nervous, timid, fearful, arthritic and injured dogs should also be gently and humanely muzzled during grooming to protect themselves and the groomer. even the most calm and gentle dog can snap or bite during grooming if she is overwhelmed by fear or pain. older dogs often have tender joints or sore spots that aren’t apparent until the joint is flexed or the sore spot is touched during grooming. a muzzle allows the owner or groomer to safely teach a fearful dog that grooming can be a pleasant experience, and work gently around tender places on older or injured dogs. these muzzles allow access to most of the face for grooming and are easy to put on. full muzzles are similar to grooming muzzles, except that they cover the end of the nose so there is no chance for the dog to nip. while providing a little more safety, they usually cover more of the face and have wider straps behind the ears, making it more difficult to groom around the muzzle.
they can be more difficult for grooming, however, because they are bulky and tend to bump the groomer’s arms and hands while she is working. nylon and leather grooming and full muzzles should be snug, giving the dog only just enough room to open his mouth for breathing. a muzzle that is too large may appear to provide protection against bites, but a dog will be able to open his mouth enough to bite. when a muzzle that keeps the jaw closed is in place, the dog cannot pant and could easily overheat or become stressed from being unable to breathe easily. this type of muzzle should only be in place for a short time and removed when the dog is not being handled. working slowly and patiently, and completing the grooming in small steps works with some nervous dogs. your veterinarian may also prescribe a sedative to keep the dog calm enough for grooming without a muzzle.
just as a dog becomes excited with anticipation at the site of its leash and collar, the same can be done with a muzzle if conditioned to do so. now that we have gotten that out of the way let’s get into the methods used to actually create a positive association between your dog and the muzzle to make grooming at home a much more pleasant experience for both human and dog.
if this requires that you get a muzzle for a larger breed then so be it, remember that we are trying to create a positive experience when while we muzzle train the dog. if by chance your dog is exceptionally strong willed you may find it necessary to place them in a sit-stay, and apply correction as you would for any behavior when attempt to remove the muzzle are made. once your dog reaches the point that the muzzle is not a negative but associated with a positive experience it will only be necessary to repeat this drill once a week or once every two week so long as your dog remains positive about the experience.
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