Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Muzzling Up

While 99.9% of the time Luke is a very easy laid back dog, he is pretty fearful in new situations, especially with unknown people handling him. Because in a couple very terrifying situations in the past Luke has bit so he could get away I decided to teach him how to tolerate a muzzle and actually not just tolerate it but instead see a muzzle as a positive thing. All dogs should be exposed to muzzling because if there is an emergency and they need to be muzzled because of pain it won't be one more scary thing being thrown at them. But for a fearful dog a muzzle will keep others safe and in turn that keeps them safe as well. An added bonus to a muzzle is it makes people keep their distance which is exactly what I want them to do since the last thing I want strangers doing is grabbing at Luke. They may mean well but my job is to keep Luke feeling safe and comfortable so I make sure we keep to ourselves when out in public.

I want to stress that Luke is not a scary, aggressive, nasty dog. He is a dog who gets frightened in some very specific situations and my job as his current "person" is to make him and everyone else feel safe and protected in those situations.

Luke desperately needs his nails trimmed and he finds nail trims very frightening. In fact one of the times in the past when he bit was when a man was cutting his nails. I am also working with him to help nail trimming be less scary but we don't have time to fully work through that. His nails need to be trimmed now. So we will be going to the vet later in the week and I want to be at the point where he won't associate the muzzle with a scary trip to the vet or a blood draw or a nail trim. Instead it will be something that he is very used to that will just happen to come with us on our  trip.

For the past few weeks I've been working with him by just feeding him yummy treats from his muzzle. He sticks in his snout and chows down. This week we moved to the next step: actually strapping on the muzzle.

So when I strapped on that muzzle for the first time I used a super high value treat for Luke: hot dogs. As soon as it was buckled I started rapidly pushing bits of hot dog through the opening in the front of the cage muzzle and Luke gladly chowed down. After a short bit of this I took the muzzle off and then offered him a jackpot of a handful of hot dog bits.

Well he thought that was so amazing that he followed me around and sniffed the muzzle a bunch after our practice session hoping for more hot dog to appear. We've been doing this two to three times a day so by the time our vet appointment rolls around on Thursday he will be able to wear the muzzle without any fear or discomfort. Wish us luck!

If you are interested in learning more about muzzle training be sure to check out this blog post: Muzzle Training for Everyone! There are at least 4 other posts about muzzle training that follow this one and it will walk you through the steps of teaching a dog to enjoy muzzling with how to videos included to show the process.

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