Rewarding any engagement

Now that our dog has a +CER to the muzzle, we can use our newly found marker-based training skills to reward behaviour associated with the muzzle. 

Sharpen your observation skills and let’s get started! 

The object of this next exercise (called the “Look at That” game) is to simultaneously build our dog’s focus on the muzzle and teach the dog that it is safe to look at it. By rewarding a dog for looking at something or someone they are worried about, we not only change their behaviour. We change the dog’s emotional response, as well. It’s a two-fer! 

If your dog looks at the muzzle when it’s presented, mark and then grab some food and feed them.

You do not need to feed near or on the muzzle at this stage. 

In this next video, you will see that I am marking (clicking) Salinger for any actual engagement towards the muzzle. This is building his confidence around this new tool, but also encouraging him (without social pressure and cueing) to get closer to it. 

If you delay your mark for a moment or so, observe your dog. Do they move towards it? Do they sniff it? Do they check it out at all? If so, mark and then grab some food and feed them.

You do not need to feed near or on the muzzle at this stage. 

Lastly, I want to create a cue for him putting his muzzle on. I’ve chosen “nose in” because we use this for a lot of our husbandry tasks where I ask him to put his nose in my hands so that I can administer eye drops, ear drops, or brush his teeth, for example. He loves it and already has a great association with it. 

If you already use a cue and your dog doesn’t LOVE it, choose a different one for this. 

A few ideas: “muzzle up”, “get in”, “happy helmet”.

Say the cue one time, then present the muzzle at nose level and when they put their nose into the muzzle, mark, and feed by tossing the food away so that you can set up for the next repetition.