What happens when you pick up your dog’s leash?  If your dog is like most, he gets very excited. This is despite the fact that the leash is a restraint tool and your dog should want to avoid it.  He doesn’t mind because the leash is associated with a something fun…going for a walk! A basket muzzle, like a leash, is a restraint tool and can be conditioned to signify “good things are coming” if you take the care and time to make a gradual introduction.

Step 1

  • Smear spray cheese or peanut butter on the inside of the basket muzzle.
  • Show your dog the muzzle and allow him to put his nose inside to lick the food.  Do not allow him to lick the food from the outside of the muzzle.  Praise and pet your dog while he is enjoying his treat.
  • Take the muzzle away before he finishes the food.  Put the muzzle behind your back and ignore your dog long enough for him to start looking for more food, usually only a few seconds.
  • Repeat (putting more food inside if necessary) several more times in one practice session.  Sessions should last no more than 5 minutes initially and occur at least 2-3 times a day.  
  • You may also insert long, skinny treats through the gaps in the muzzle.  Move to the next step when your dog is excited to see you pick up the muzzle and does not seem hesitant or stiff about putting his nose inside.

Step 2

  • Continue as before, but fasten and unfasten the straps while your dog is eating.  To start, unfasten the straps as soon as you have fastened them, but gradually delay this while still taking care to unfasten BEFORE your dog finishes the food.
  • Next, leave the muzzle fastened after the food is gone, but while you engage your dog in a game of chase or training using additional treats.  Take care to remove the muzzle before your dog loses interest in what you are doing.
  • Move to the next step when your dog is comfortable wearing the muzzle for at least 15 minutes.

Step 3

  • Use the muzzle as a safety precaution if you are worried about the potential for biting during behavior modification for the following situations: visitors in your home, nail trimming/grooming, veterinary visits.
  • When you are using the muzzle for events that are stressful for your dog, you will need to continue to put the muzzle on for fun activities to avoid negative associations with the muzzle.
  • Never put the muzzle on your dog when you are angry or frustrated or as punishment for bad behavior.