We LOVE muzzles. But fitting a muzzle properly can be a major challenge for a lot of folks!
*NOTE: If you’re training your dog to wear a muzzle as part of a behavior modification process, especially for safety reasons, please seek the support of a certified behavior consultant! If you’d like to work with Every Dog, we’re happy to help!
Looking for something else about muzzles?
Want to watch the whole webinar about muzzles? Check it out!
Why Does Muzzle Fit Matter?
Fitting a muzzle properly is important for a few reasons.
If a muzzle isn’t fitted well, it might slip off or allow a dog to bite through. That’s a major safety concern!
Comfort (or discomfort)
A well fitted muzzle will be comfortable to the dog. A poorly fitted one can cause discomfort, impact a dog’s ability to breathe (and regulate temperature through panting). It can also cause injuries to the dog’s face if poorly fitted
If a muzzle is fitted poorly, we might see a dog who inhibits their behaviors due to discomfort- which can mean missing crucial warning signs of aggression or fear!
What Muzzle Measurements Do I Need?
Different muzzle manufacturers may have different requirements for measurement.
One quick note: The recommended sizing from some muzzle brands may NOT be accurate for your dog.
Yes, you read that right.
Some muzzle brands will recommend muzzle sizing based on breed, but this can lead to really poor fit. For example, we typically recommend going one size up from the Baskerville Muzzle recommendations.
How Can I Measure My Dog for a Muzzle?
Sometimes it can be hard to measure your dog. Your dog might wiggle a lot, be uncomfortable with the tape measure, or be sensitive to handling. Some recommendations from The Muzzle Movement
Introduce the measuring tape prior
Smear soft cheese, pate or peanut butter on a horizontal surface for your dog to lick as you measure, if your dog has no history of resource related conflict
Measure over multiple sessions, or give your dog a break between measurements
Set a camera up to record, or take photos as you go
What Does a Well Fitted Muzzle Look Like?
If your dog’s muzzle is fitted properly, they should be able to breathe and pant normally/comfortably. In most cases, they should be able to drink water through the muzzle and in some cases be able to take treats.
NOTE: Why are we so adamant about dogs being able to fully pant? For one thing, we want our dogs to be able to breathe comfortably: especially in situations that might be stressful! Additionally, dogs use panting to regulate their temperature. A dog who can’t pant properly can be at a safety risk, especially in warm weather!
The muzzle should not be pushing up into their eyes or smooshing their cheeks, and it should leave enough room in front of the nose to be comfortable (but not so long that it’s inconvenient).
There is a good chance that what you think looks well fitted is actually TOO SMALL! Most of us are used to seeing muzzles that do not allow the dog to pant.
Length: you want about ½ inch of space in front of the dog’s nose
Width: the cheeks should be close/snug, but not squishing the dog’s cheeks
Height: the dog should be able to fully pant (open their mouth) inside the muzzle
NOTE: Muzzle Training and Tips is an excellent website with TONS of great information about fitting muzzles, muzzle sizing and brands. However, they are not trainers are not positive reinforcement professionals: so you’ll see photos of dogs wearing prong and shock collars on the website. While we advocate against using these tools, we do want you to have access to the photo directory for sizing!
In this photo, you can see the husky’s position is almost identical in and out of the muzzle: an indicator that they’re able to breathe and move normally.
NOTE: At first glance, this muzzle might look awfully big. But take a second look! The length is just about ½ inch longer than the snout, and the muzzle is sitting on the nose in front of the eyes. You can see the cheeks are snug but not pinching, and the dog could fully open its mouth to pant without touching the bottom! This is what we mean when we say that we’re looking for full room to pant.
What Does a Poorly Fitted Muzzle Look Like?
Photo Credit: Canva
NOTE: This is often what we think of when someone talks about muzzles. But you can see that this dog can barely open its mouth! This muzzle is way too small for the dog to pant. While it would be just fine in case of an emergency, this isn't how we'd fit a muzzle we intended for this dog to wear regularly.
NOTE: Definitely too small!
NOTE: Not only is this one too small for the dog to pant, but it’s also too long- it would be super hard to feed this dog treats effectively as part of a training plan.
The length of this muzzle is great! But it’s super tall. It would be easy for this to push up over the dog’s head uncomfortably.
Wondering about why your dog should wear a muzzle? Check out our Muzzle Guide Part 1!
Ready to get a muzzle, but not sure what brand or type to buy? Check our our Muzzle Guide Part 3!
Want to work with us on muzzle training? we’re happy to help!