Muzzle training appointments
Discover more about booking muzzle training appointments in the clinic environment.
Muzzle training appointments are for puppies and dogs without any prior experience of wearing a muzzle, and involve an owner presenting their dog to practice muzzle training in the clinic environment.
Where veterinary clinics have a member of the team who is an accredited dog training instructor, for example, registered with the Animal Behaviour and Training Council, this could become a unique bespoke service to provide expert guidance for owners.
However, veterinary professionals without dog training experience or qualifications may learn how to train a dog to wear a muzzle to be able to provide owners with this guidance and support.
Benefits of muzzle training appointments
Being able to comfortably wear a muzzle is a very valuable skill for a dog. There might be unavoidable moments in any dog’s life where an emotional or painful condition could lead them to behave aggressively.
Clinics offering proactive muzzle training appointments are likely to reap the benefits should those dogs ever need to be muzzled during times of injury, illness, or painful intervention. Muzzling increases the veterinary team's safety as well as enabling interventions that improve treatment outcomes.
How long it takes for a dog to become used to wearing a muzzle will vary between individuals, so it isn’t possible to place a timeline on this type of training or a number of appointments required.
An initial appointment can be scheduled to introduce a standard muzzle training programme to owners, and ensure they understand how to progress the steps safely, so their dog is always enjoying the learning process.
Owners can then be encouraged to book subsequent appointments for their dog to have the opportunity to practice in a clinical setting.
How does it feel to wear a muzzle?
Many types are available, but only recommend muzzles which are comfy and secure, and through which dogs may eat, drink and pant.
Muzzling can prevent the physical acts of biting and scavenging, but it doesn’t change the way a dog is feeling or reduce their desire to bite or scavenge.
For a dog, having a muzzle fitted might therefore become associated with feelings of frustration, lack of control and inability to behave as desired.
Because puppies have no preconceptions or prior negative experiences, starting muzzle training very young can rule out poor associations and build in positive experiences from the outset. Fortunately, with reward-based training, puppies learn good associations very quickly.
If muzzle training is a routine part of every puppy’s education – for example, practising wearing a muzzle at different times within a variety of locations – then dogs should not feel worried by the presence of a muzzle.
Should the owner muzzle their dog or should the vet/nurse do it?
Within a clinic, muzzling is commonly delegated to the dog’s owner, as they are likely to have the most positive and trusting relationship with the dog.
However, to muzzle their dog effectively within the clinic, owners must understand how to fit the muzzle correctly and be physically able to manipulate it as necessary.
They also need to be physically and psychologically able to handle their dog safely, at a time when both they and their dog are likely to be experiencing stress.
Fitting the muzzle might therefore fall to the vet or nurse, and with a dog who is becoming more and more distressed, this increases tension for everyone involved.
They might get lucky and manage to quickly get the muzzle on the first time. However, the dog may learn to anticipate this when the situation arises again, and it is unlikely to be as easy the next time.
Dogs who are only ever muzzled within the veterinary clinic might very quickly associate the presentation of the muzzle with unpleasant feelings and experiences which they’ve learned happen in succession.
Once a dog has learned this association, it can become very difficult to fit a muzzle in the clinic. A dog who has become sensitised to the sight of a muzzle is likely to try to avoid it. They might try to hide, escape, or behave aggressively.
Professional support for dogs who are worried, fearful, or frustrated by muzzles
Owners of dogs who are worried about the presence or application of a muzzle should seek advice from their vet, who may recommend obtaining professional support from an accredited behaviourist for an individualised muzzle training programme.
How to teach a puppy or dog who has never worn a muzzle before to wear a muzzle
There are many ways to teach a dog to comfortably wear a muzzle, using enjoyable and rewarding methods. A standard approach for muzzle training puppies and dogs without any previous experience is available in this muzzle training article, along with a step-by-step guide to which owners can be signposted.
In a succession of muzzle training appointments, owners may be supported through teaching their puppy the gradual steps to wearing a muzzle comfortably.
It will be difficult to predict just how many appointments this might take, as every puppy and owner will learn at their own pace.
However, owners can be advised that the more they are able to practice at home – and the more positive experiences their puppy has with muzzle training both at home and in the clinic – the better prepared they will be should they ever be required to wear one for real.
Book at least one appointment for the owner to be talked through the step-by-step process, and commence the first step in the clinic. This will provide an opportunity for the owner to feel supported by the clinic team and to ask any additional questions they might have about their puppy’s health and welfare.
The owner can then be asked to practice at home and book a subsequent appointment to expand their training in the veterinary environment when they’re feeling confident, or sooner should they require assistance.
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Disclaimer notice: The advice given on this website [in these materials] is intended for your general information only and should not be relied upon as specific advice for any veterinary practice or clinic. Each veterinary practice or clinic will be unique in its physical environment and each dog attending the veterinary practice or clinic will have specific needs and requirements, which the veterinary practice or clinic is solely responsible for. Unless prohibited by law, Dogs Trust and the British Veterinary Behaviour Association do not accept liability to any person veterinary practice or clinic relating to the use of this information.