Creating kinder, gentler experiences for pets


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Gentle Leader Fitting

Conditioning to the Gentle Leader

Using Gentle Leader for Pulling on Leash

Collars vs. Head Halter to Control Pulling on Leash

Loose Leash Walking Phasing out Gentle Leader

Working with On-Leash Aggression

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 Dog Behavior Library

Pet Perception Management by Rolan Tripp, DVM

Dog Head Collars 

The newest style in dog collars
The newest style of dog collars are the head collars, also called head halters. This style is fashioned after the horse halter. The advantage of a head collar is that it closes the mouth and pulls the head from side to side but does not choke the neck.

Problem solving
Canine head halters are a good option to prevent pulling compared to traditional flat collars, harnesses, choke chains, and prong collars. Not only are they safer, but they are one of the most effective means of preventing or controlling unruly, disobedient and "headstrong" dogs. With products such as the Gentle Leader
, the owner gains control gently through "pressure points" that dogs inherited from their wolf ancestors. A head collar is a great tool to control pulling on the leash, barking, jumping, and even some forms of aggression.

How it works
The loop around the muzzle is one key factor in the success of the head halter. It has been observed in wolf packs that the alpha pack leader will periodically put his jaws around the muzzle of subordinate wolves as a reminder to them that he has control. Closing a dog's mouth effectively removes the subordinate's weapons. Compare this action to the first thing a police officer does to control a suspect; handcuff to remove his ability to use weapons. The loop around the muzzle is sometimes called, the "Control Loop."

Another important difference from traditional collars is that the head collar attachment to the leash stays in front of the neck. When the leash is pulled, a traditional collar rotates around and pressures the front of the neck, whereas a head halter's leash pull puts pressure on the back of the neck. This "scruff" area at the back of the neck is where the dog was carried by the mother. Pressure here triggers a reflex that tends to promote passivity and compliance.

It has been observed in wolf packs that the alpha pack leader will periodically put his jaws around the muzzle of subordinate wolves as a reminder to them that he has control.

Fitting a head collar
The head collar loop that fits around the neck is sometimes called the "Maternal Loop."
The maternal (neck) loop is properly adjusted tighter than a traditional collar. Think of it fitting more like a belt than a necklace. It is adjusted up very high, just under the chin and ears. A good illustration is to press hard against the front of your own neck. Compare the discomfort of the pressure low where it hits the windpipe, and the relatively pain free area high under the chin. The reason for the tight fit is to keep it up comfortably high, and to prevent the dog from removing the device.

Reinforcing sit
The combination of gentle leash pull and head collar are quick and effective means of controlling a dog. For example, a gentle pull "up" raises the nose up and encourages the dog to sit. A release of pressure is a reward and indicates to the dog that he has performed the desired behavior. The dog can no longer pull while on a walk. If he tries, the head collar  turns the head toward the owner, causing the dog to walk sideways - removing any leverage for pulling on leash.

Inside the house, a long thin 10 foot lead attached the head collar provides the owner with "remote control" for deterring undesirable behaviors (e.g. garbage raiding, jumping up, house-soiling). An even longer lead can be used for outdoor training. The
Halti™, BeHave™, and Snoot Loop™ are head collar brands that provide effective on-leash control, but have not been designed to leave attached to the dog for remote indoor training.

Introducing the head collar
When first introducing this tool, give tasty treats through the nose loop of the head halter. Keep the head up and try to keep walking at first with lots of praise. The dog will often try to lay down so he can use his front paws to get the halter off. The key is to KEEP MOVING. Praise any seconds that pass where the halter is ignored. Expect it to take several minutes for the dog to accept it.

Early resistance
When first introducing the head collar, many dogs resist and throw their heads, or try to get it off. This is because they were not raised with a loop around their snoot, and in some cases, the dog resents the owner taking control. However, regaining human leadership gently and without force is one of the goals. Use treats to introduce wearing the head collar for short periods of time. Ideally, when the dog STOPS struggling, the device is removed.

Be a gentle leader
Most people notice the dog becomes much calmer and obedient about 10 minutes after acclimating to a head halter. Remember this is NOT a muzzle. The dog can pant, bark, drink or bite. By controlling the entire head instead of choking the neck, it forms a type of safe "power steering" for the dog, similar to the same effect in horses. Using this tool routinely from puppy-hood, the loving person becomes the Gentle Leader.

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