The PDSA has shared tips to help dog owners train their pets to wear a muzzle as XL Bullies will be required to wear one from the end of the year.

American XL Bullies that are out in public will need to wear a muzzle and remain on a lead at all times from Sunday December 31, 2023.

The PDSA says that muzzle training can be useful for all breeds of dogs with muzzles being used for different reasons.

“Muzzles can be extremely useful for nervous dogs, dogs that pick things up on walks, trying to eat what they shouldn’t, dogs with a high prey drive or for certain procedures at the vets,” explains PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing.

She added: “Muzzle training can be daunting, and it’s tempting to try to skip training and just put the muzzle on your pet – but this will most likely scare them and make it an uncomfortable experience.

“Wearing a muzzle and muzzle training should always be a positive experience for your dog.”

How to muzzle train your dog

Introduce the muzzle

The PDSA says step one is to introduce the muzzle to your dog. This can be done by placing it on the floor with treats in and around it.

Dog owners can also put the muzzle next to their dogs while they eat for a few days.

Nose in the muzzle

When your dog becomes comfortable with looking at the muzzle, for example they don’t react or they react positively, start encouraging them to put their nose into it.

This can be done while you feed them treats through the holes of the muzzle.

You should start with gaps close to the opening of the muzzle and 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 when they see it.

Hold the straps

Dog owners can then start to hold the straps behind their dog’s ears and give them a treat – it’s important to not fasten the straps at this stage.

Start by holding the straps for a few seconds and then gradually build up the time.

This should be repeated until your dog is totally comfortable with having the straps held behind their ears.

If your dog tries to shake the muzzle off, don’t tell them off. Instead, go back a step, take the training more slowly and remain patient.

Leave the muzzle on

Fasten the muzzle and give your dog a treat through the gap in the muzzle. Once they have finished eating the treat, you should take the muzzle off.

Repeat the process and gradually increase how long your dog wears the muzzle each time.

Walk around your garden or house with your dog as they wear the muzzle. When they’re calm while wearing it, reward them with a treat.

You should remove the muzzle if they become 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 comfortable with wearing a muzzle, you should be able to put it on them and go on walks without any problems.

Dog owners can make wearing a muzzle a positive experience by rewarding their pets with regular treats and rewards.

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Keep practicing

Dog owners should put the muzzle on their dogs regularly and reward them with treats even if they only need to wear it occasionally so they remember it’s a positive thing.

“Never rush or use a muzzle as punishment for your dog,” adds Nina.

“It should always be a positive experience for them. It’s also important to never leave your dog alone with their muzzle on as they could get caught up and injure themselves.”

You can find out more about muzzle training and which muzzle to buy via the PDSA website.

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“It’s important to make sure your dog’s muzzle fits comfortably and doesn’t come off easily,” adds Nina.

“Your chosen muzzle should allow your dog to open their mouth to pant and drink, allow excellent airflow so your dog doesn’t overheat while wearing it, and it should be made of a durable material that won’t break.”

Nina recommends buying a basket muzzle which is available to buy in most pet shops.