted to your dog’s breed and size requirements.

You can find muzzles at veterinary clinics and pet stores as well as on the Internet. The price will vary according to the size, material, and type of muzzle. Again, your veterinarian can help you not only in determining if your pet needs a muzzle, but also in deciding exactly what type would be appropriate.

Training Camp – Teaching the Basics

Consistency is the key when you begin training. Make sure you initially reward the behaviour you are looking for each and every time. The more a behaviour is rewarded, the more likely it is to occur. Use treats, toys and praise for a job well done. Instead of focusing on what your pup should not be doing, reward him for the behaviour you prefer.
There should be no reprimand before education. Don’t yell at your dog for not coming when you haven’t trained him properly. Practice and repetition of the exercise is important when learning any new skill. Be patient and have fun. If frustration sets in, try a more simple exercise and call it a day. End on a positive note. Starting again the next day, when you are both in a good frame of mind, is more conducive to teaching and learning.


  • Put a treat near your puppy’s nose to start. Slowly raise the treat over your pup’s head. As he follows the treat, he will be lured backwards into the sit position.
  • As soon as he is in the sitting position, say the word “sit” and give him his reward. By saying the word sit as he is doing the behaviour, rather than multiple times, you will avoid teaching your pup to sit only when you say “sit, sit, sit”.
  • You can use the word “sit” to avoid jumping up. Instead of saying “no” or “off”, ask him to sit and reward him each time. Soon you will see him offer
    this behaviour; so don’t forget to acknowledge a job well done with a scratch under the chin.
  • Asking your pup to sit before he gets a pat, before meal times and before going through any doors is like asking your pup to say please. Teaching proper manners to any pup will set him up to be a well-behaved adult.
  • As you progress, start to wean the treats away, and only give them on occasion.


  • It is important to pair the word “come” with something of high value for your puppy, such as a treat or favourite toy.
  • Put a dragline on your puppy before you begin. This is a long leash that you can step on if your pup runs off, and is used for safety.
  • Start by calling your pup’s name, and the word “come”. Run backwards away from him a few steps while verbally encouraging him to come towards you. When he gets to you, lightly grasp his collar first, and then reward him with something special. This will avoid him coming in for his reward, and quickly running off again.
  • If he gets distracted, step on the leash to stop him from taking a different direction, and encourage him to come away from what took his interest.
  • Always use a positive tone when calling your pup to come, even if you are annoyed. He needs to learn that coming when called is not threatening.
  • As you progress, stop running backwards and instead crouch down in one spot and call him to come. Continue to reward him each time he comes.
  • Once he has the hang of coming and having his collar taken, you can start to add the word “sit”. Soon, he should only get the reward (a game or a treat) once he is sitting in front of you.


  • Heeling means to walk your puppy on your left side, with some slack in the lead.
  • Reward your puppy first for being at your left side. While it might seem excessive, reward him every few steps.
  • As you progress, start to reward him each time you turn, to keep him engaged.
  • Progress further by adding a sit each time you come to a stop (at an intersection for example).
  • By not pulling your puppy back to you, and instead rewarding him for being beside you, he will learn that he gets his reward for being close to you on your left, rather than pulling you down the street.