A Method of Muzzle Training
By Louise Hoelscher, POETA Whippets
When I introduce my pups to racing, I want their focus to be on the lure,
not on the muzzle that's strapped to their heads, and not on the noisy
enclosed starting boxes. So I break up race training into three components:
muzzle training, box training, and chasing the lure with focus. Only when all
three components have been taught separately do I combine them.
This is how I introduce the muzzle to a dog (usually around 5-6 months old).
Using a plastic basket type muzzle, I open the strap and place the front of
the muzzle into the palm of my hand. I take a small piece of roast beef (or
some other tasty morsel), show it to the dog and then drop it into the muzzle
(and the palm of my hand against the muzzle). I hold the muzzle towards the
dog without pushing it at him. I let the dog poke his nose into the muzzle
to get the treat. At this point I am not touching the dog and I am not pushing
the muzzle onto his nose. It's his choice to go get the treat. I do this several
times until the dog is eagerly reaching in for his treat.
For the next step I hold the muzzle up without a treat inside and let the dog
poke his nose in or I gently slide the muzzle over the dog's nose, and the
instant his nose is all the way in, I start pushing a treat through the front
for him to take. I will push several treats through the front, one after the
other as quickly as I can as long as he keeps his nose in.
At the next muzzle training session, I will repeat the above a couple of
times. Once I feel the dog is very comfortable with this game, I will slide
the strap on behind his ears and then feed through the front of the muzzle
again, one treat after the other so that he doesn't fuss. It's important to
start feeding before the dog has a chance to start fussing. After 5-6 treats,
I quickly remove the muzzle and give him one last treat for playing the game.
At every subsequent training session I leave the muzzle on for a little longer
than the previous time, but I always continue to feed so that the dog never
has a chance to fuss.
The last step is waiting in between treats, first for a few seconds, then
longer and longer, until the dog can wear the muzzle for several minutes
without pawing at it. It's important throughout this training to never feed
when the dog is pawing at the muzzle. No fussing is what gets rewarded.
If the dog does fuss and paw at the muzzle I simply wait until he stops
and as soon as he does stop I say "good" or "yes" and start feeding
Eventually I can leave the muzzle on for quite awhile and the dog is
happy to be wearing it because he knows a treat will follow.
The dogs I have trained using this method see a muzzle and jam their
noses right in.