Today, I want to talk about an idea. Let’s call it, a dog barking muzzle. The idea of putting a dog muzzle on your puppy might seem unsettling. Does it work? Will it prevent your pet from drinking, breathing, or anything else? Is it painful or cruel?
Perhaps you might feel as a dog owner and pet parent that a dog muzzle is something that will help you with the situation. In this case, excessive barking.
But there are so many aspects and factors you have to consider. It is not as simple as putting a muzzle on your dog and stopping the barking behavior.
Muzzling is a huge topic. And it requires a lot more education. How to use a dog puzzle appropriately? When should you use it? What kind of muzzle do you need to use? Will it help with dog training? Let’s try and answer some of these questions.
When you should use a muzzle?
I am not saying you should never use a muzzle. There is no such thing as 100% anti-muzzle. There are situations when you should try and use it appropriately. For example:
- You can use a muzzle to stop dogs that eat things from the ground
- To stop and prevent nipping and biting at people and other animals
- To temporarily quiet or calm a dog that barks aggressively
- A trip to the vet or groomer can cause your dog to freak out and cause an incident
- When you travel with public transportation in foreign countries
- If it is the law, which means breed-specific legislation, for example, for a German shepherd
Why you shouldn’t use a muzzle?
The problem with muzzling is that it doesn’t always help and it doesn’t specifically help for a behavior problem like excessive barking.
Now, what is the purpose of muzzles? It might seem obvious, but it is to prevent dog bites. They are not preventing problems by forcing your dog’s mouth to be closed. You should not use it for chewing, barking, or similar behavior problems. Here are two important things to remember:
- A muzzle should be used only for a short period of time
- Remember that ongoing problems like a barking dog cannot be solved by short-term uses, they are ongoing issues
If you want to progress with a problem like barking, chewing, separation anxiety, territorial barking, attention-seeking, and similar issues, you need to put patience and effort into your dog training skills.
You should not use a muzzle to put your dog in a stressful situation, like going to the dog park. If your dog cannot handle the dog park, and your friends are going there with their pets, a muzzle will not be the solution.
The same goes for punishment. I have talked previously about how punishment is not a solution. You should not muzzle your puppy to teach a lesson. You will not do it, plain and simple. While we are on the subject, bark collars do not help as well.
Types of muzzles
Generally speaking, there are two types of muzzles. You need to be sure you use the right muzzle for your puppy, meaning style and fit. Only by doing this, you can ensure you have used it properly.
The first type is a basket muzzle, one that looks like a basket strapped to your dog’s nose and mouth. A basket muzzle can be made of leather, plastic, rubber, wire, or other materials. Dogs do seem comfortable with basket muzzles, more than they do with soft muzzles. Why? Because their mouth isn’t held closed.
A soft muzzle is made from fabric like mesh or nylon, sometimes leather. It is basically a muzzle that wraps around your dog’s mouth and holds it closed. This is why if you have to use a muzzle, a soft muzzle is not something I would recommend.
Soft muzzles should be used for extremely short periods because they prevent your dog from panting, which is the canine version of sweating. Never use a soft muzzle in hot weather. And never use it for a long period.
With that in mind, you might make a homemade dog barking muzzle. I recommend this only when you have no other choice. It should be used only temporarily. Improvising with a roll of gauze or the dog’s leash is not an ideal solution. And should be used only as a last resort.
Understanding why your dog barks
I said the big reason why a dog owner and pet parent might try to use a muzzle is to prevent compulsive barking. But you have to understand the reason why your dog barks. What is behind the barking? By understanding the reason, you can find a solution for the problem.
- Territorial barking is when dogs protect and guard their territory from people and other animals. Territory can include your property but also places where the dog spends a lot of time
- Because they sense danger, and react to an alarming situation
- Barking as a form of communication and get attention from people
- Barking out of frustration, when your dog is frustrated by the situation, for example, being in a confined space
- Anxious barking, when separation anxiety kicks in and the dog’s anxiety is triggered by the absence of a pet owner
- Barking because of pain caused by injury or illness
Getting Your dog Accustomed to a muzzle
How do you train a dog to accept a dog muzzle? Well, I have to stress something. The first time you put a muzzle on your dog should not be the first time you need to put one on. What do I mean by this?
You cannot just outright put a muzzle on your puppy and expect things to go smoothly. You need to first introduce your dog to the muzzle and get him accustomed to it.
Using positive reinforcement and treats, you need to make sure the muzzle is comfortable for your puppy. Here is how to get there.
- Start by letting your puppy sniff the muzzle and reward with a treat
- Then, touch his nose with the muzzle, give a treat and positive reinforcement, and repeat until your dog shows the muzzle is interesting
- Hold the muzzle with one hand, a treat in your other hand, and try to get your puppy to put his nose inside the muzzle to get the treat. Repeat the step until your dog does it comfortably
- Gently slip the muzzle onto your dogs nose and reward with a treat. Remove the muzzle instantly and repeat a few times
- Put on the muzzle and fasten the buckle, give a treat, remove immediately, and repeat
- Put on the muzzle, fasten, count to five, treat, remove the muzzle, and repeat
- Gradually increase the time your dog wears the muzzle and give treats
How to teach your dog to stop barking?
Now let’s talk about the problem you might have. Using a dog barking muzzle will not help. I hope you understood that by now. What will help is teaching your dog to stop barking on cue/command.
To get your dog to stop barking, you must first have him bark. So, how to do that? Well, you teach the command “speak” or “bark”. For this, we are going to use the basic learning sequence, which is request, lure, response, and reward.
- You request your dog to speak, by saying command speak
- Lure your dog into barking by doing something that triggers compulsive barking
- Wait for your puppy to respond and bark
- Reward barking
You can use any barking trigger, for example, the doorbell. Now, only after your dog can bark on cue, you can teach him to stop barking on command.
- Say the command quiet or Shush
- Bring treat or food to your dog’s nose to sniff since it is impossible to breathe through the nose and bark at the same time
- Wait for your dog to sniff the food and stop barking
- Reward with praise and food
Then, you gradually increase the time between your dog stopping barking and reward with praise and treats. And finally, here are some tips
- Do not shout at your dog while he is barking
- Do not encourage the barking behavior
- Never tell your dog off, it will encourage him to bark even more
- Practice crate training to prevent problems like separation anxiety