Muzzle Training Your Dog: Choosing & Fitting a Muzzle

Author: Cathy Madson, MA, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

Published: October 11, 2022

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Senior hound dog wearing a basket muzzle while out for a leashed walk 600 canvaMuzzle training is helpful for a variety of reasons, and to start you'll need a properly fit basket muzzle for your dog. Depending on the reasons you are muzzle training your dog, you'll also want to make sure the muzzle you choose fits the bill.

There are lots of basket muzzles on the market for dogs, and it's not one-size-fits-all! Some dogs have flat faces, others have long and thin snouts. Your dog's muzzle needs to fit their particular features, be comfortable to wear, and prevent bites.

I'll share my usual go-to's for basket muzzles below and cover how to find the correct fit for your dog. If you have a flat-faced or otherwise hard-to-fit dog, custom-made muzzles are likely the best choice for you, and I'll share my favorite brands. Plus, I'll talk about whether you need to ensure your dog's muzzle is truly "bite-proof" (hint: not all dog muzzles are!).

Once you've found the right muzzle for your dog, you can learn how to get started with muzzle training here.

What Muzzle is Best for Your Dog?

When choosing the best muzzle for your dog, you'll want to first consider the main reason they will be wearing it. Is it to keep your dog from ingesting items off the ground, like rocks or feces? Or is it to prevent bites?

Muzzles for Dogs with Pica or Obsessive Scavenging

In the case of preventing scavenging, you'll need to find a muzzle designed for blocking your dog's access through the front of the muzzle cage. Wire-cage muzzles and many silicone or biothane muzzles may still allow your dog to snag smaller objects and swallow them (or, heaven forbid, squish their muzzle into a pile of poo and lick it clean).

Look for muzzles that have a more tightly-woven front or a front "guard" or anti-scavenge option, like this Baskerville Anti-Scavenging design. Be aware though — these modifications mean that you cannot easily give your dog a treat while they are wearing a muzzle, which may be an important part of training and behavior modification exercises.

Muzzles to Prevent Dog Bites

If you're looking for a muzzle to reduce bite risk, then you will want to consider whether the muzzle is fully bite-proof or not. Basket muzzles made from more pliable materials, such as rubber or biothane, have a little bit of "give" to them. This means that a dog could potentially push into their target and make contact with their teeth through the muzzle or grip a target even with the muzzle on.

Muzzles that are bite-proof tend to be more expensive and can be heavier for the dog to wear depending on the muzzle material. My go-to bite-proof muzzle is the JAFCO, which I feature further below.

However, I often take into account the bite history and bite level in each dog's individual case when helping clients decide what muzzle to use with their dog. Often, we don't need to use the fully bite-proof muzzles if the dog has lower levels of bite behavior or other safety protocols and management are being consistently practiced.frenchie wearing a custom-made basket muzzle

Do you want personalized help deciding what muzzle would be best for your dog? I'm here for you!
Schedule a Virtual 1-on-1 session with me to discuss your dog's muzzle training.

My Top Basket Muzzle Picks

I tend to avoid plastic basket muzzles because I don't trust their sturdiness, they have no "give" for the dog's comfort, and they often don't have enough room in the front of the muzzle to slip treats through to the dog. My usual go-to muzzle options include the Baskerville Ultra and the JAFCO muzzles.

Baskerville Ultra Dog Muzzle

The Baskerville Ultra Dog Muzzle is the most popular "starter" dog muzzle, due to the ease of finding it online and in pet stores. Made from soft rubber, this muzzle is easy to mold using hot water to slightly change the fit. It's lightweight and the muzzle cage openings are large enough to feed treats through.

I like that the Baskerville muzzles have the forehead strap option and a safety clip loop, which is important for dogs who try to slip their muzzle. This muzzle is not bite-proof as it has a good amount of pliability. Baskervilles used to have a belt buckle style closure, but have since switched to a basic clip that's much easier and faster to use.

product baskerville ultra dog muzzleBuy the Baskerville Ultra on Amazon or through the company website here.

JAFCO Dog Muzzle

JAFCO dog muzzles are a great option for many dogs, and I consider them to be much more bite-proof than the Baskerville muzzles. JAFCO muzzles are available in two materials, lightweight polyethylene, and flexible vinyl. I typically prefer the clear vinyl option as it allows me to see the dog's facial signals more clearly — such as lip licking, yawning, or lip curls that can indicate rising stress.

The overall design is more boxy and enclosed than other muzzles but still allows for airflow and drinking water. There is an option for a front treat hole on JAFCO muzzles — if you need a muzzle to prevent scavenging then choose no treat hole, but if you need to work on behavior modification for fear or aggression, then make sure to order one with the treat hole.

product JAFCO dog muzzle with treat hole
Buy a JAFCO muzzle here.

Muzzles for Flat-Faced Dog Breeds

Brachycephalic breeds, like Frenchies, Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers, usually need a specialty or custom-made muzzle. They simply don't have as much real estate on the bridge of their nose for a classic basket muzzle to stay on securely. It's crucial as well to make sure that the muzzle they wear allows for easy breathing, as these breeds are already at a disadvantage when it comes to getting enough oxygen, especially when stressed or when the weather is warm.

product barkless mesh muzzle for short snout dog

The most popular option for short-nosed dogs is mask-like mesh muzzles. They can certainly give your pup a Hannibal Lecter vibe. These mesh muzzles do not allow for easy treat-giving or water drinking simply because of how they are designed and sit over the face. This is why I personally prefer a custom-made muzzle; two brands that I highly recommend are in the next section below.

If you choose a mesh muzzle for your dog, I recommend this Barkless mesh muzzle, which has a "tongue-out" design and has more space between the mask and nose, and provides a way to give your dog treats while they are wearing it.

Depending on how much "schnoz" your dog has, a Baskerville Ultra Muzzle may work. Be sure to measure your dog and compare these measurements to the muzzle dimensions before purchase.

Custom-Made Dog Muzzles

Many dog breeds have hard-to-fit heads for basket muzzles, such as the flat-faced dogs discussed above, but also dogs like Bull Terriers (with their sloping muzzle), and Greyhounds or Collies (with their very long and thin muzzles). And some dogs are too small or too large for many pre-made basket muzzles. If you have a tiny Chihuahua or a giant Great Dane, custom-made is often the easiest option for getting a muzzle that fits correctly and provides the most protection.

Custom-made muzzles are a great option. Not only are they made to your dog's specifications, but you can further personalize them with different options like front guards, treat holes, or even different color combinations. The measurement process can be intensive, so be ready to get out a soft tape measurer and upload photos of your dog for the company. While these muzzles are expensive, they provide the best fit and are high quality.

Bumas Muzzles

Bumas has long been a trusted muzzle brand within the dog trainer community and allows for complete customization based on your needs and your dog's breed and measurements. Made from biothane, a durable, lightweight, and easy-to-clean material, the safety features make this my top pick for custom-made dog muzzles.

product bumas dog muzzleCustomize a Bumas muzzle for your dog here.

Trust Your Dog Muzzles

This up-and-coming brand offers both custom biothane dog muzzles and custom vinyl muzzles. If you're looking for a bite-proof custom-made muzzle, choose the vinyl option. Trust Your Dog also has ready-to-ship biothane and vinyl muzzles if that is your preference but you don't need a custom fit.

product trust your dog muzzleCustomize a Trust Your Dog muzzle here.

How to Measure Your Dog for a Muzzle

To ensure your dog is comfortable wearing their muzzle and that the muzzle provides the most effective bite protection, you need to have a properly fit basket muzzle. Sizes vary between brands, meaning you need to take your dog's measurements and then compare them to the manufacturer's size recommendations. Getting the correct measurements prior to ordering a custom-made dog muzzle is very important — custom-made muzzles are expensive but worth it for many dogs with hard-to-fit muzzles and heads.

You will most often need measurements for the circumference of your dog's snout when their mouth is closed (and open), the length of their snout, and their neck measurements. 

A basket muzzle should have a large enough basket to allow your dog to comfortably open their mouth, pant, and drink water. Choose one designed with a small opening or treat hole at the front so you can easily deliver treats to your dog when they are wearing their muzzle.

Pay attention to the weight of the muzzle! Look for lightweight material, such as biothane.

For a fantastic overview of muzzle fitting, check out this in-depth video from Kikopup and Michael Shikashio:

 

 

How to Reshape Your Dog's Basket Muzzle

Does your dog's muzzle seem a bit tight on the sides of your dog's face? Maybe it's pushing up into their eyes too much for your liking? If you're using a rubber muzzle, such as the Baskerville Ultra, it can be gently molded to adjust for the basket being a bit too narrow or a bit too wide for your dog. This process is very similar to how we mold human mouthguards with hot water to fit our teeth.

See how in this video:

 


How to Clean Your Dog's Muzzle

Your dog's muzzle can get dirty pretty quickly! Not only will your dog be drooling in their muzzle, but it can also pick up dirt, mud, and other nasty stuff from the ground as they sniff around.

  • Wash your dog's muzzle twice weekly using soap and warm water. Let it soak and then let dry completely before the next use.
  • After each wear, wipe your dog's muzzle with cleansing wipes (like these Furbliss Pet Wipes) to prevent odor build-up.

Now that you've started the muzzle training journey by picking out the best muzzle for your dog, it's time to introduce it to them in a fun and positive way! Learn how in Muzzle Training Your Dog: How and Why It's Important.

More Muzzle Training Resources

  1. The Muzzle Up! Project
  2. AggressiveDog.com

About the author

Profile picture for Cathy Madson

Cathy Madson, MA, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

As Preventive Vet's dog behavior expert and lead trainer at Pupstanding Academy, Cathy focuses on helping humans and their pets build a strong relationship based on trust, clear communication, and the use of positive reinforcement and force-free methods. With over 13 years of experience, she has had the opportunity to work with hundreds of dogs on a wide variety of training and behavior issues. Her specialties include dog aggression, resource guarding, separation anxiety, and puppy socialization.

Cathy is certified through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, holding both the CPDT-KA and CBCC-KA designations. Cathy is a Fear Free Certified Certified Professional, a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the Pet Professional Guild, and the Dog Writer's Association of America.

When she's not geeking out about dogs, you can find her reading, hiking with her two Cardigan Welsh Corgis, or paddleboarding.

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