How to Cover a Dog's Mouth
Covering your dog’s mouth to quell aggressive behavior is a great practice when you’re training your dog. There are a few different muzzle types you can choose from to make sure your dog is comfortable and safe. Always supervise your dog when they have a muzzle on, and never use a muzzle to stop your dog from barking throughout the day.
Picking a Muzzle
1. Purchase a plastic or leather basket muzzle for training. Basket muzzles leave a small opening in the front so your dog can pant, drink water, and eat treats. They look almost like a cage surrounding your dog’s snout, and they prevent injuries in the case that your dog lunges to bite.
- Basket muzzles are great muzzles to choose if your dog will be wearing it for a long period of time since they are roomy.
2. Buy a soft muzzle for extra comfort. Soft muzzles are made of a synthetic cotton blend. They also open in the front so your dog can eat and drink, but they don’t allow your dog to open their mouth wide enough to bite. They are great for protection when you are out with your dog but you aren’t trying to train them.
- These muzzles are also called duck-bills, and they come in many colors.
3. Try the muzzle on your dog before you purchase it. Dog muzzles come in sizes from XS to XL. Before you purchase your muzzle, read the size guide online or on the tag of the muzzle. If you can, try the muzzle on your dog before you buy it, and double-check that you can slip 1 finger underneath the straps on the back of their head.
- If the muzzle is too tight, it could hurt your dog.
- If the muzzle is too loose, your dog could take it off with their paw.
4. Make an emergency muzzle out of gauze. If you are in an emergency situation and you need to cover your dog’s mouth quickly, cut a long strip of gauze and tie a knot in the middle of it. Wrap the loop around your dog’s nose and then tie it behind their head quickly so they can’t open their mouth.
- Gauze muzzles are often used when trying to capture unknown or aggressive dogs.
Warning: Gauze muzzles should only be used in emergency situations, not on a regular basis.
Muzzling Your Dog
1. Introduce the muzzle to your dog in a non-threatening way. Hold the muzzle in your hand and lower it to your dog’s eye level. Let them sniff it or lick it if they want to, and try not to make any sudden movements as they investigate.
- Try to introduce your dog to the muzzle in an environment where they feel safe, like a quiet room in your home.
2. Place a treat inside the muzzle. Take one of your dog’s favorite treats and put it into the nose of the muzzle. Let your dog see what you have so they realize that you’re putting something they want inside of the muzzle.
Tip: If your dog doesn’t seem interested in the treat you choose, try a different one. Dogs can get bored of the same treat over and over, so your dog might need some variety.
3. Slip the muzzle on your dog, then take it off. As your dog investigates the treat inside of the muzzle, quickly pull the muzzle on over your dog’s snout. Leave it on for 1 to 2 seconds, then take it off right away. This will help your dog get used to the muzzle without overwhelming them.
- If your dog is anxious or aggressive, they may be overwhelmed or scared of the muzzle. In that case, give your dog a break before you try introducing them to it again.
- If your dog is focused on the treat inside the muzzle, they may not even notice that you put something on their snout.
4. Encourage your dog with a sweet tone of voice. Dogs react well to positive reinforcement. If your dog did well with the muzzle and didn’t act nervous or scared, tell them “good dog" and give them another treat.
- If they didn’t do well, that’s okay too. Stay calm and back up if your dog is being aggressive.
- Animals who have been abused may have an aversion to being muzzled, in which case you should talk to a professional dog trainer.
5. Leave the muzzle on for longer periods of time. Now you can test the waters with your dog to see how they do with the muzzle on. Try keeping it on for 5 minutes at a time, then 10 minutes, until finally you can work your way up to 1 hour. Every dog is different, so your dog’s timeline will be unique to them.
- If your dog is aggressive, avoid taking them out in public until you can get them muzzle trained.
6. Avoid leaving your dog unsupervised with a muzzle on. Muzzles prevent a full range of motion for your dog’s mouth, and they can cause injury if left unattended. Never leave your dog home alone without removing their muzzle first, and try to take it off after 1 to 2 hours.
- Never use a muzzle to stop your dog from barking. Muzzles should only be used to help avoid aggressive behavior or to help during training.
- Introducing a dog to a muzzle takes time, and you should go at your dog’s own pace.
- Talking to a trainer can be helpful, especially if your dog is showing signs of aggression.
- To prevent injury, never leave your dog unsupervised with a muzzle on.
- Never use a muzzle to prevent a dog from barking.