Muzzle Desensitisation


There are lots of situations where using a muzzle can greatly benefit any dog, and responsible owners are now proactively using this tool for visits to the groomers, public transport or to prevent wildlife scavenging.
If they are introduced properly, muzzles can be accepted in the same way as a collar and lead. On the other hand, forcing a muzzle on a dog can not only increase a dogs’ stress (and potentially worsen aggression), but it can also allow the dog to cause significant self-harm, and harm to others.  
Among the many choices available, ‘basket’ style muzzles are the choice from our Consultant Behaviorist Dr Nicole Gunton as these are much less constrictive than the nylon muzzles and still allow the dog to drink, pant and take small treats.
With any desensitisation training, it is important to monitor stress levels through observation of the dogs’ body language. If at any point, their stress levels increase past a ‘Level 4’, it’s important to reassess the situation and consider stepping back a notch either to the previous step or to a modified version of the current step. Please refer to the ‘stress-o-meter’ for further information on stress levels.


We recommend Baskerville Ultra Muzzles made by ‘Company of Animals’.
These are easy to use, very sturdy and easy to clean.
Baskerville muzzles come in a variety of sizes ranging from 1 (smallest) to 6 (largest).
Sizing details are located on the corresponding product page on our website


The following steps are provided as a general guide; however, you may feel the need to modify these steps into smaller ‘graduations’ if your dog’s stress levels are inhibiting you from moving forward.
For each day that you practice, it is recommended that you start off at step 1 and work your way through the steps. This will ensure a more successful training session rather than risking your dog feeling overwhelmed and failing.
1. Spread some peanut butter or vegemite on the inside of the muzzle. Allow the dog to lick the spread off. Repeat this several times each day

Make it a game (or a trick) for your dog to slip their head in themselves.

Praise them while they lick the spread off the muzzle.

Helpful Tips: 

o   Frequent short sessions are more valuable than longer sessions less frequently.  


o   Timing for treat and praise is critical to get right, especially in the early stages of ‘shaping’ a new behaviour.  


o   Be careful not to inadvertently reward aggression or fear. If a behaviour is not what you are seeking, ignore and do not praise or treat.

o   If your dog does not like peanut butter or vegemite, experiment with other foods which can be spread or placed inside of the muzzle.  


o   Remember not to go too fast too quickly! Seek out ‘small wins’ and use this as a marker to complete your session on a positive note.  


o   Make sure that wearing the muzzle is always a positive experience for your dog.  


o   Never take the muzzle off if your dog is pawing at it.  Instead, distract him (for example with a ball, toy or command) and then remove the muzzle once he has stopped.  


o   Never leave the muzzle on your dog when you are not at home or able to supervise them.

2. Still using spread to lure them in, allow them to place their nose into the muzzle and then gently hold it on them for a few seconds. Gradually increase this time to 30 seconds and then eventually 1 minute.

Praise them while they lick the spread off the muzzle and while they are calmly accepting the muzzle being held on their face. You can sweeten the deal by giving them another treat immediately after removing the muzzle too.

3. Repeat step 2 but this time do the muzzle up. Start them off wearing the muzzle for a few seconds, and then work your way up accordingly. A great training goal would be 30 minutes.

Praise them while they lick the spread off the muzzle and while they are calmly accepting the muzzle being held on their face. You can sweeten the deal by giving them another treat immediately after removing the muzzle too.


Sometimes if a skill is not used for a while, it can be forgotten. The same goes for desensitisation, especially in cases where a dog has underlying anxiety issues. If at any point post desensitisation, the dogs’ attitude towards the muzzle changes, work out which step they are from the above guide and then re-initiate desensitisation practice from the step before.


Further Comments:

Muzzles are a management tool and can be used to prevent your dog from causing harm in situations where he may show aggression. They do not address the cause of the aggression, and muzzles should therefore be used as a management strategy, whilst working though a behaviour modification plan.

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