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.