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7 Reasons to Muzzle Train Your Dog

7 Reasons to Muzzle Train Your Dog

If your dog isn’t a bite risk, why would you ever need to muzzle train your dog?

Because muzzles rock. Truly. 

They have a poor connotation associated with aggressive dogs, but the truth is, they can be incredibly useful tools for any dog. Yes, even the most friendly of dogs can benefit from wearing a muzzle.

It’s time to embrace muzzles and understand how and why they can be used as a beneficial tool for dogs.

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Why You Should Muzzle Train Your Dog

Muzzles aren’t just for aggressive dogs! They can serve a number of useful purposes that keep your dog and others safe in a variety of situations.

Below, I outline several common circumstances where a dog may need to wear a muzzle.

Veterinary Visits

Most dogs are pretty stressed when they visit their vet and can act out in uncharacteristic ways, including biting.

If your dog has a lot of anxiety during veterinary visits, a muzzle is an important tool that will make the visit safer for the veterinarian.

To Protect Your Dog and Others

If you own a reactive dog, a muzzle will help you be able to get outdoors and navigate public areas safely.

While you’re working on the reactivity with training, teaching your dog to wear a muzzle will allow you to test your dog around triggers without worry.

Grooming

The first and only time I took Sitka to a groomer, he bit the sleeve of the person cutting his nails (thank god she was wearing a huge sweatshirt) and they promptly muzzled him after that. It was awful because he was still fairly new to me and hadn’t been muzzle trained.

I worked on nail trimming sensitivity so I could cut his nails myself after that. Some dogs will just never enjoy having their nails trimmed and will have to be muzzled for the job.

Public Transit

In Europe, and I imagine elsewhere, dogs are allowed to ride on public transport, provided they wear a muzzle.

In the US, I think it’s less common that dogs are allowed on public transit. I’m not sure about the muzzle rules, but I would absolutely muzzle my dog on public transit. 

The overwhelming and confined spaces are exactly the environment where a dog may react out of fear because they cannot escape easily.

In Case of Emergency

Let’s say your dog becomes injured during a hike and you need to take a look at the injury. Your usually happy-go-lucky pup may not be so keen on you handling their injury and bite. 

Dogs in severe pain or who are stressed can react in uncharacteristic ways, having a muzzle handy will prevent any bites from happening in an already stressful situation. 

Remember, if you are injured, then you can no longer help your dog.

To Prevent “Hoovering”

I used to have a dog that would “Hoover” the sidewalk. Before I learned about prong collars, she would just try and eat up anything she found on the street.

I didn’t know how to stop her from doing this, so our veterinarian recommended that we muzzle train her to prevent the behavior.

Some dogs will eat anything they can find, and street snacks may not always be safe for dogs to consume. 

This is especially important if you are traveling in a country where people leave out poisonous meat for dogs (unfortunately, this is a fairly common occurrence in a lot of countries with large street dog populations).

Deter People from Approaching Your Dog

Whether your dog is friendly or reactive, but you are tired of random people and dogs approaching your dog without permission, a muzzle is a great visual deterrent.

Because of the connotation muzzles have with aggressive dogs, people will be more likely to steer clear of your dog.

As an Alternative to a Cone

If your pet has ever had to wear the Cone of Shame, then you’re well aware of how uncomfortable they can be.

Some dogs may prefer to wear a muzzle instead of the cone, depending on the injury or wound. If they are already conditioned to wearing a muzzle, then it may make the healing process less stressful for them.

Choosing the Right Muzzle for Your Dog

As muzzles increase in popularity, there are some pretty cool ones available that help make them seem less scary. 

There are several small businesses that will make custom muzzles to ensure proper fit. Custom muzzles are a good idea if your dog requires wearing their muzzle regularly or if they are a short-nosed breed, like a Pug, Frenchie, or Boston Terrier

There are three main different types of muzzles available:

  • Basket muzzles
  • Soft muzzles

Basket Muzzles

Basket muzzles are the most common style of muzzle. They can be made from a number of materials, including plastic, metal, leather or biothane and create a sort of cage around the dog’s muzzle to prevent biting. Adjustable straps attach behind the dog’s ears to secure the muzzle in place.

Keep in mind that some basket muzzles are not fully bite proof. If you require a muzzle that is fully bite proof, I highly recommend a custom muzzle.

Soft Muzzles

If your dog requires a muzzle for veterinary visits, short trips on public transit, or emergencies, soft muzzles are ideal for short-term use.  

They are generally made from a nylon or mesh material and are very light weight. Since they are more packable, they are ideal for traveling or hiking.

Dogs cannot pant effectively while wearing soft muzzles, so it is crucial that they not wear these types of muzzles for long periods of time or in very hot weather.

Emergency Muzzle

If you find yourself requiring a muzzle in an emergency situation, then there are a couple of options to create a makeshift muzzle.

When would such a situation arise?

If you are hiking and your dog becomes injured, they may not be agreeable to you touching the injury. Car accidents can cause dogs to react and act out in uncharacteristic ways as well.

You can use your dog’s leash or a shoelace to create a temporary muzzle by looping the tool twice around your dog’s muzzle, twisting it once below the chin, and securing it behind your dog’s ears.

This video demonstrates how to do this using a leash.

How to Properly Fit a Muzzle

When it comes to finding an appropriate muzzle for your dog, you’ll want to ensure that the fit is right. A properly-fitting muzzle should be snug, but not tight.

If the muzzle is too loose, your dog can paw it off. A muzzle that is too tight can restrict your dog’s ability to properly breathe, drink water, and pant. 

You should be able to fit one finger between your dog’s head and the straps

While wearing a muzzle, it is imperative that your dog still be able to pant, breathe properly, and drink water. If they are not able to do this, then the muzzle does not fit correctly.

Find the Best Muzzle for Your Dog

Now that there are so many muzzle options available on the market, it can be a little overwhelming to know what to pick. Here are my top picks for the best muzzles.

Baskerville muzzle for dogs

Best All-Around: Baskerville Ultra Muzzle 

Baskerville Muzzles are probably the most well-known muzzles on the market. They are very affordable and allow panting, drinking, and proper breathing, and include adjustable straps to ensure proper fit.

Baskerville Muzzles are durable and ideal for daily dog walks, safe socialization, veterinary visits, and grooming visits.

This is the muzzle I have for my dog. Since we use it rarely, I don’t feel the need to have a more secure muzzle for him. If your dog is a serious bite risk, these are not the ideal option for them.

Coastal Pet Products Muzzle for dogs

Best for Short Term Use: Coastal Pet Products Adjustable Mesh Muzzle

As mentioned above, mesh muzzles are ideal for short term use. This one from Coastal Pet Products includes a fully adjustable nylon strap and is made from mesh to allow for airflow and breathability.

I keep one of these in my first aid kit in case of backcountry emergencies.

This muzzle is best used for travel on public transit, hiking or backpacking.

Best Custom Muzzle: Khaos Kollars

If you have a dog that is a serious bite risk, have a short nose, or they have to wear a muzzle very regularly, I highly recommend a custom muzzle. Khaos Kollars is a Canadian company that makes fun, colorful, custom biothane and leather muzzles for dogs.

Khaos Kollars allow plenty of room for panting, even on hot days, are adjustable in two spots, fully bite-proof, and come with a lifetime warranty. 

The owner is responsible for following the sizing guide correctly. If the sizing is incorrect, Khaos Kollars will adjust accordingly, but shipping costs will fall on the dog owner.

Custom muzzles can be pricey (Khaos Kollars start at $50) and can take some time between order and delivery (sometimes up to two months), but they are 100% worth it to keep your dog and others safe.

Training Your Dog to Wear a Muzzle

Muzzle training can take some time, but with a few short sessions daily over a few weeks, your dog should have no problem getting used to wearing a muzzle.

The steps below are what I did to condition my dog to wearing a muzzle.

  1. Place the muzzle on the ground. Mark and reward for any interaction with it. Do this several times.
  2. Hold the muzzle in your hand and do the same. Repeat several times.
  3. Hold the muzzle in one hand and a treat in the other, on the outside of the nose of the muzzle. When your dog sticks their snout into the muzzle, mark, and reward through the muzzle. Repeat several times.
  4. Once your dog does this without you needing to hold a treat at the nose of the muzzle, you can name the command. I simply call it “muzzle.” Say the word, mark, and reward. Repeat several times.
  5. The next step is to clip the straps around your dog’s head. I started by simply holding them together, then marking and rewarding, releasing my dog from the muzzle. Eventually, buckle the straps, and immediately mark and reward. Gradually increase the amount of time before marking. Try to catch your dog before they try to paw off the muzzle.
  6. Once your dog can fully wear the muzzle, start doing fun things with them while they wear it, like play, tricks, or obedience drills. This way, they’ll start to associate the muzzle with regular, everyday things.

It’s important to train your dog to wear a muzzle, even if they don’t wear one regularly. You don’t want to need them to wear a muzzle in a given situation only to have to fight with them to get it on.

I practiced with Sitka until he felt comfortable wearing it and understood the command. Now, we refresh once a month or so.

Think muzzles are for "bad dogs" only? Think again! There are plenty of reasons to muzzle train your dog and I explain why in this post.

Diane Santarella Lawrence

Tuesday 21st of June 2022

Thanks so much for this article. I have a rescue who has some reactivity issues and I have been wondering about muzzle training recently. My biggest concern was which muzzle to go with! Too many choices. We got Viggo at about 2 years old, right before Covid hit, so he has not had enough regular socialization due to lockdown and no visitors, etc. We have two young grandchildren and he has never met them, but that day is inevitable. I would so much rather comfortably muzzle him and keep everyone safe than to forever regret a split second that could change everyones lives.

BTW, You might want to reconsider the wording at the end of step 5: "Try to beat your dog before they try to paw off the muzzle." It made me giggle because I understood what you meant...but nobody should beat their dog (wink)! Thanks so much for being a great resource for those of us with 'sensitive' dogs. -Diane

Jen Sotolongo

Wednesday 22nd of June 2022

Yay for actively planning for safety for Viggo and your grandchildren! I hope the options listed are of some help, and thanks for the wording suggestion. I guess I didn't read this one aloud! Ha!

David Miller

Tuesday 21st of June 2022

Great article and advice.

For quality custom fit wire cage basket muzzles, I recommend,

fordogtrainers.com

For detailed conditioning procedures and videos refer to:

https://muzzleupproject.com/

I have no association with either source except as a customer and user.

There is no better or cheaper insurance against unwanted mishaps than a muzzle.

Jen Sotolongo

Wednesday 22nd of June 2022

Thanks so much for providing some options for folks!