Muzzles are often not introduced until the dog is a ready stressed or having a fearful reaction. When you introduce a muzzle in this stressful encounter, the dog may associate the muzzle with the unpleasant experiences.
Teaching your dog to be comfortable with a muzzle before a stressful experience can be very beneficial. By associating the muzzle with pleasant things like treats and play, you can positively impact a potentially stressful encounter. Your dog will also already be comfortable with the sensation of a muzzle, so this new experience won't add unnecessary anxiety to the situation.
Getting Your Dog Used to the Muzzle
Keep training sessions short. During the training session, you'll give your dog lots of treats and praise while he is wearing the muzzle. When the muzzle is off, take away the treats and praise. You'll build the association that the muzzle means tasty, fun rewards!
When you introduce your dog to the muzzle, have lots of tasty treats available. You'll teach your dog the muzzle means yummy food is coming!
Show your dog the muzzle. Let your dog interact with the muzzle by looking at it or touching it. Reward him with a treat and praise. Don't rush him; let the dog choose to approach the muzzle.
Open the muzzle so your dog can put his nose through the nose portion. Invite your dog to put his nose through the muzzle by holding a treat on the other side. Make sure your dog is doing this at his own pace. Forcing the muzzle on his nose will likely make him fearful or uncomfortable.
When your dog is excited to put his nose through the muzzle and get the treat, clip the neck strap closed. Continue rewarding your dog with treats and praise as he wears the muzzle. Keep the muzzle on for a few seconds.
Remove the muzzle and take away the treats. Then put the muzzle back on and give lots of treats and praise again. Do this several times. As your dog feels more comfortable, slowly increase how long you keep the muzzle on.
Practice this during short training sessions over several days. The more positive experiences your dog has with the muzzle the better! Add playtime while he's wearing the muzzle. This means your dog will be less stressed when he needs to be muzzled.