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by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Head Halters

Gentle Leader Fitting and Introduction

Pet Professional Tip

Demonstrate how to fit a head collar to clients that have unruly dogs that jump on people and pull on leash.

Use head collars in the clinic to prevent dogs from pulling on leash and jumping on the staff.

Use head collars in the practice to lead by example!

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There are many brands of head collars. One of the more established and recognized brand is the Gentle Leader® Headcollar with a nose and neck loop that gently directs your dog's nose and entire head (not just neck). 

Head collars put gentle pressure on both the neck and muzzle spots giving the subliminal message, "Be calm.  I am in charge."

Establishing Positive Leadership

With head collars, gentle human leadership is accomplished in the way the collar places pressure on the dog's neck and nose. The neck loop applies pressure on the back of the neck, working with your dog's natural relaxation instinct and producing a calming effect. This is the spot originally used by the mother dog to pick up her puppies. When the mother carries the puppies by the back of the neck, it triggers an instinctive "go passive" reflex. Evolutionarily, this makes it easier for the mom to carry the pups to a new safe place. This passivity reflex decreases with age, but is still present to some degree in most adult dogs.

In addition, one of the ways the wolf "pack leader" communicates his or her position is by gently but firmly grasping a subordinate's muzzle in his or her mouth.  Since dogs are evolved from wolves, this leadership message seems to have been carried forward in domestic dogs. The head collar's nose loop encircles the dog's muzzle in the same manner.

Never jerk or yank the leash!  Try to forget everything you've ever seen or heard about "choke chains." A smooth pull on a head collar is all you need to communicate positively and effectively with your dog. The dog can simply "do the right thing" and the reward is the release of pressure.  Praise the behavior you want to help your dog learn.  Leash more on leash training.

Gradually phase out the food treats and increase the interval between your praise. Most dogs learn quickly that the head collar means they get to go for a walk and come to love their head collar. When walking the dog is more fun for the person, the dog gets to go on more frequent walks!  Leashes and more on collar selection.
As long as the dog is walking with slack in the lead, reward the dog with more freedom, praise and food treats.

Proper Fit - An Absolute Must!

Head collars help move a dog's body naturally follows without pain or harm. But, correct fit and use is crucial to its effectiveness. During this training time, it can be helpful to have the dog wearing a head collar and dragging a leash indoors. Do not grab the dog by the collar. If you want to use a head collar to help teach a "quiet" instruction, use the leash-collar combination to gently pull the dog's mouth closed as you give the quiet instruction. Head more.

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