How to muzzle train your dog


  • Muzzles can be extremely useful for:
    • Nervous dogs
    • Dogs that eat things they shouldn’t
    • Dogs with a high prey drive
    • Procedures at the vets
    • Dogs that are required by law to wear a muzzle in public.
  • Always introduce a muzzle in a positive way, so your dog is confident and happy wearing it.
  • Muzzle training should be done at your dog’s pace, in several short sessions over a few weeks.

Training your dog to wear a muzzle

It’s important to muzzle-train your dog using rewards to ensure they think of it positively. Don't be tempted to skip training and simply put the muzzle on your dog - this is likely to scare them and make it progressively harder to put it on each time you try.

Step 1 – Introduce the muzzle

  • Positively introduce the muzzle by placing it on the floor with ‘high value’ (yummy) treats in and around it.
  • Give them their meals next to the muzzle for a few days.

Step two – Nose in the muzzle

  • Once your dog is comfortable with the sight of their muzzle (i.e. they don’t react, or react positively to it), start encouraging them to put their nose into it by giving them treats through the gaps.
  • Start with gaps close to the entrance, then gradually move the treats further into the muzzle until your dog is happy to take one from the end.
  • Repeat this over several training sessions until your dog is totally comfortable putting their nose right to the end of the muzzle. Ideally, they should think ‘treats’ and voluntarily put their nose into the muzzle as soon as you get it out.

Step three – Hold the straps

  • Start holding (but not fastening) the muzzle straps behind your dog’s ears and give them a treat.
  • Hold them for just a few seconds before gradually building up.
  • Repeat until your dog is totally comfortable having the straps held behind their ears.
  • If your dog shakes the muzzle off, don't tell them off. Go back a step, take the training a bit more slowly, and remain patient.

Step four – Leave the muzzle on

  • Fasten the muzzle and give your dog a treat. As soon as they have finished their treat, take the muzzle off.
  • Repeat this process, gradually increasing how long your dog wears the muzzle for each time.
  • Try a little walk around the house/garden together with the muzzle on.
  • Remove it if they seem stressed at any point.
  • Try putting the muzzle on in different situations, such as outside your house, on a walk, with another dog around, whilst at the park, and at the vets.
  • When your dog is used to their muzzle and happy wearing it, you should be able to put it on and go for walks without any problems.
  • Keep making it a positive experience with regular treats and rewards.

Step five – Keep practicing

  • Even if your dog only needs to wear their muzzle occasionally, it’s worthwhile putting it on regularly and rewarding them with a treat so they remember it’s a good thing.

Things to avoid when muzzle training

  • Never rush.
  • Never use a muzzle as punishment, it should always be a positive experience.
  • Never leave your dog alone with their muzzle on as they could get caught and injure themselves.

My dog is frightened of their muzzle

If your dog is frightened or has struggled to wear a muzzle in the past, you’ll need to take their training extra slow to build their confidence. It might take a little more time to get them feeling comfortable, but – as the saying goes – it’s never too late to teach an old dog a new trick!

If your dog seems stressed during their training, stop and try again another day. If you are struggling to make any progress, contact an accredited behaviourist for advice.

Which type of muzzle should I get for my dog?

A photo of a dog wearing a muzzle
  • When choosing a muzzle, it’s important to make sure:
    • It fits comfortably and doesn’t come off easily.
    • It allows your dog to open their mouth to pant and drink.
    • It allows excellent airflow so your dog doesn’t overheat while wearing it.
    • It’s made of a durable material that won’t break.

Our vets recommend a basket muzzle because they are usually big enough to allow dogs to open their mouth fully, have excellent airflow, and gaps wide enough for treats to be passed through. You can buy basket muzzles in most pet shops and also from our PDSA Pet Store.

Muzzles that hold the mouth shut can be helpful in short-term situations, such as whilst at the vets. However, they should never be used for longer than a few minutes because they restrict your dog’s ability to pant and drink. If used over a longer period, this type of muzzle is likely to cause distress, and can even lead to life-threatening problems such as heatstroke.

Choosing the right size muzzle for your dog

Most muzzle brands come with recommended sizes for each breed. If you’re not sure which size will fit your dog, follow the guidance by measuring the length of their nose (from the tip to the point just below their eyes) and around the widest part of their nose (which is usually just below their eyes).

It’s also important to check that:

  • There is roughly 1cm space between your dog’s nose and the end of their muzzle - their nose shouldn’t touch the end of it.
  • Your dog can easily open their mouth to pant and drink while wearing it.
  • The straps aren’t too tight – you should be able to slip one finger between them and your dog.
  • Your dog can’t shake or pull the muzzle off.

Muzzling flat-faced breeds

It’s essential to be very careful when muzzling flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Pekingese, and French Bulldogs as they often struggle with their breathing and a muzzle can make it worse. In addition, it can be very tricky to find a muzzle that fits a flat-faced breed because of the shape of their face. Speak to your vet for advice if you need to find a muzzle for your flat-faced breed. 

Published: July 2022

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.