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Meet the Kuzzle

Boogie isn’t a huge fan of going to the vet (we’ll save that story for another day). In order to make vet visits a little less stressful for everyone, I’ve been working on getting Boogie more comfortable wearing a muzzle, just in case he needs it. And while he already tolerates wearing his basket muzzle, I’d like for him to have a more positive association with it.

A few months ago I read about “muzzle-cicles” in Grisha Stewart’s BAT book (she has all kinds of great muzzle related advice – check it out) where she describes filling a basket muzzle with food, freezing it, and using it like a Kong.

I figured Boogie would enjoy sticking his snout into the basket to enjoy some crazy-good snacks and doing so just might help him fall in lust with his muzzle, bearer of frozen delights.

I thought I’d give that a try. Here’s how:

First, wrap the outside of the muzzle in plastic wrap to form a barrier, so the food doesn’t fall out of the sides. I was out of plastic wrap, so I used a piece of wax paper, then covered that in tin foil so I could smush it on there real good (highly technical, no?):

Then I filled it with apple slices at the bottom and a mixture of kibble and wet food. To guild the lily, I spread some peanut butter at the opening. And freeze!

Behold the Kuzzle. 

Or maybe it’s a Mong?  Either way, you’ve got yourself a frozen Muzzle/Kong type treat:

Boogie was wary of it at first, as he is with all novel objects. He licked the outside of the Kuzzle for a while, keeping his tush in the air, just in case he needed to make a quick escape from this odd duck.

Eventually, he settled down on his bed and enjoyed the Kuzzle in all its glory. After lying down and licking away, he stood back up to get some traction so he could score the last bits of food.

He ate it all, then tried to eat the Kuzzle itself.  So my advice is to carefully watch your dogs if you do give this a try. It’s a quick jump from frozen treat to new rubber chew toy.

I’m not sure if this will pay off in the long run, but I’m going to give it a try a few more times in the hopes that Boogie will get all wiggly at the sight of his new favorite treat dispenser.

By the way, Boogie is camera shy, so taking photos of him didn’t exactly help him feel comfortable. Next time, he’ll get to romance the Kuz in private – no paparazzi.

Update: Boogie loves his basket muzzle and wears it happily these days. Huzzah for the Kuzzle!

What about you guys? Anyone do some creative Kuzzling or muzzle tricks at their house?

Looking for muzzles, the BAT book, and more? Check out the Resources on the Dogs In Need of Space website!

kuzzle (1)

  1. Sam Tatters #

    Grisha Stewart talks about “muzzlecicles” in her Behaviour Adjustment Training (BAT) book. Not that I know whether it’s her original idea or not.

    As far as muzzles go, I’m a big fan of the good old D&CC by putting treats progressively further into the muzzle while cupping it with your hand, after all, muzzles on faces and hands go erm…hand in hand.

    May 15, 2012
    • That must be it – thanks Sam!

      May 15, 2012
      • Sam Tatters #

        No worries, rather coincidentally I was reading that section of the book last week.

        May 15, 2012
  2. Wow! I never even though of doing something like that. Great info. Lol about Boogie romancing the Kuz:)

    May 15, 2012
  3. As I was typing my reply I see someone beat me to the BAT reference. Just read that last week, too.

    Thankfully we do not need a muzzle with Abby, but she is growing into a latent fear of the vet since having an anal gland abcess after a series of GI issues. One thing that has helped us tremendously and you may already be doing is doing mat work with her. We have a mat that we use as her safe place and originally built up by clicking and treating if she looked at it, then put a paw on it, then sat on it, etc. Inevitably we were able to put it in on queue and she knows she can go there and be OK. We use it at the vets to help her settle because she gets amped from the moment she steps in. Our trainer mentioned also that another dog in class had combined that with some targeting work as he had a fear of being touched. He would learn the names of his body parts using targeting and that helped with the fear of the unknown touch.

    May 15, 2012
  4. Wow. I never thought of that, even though I did smear peanut butter on the basket muzzle when I started using it for Lacy. Thankfully, I no longer use a muzzle..Lacy has gotten much more tolerant in her old age.

    May 15, 2012
  5. holgajen #

    Excellent idea – I’m working on muzzle training too and this week am focusing on the vet as well. We are going to a new vet and I’m taking my dog to visit once a week and only giving him treats in the exam room to help him get some positive associations with it. This week I’m taking the muzzle with me and giving him treats out of it. (He already views the muzzle as a treat dispenser).

    May 15, 2012
    • New vets can be tough, but it sounds like you’re laying a good foundation for a positive experience there. Good luck this week!

      May 15, 2012
  6. Great post as usual. We’ve done frozen peanut butter but nothing as fancy as a whole smorgasbord that you put in your muzzle. 🙂

    I’ve been using reverse psychology/jealously for nail trims with my girls that is working out quit enicely. I start trimming and if Puddin complains, then I say “fine, I’ll just do Lupe’s nails.” If Lupe complains, then I says “fine, I’ll just do Puddin’s nails” Pretty soon they are like, “Hey! I want the attention!” Of course they get tasty baked turkey after each toe. I got the idea from Leslie McDevitt’s “Give Me a Break Game” and Susan Garrett’s nail trim video. I suppose this game could be extrapolated to muzzle wearing?

    Also to piggy back on Sam’s Desensitization and Counter Conditioning, I live this youtube on muzzle acclimation video:
    It can be applied to every thing.

    Jean Donaldson also has a good one on Gentle Leaders. “if your good, I’ll let you wear your gentle leader”

    I need to reread BAT one of these days. I keep reading about great ideas that I had forgotten about. Great book!

    La Trenda, Lupe, Murphy, Matt-Matt and Puddin in TX

    May 15, 2012
    • I love the “Are You Jealous Yet?” game idea! And that is a great video – really helpful advice for getting started.

      May 15, 2012
  7. Muzzle training is a favorite past time with both my DINOS (Chico) and my none DINOS (Rue.) I nearly get knocked over when I bust the muzzle out, they can’t wait to stick their little muzzles in it.
    There are two things that I do to help with training:

    1. I recommend buying the inexpensive Itialian basket muzzles made of a flexible polyethylene (plastic.) Cut the front grill out of the acutal muzzle so that there is a small square opening. These basket muzzles have an additonal grill that can be added and removed. For training and treat the opening is perfect.
    2. When training my dogs at home I like to use the GoGo squeeZ (apple/banana) I simply stick the tube in the front grill and gentally squeeze some sauce for my dogs to lick. They love it, and it’s lower fat/calories. then most treats.

    May 15, 2012
    • Great tips – thanks Amy! And now I finally have a reason to buy those cute looking squeezies ; )

      May 15, 2012
  8. Fly’s “I love my muzzle” training.
    Following an unfortunate incident at an emergency vet visit for piroplasmosis treatment when Fly was quite young and quite serious mishandling by the vet (not our vet I hasten to add) Fly has been seriously vet phobic and wouldn’t even go within 5m’s of a muzzle on the ground even if there were a pile of irresistible treats next to it if there was a person within 10m of the muzzle! I bought an entirely different muzzle and put it among his toys and rewarded him big time for touching it with his paw. Then I got a 10 yr old training helper and this is what she did.

    She has moved him on further (in between teaching him to play BopIt Extreme and to do Search and Rescue exercises) but this was a pivotal point.

    May 15, 2012
  9. The camera shy thing? Since you are a genius anyway (I mean, the Kamuzzle? Who’d a-think?)
    Have you of having the sight, sound, flash of the camera means TREATS? Like the click of a clicker only it’s the camera=treat?

    Just a thought….

    Loved your string cheese blog too….I would have thought that stuff is terrible for them but…..I could seriously be wrong….hmmmm…..I’m having a non-menopause moment…..this could work with my Nervous Nerd, Elke….

    August 24, 2012
    • You’re totally right – I’ve just been slouching on the camera counter conditioning (probably because sometimes he doesn’t mind, like tonight when I had to take photos of the lump inside his ear (to document it’s current size) for some reason, Boogie was fine with that photo shoot. Go figure)!

      August 24, 2012
      • I guess he was “ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille….”

        Really enjoy your blog, BTW!

        August 24, 2012
  10. Rebecca Anastasio #

    I did the same thing with my rescue Bulldog Sweetums, who is notoriously head-shy but needed to learn to wear a basket muzzle to compete in All-breed racing events. Between the Kuzzle concept (great name!) and the association with racing, which she loved beyond reason, she now starts dancing the minute she sees the muzzle and sticks her snout right in. Of course, the minute she is done with the race, she wants if OFF (and sometimes manages to do it herself because she is smart that way), but at least it is never a fight to get it on.

    April 13, 2014
  11. My boy will put his nose in the muzzle and I can have him wait a few seconds. But I unfortunately have taught him when I say wait, I also wait, so when I move to attach the strap he thinks it’s ok to move lol ugh. So I working on him waiting while I still move but how did you transition from ok pup put yor muzzle in the muzzle to actually attachin the strap?

    April 14, 2014
    • I’m not a trainer, so I can only speak from my experience, but the way I did it with Boogie was in tiny steps: first I just held the muzzle on him for a sec, then when he was good with that we moved on to me holding the straps loosely around his head for a sec, then holding them closed longer, then fastening the strap but releasing it immediately, then fastening the strap for longer. We moved to each step after he was ok with the previous one – just a little bit each day – with treats to sweeten the deal.

      It might also help to teach your dog a different word instead of “wait” that he doesn’t associate with you staying still…

      Here’s a good lesson on muzzle training (from a trainer) that might help:

      April 14, 2014
      • Thank you very much for the suggestion and the video I will try that. As well as a new word for wait, lol

        April 14, 2014

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