I ran into Chirag Patel at ClickerExpo last year. He showed me a Baskerville muzzle and asked what I thought of the design. “I’d like to try it,” I said. “I’m thinking of making a video on muzzle conditioning.”
“I have one,” he said. “Have you seen it?”
I hadn’t. And I soon realized there wasn’t a need for me to make another one.
Chirag’s is excellent. Two days ago I lent my mother that same Baskerville muzzle for her dog (a rescue still not entirely comfortable with veterinary handling, who was going in for surgery) and just referred her to Chirag’s video for the necessary instruction.
Why muzzle training, you ask? Not every dog needs to know how to wear a muzzle happily. And of course I don’t recommend using a muzzle instead of training a dog! But sometimes a dog might needs to be muzzled:
- Muzzling a dog can often make the humans around him more comfortable, which in turn reduces the dog’s stress (and the likelihood of unwanted behavior). This can be the case when a formerly-reactive or aggressive dog graduates to returning to the situations where he had trouble before, and the owner is worried; a muzzle allows the owner to relax and concentrate on continuing the training.
- Muzzling a dog can create an environment to keep the dog more comfortable. I had a troubled rescue dog, surrendered for aggression, who did not enjoy having her personal space invaded! but who was a terribly cute and attractive dog frequently subjected to people rushing to greet her. A bright red muzzle (which she was happy to wear) was a far more effective deterrent than a human repeatedly insisting that strangers not try to hug her.
- A dog in training but is not yet behaviorally ready for a stressful situation which cannot be avoided — as in the case of my mother’s dog needing surgery — might need a muzzle to keep humans safe around her and prevent the dog gaining a bite history. The muzzle doesn’t replace training, but it keeps everyone safe while training isn’t quite there yet.
In all of these cases, the muzzle works best when the dog views it as just another piece of equipment like a leash or collar, rather than a restriction preventing personal defense. In human terms, the muzzle should be an awkwardly large piece of jewelry rather than handcuffs. Train the dog to wear it for fun first!
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