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Gentle Leader Fitting and Introduction

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Neck collars

Some neck collars are actually dangerous. Slip collars (chain or other material) when used incorrectly can be "an instrument of asphyxiation."  Sharp prong collars can not only puncture skin causing abscesses, but like shock collars, can
cause the dog to redirect aggression onto the closest person – you.

For most dogs, nylon collars are recommended.  A snap-together (sometimes known as a, "seat-belt" or "pinch-release") buckle is better than the prong-in-hole type because the adjustments of the former are not limited by the punched holes. The correct fit for a collar is one that cannot slide over the dog's head, but otherwise is as loose as possible.

Martingale collar

In addition to more accurate fit, nylon snap collars offer additional advantages. They can be decorative, washed, and last for a long time.  Check the fit frequently on a growing dog. If your dog's head is still able to slip off the neck collar, a martingale collar, such as a Premier® collar, will prevent the dog from slipping out of its collar. 

Head collars are recommended for virtually all dogs, but especially for dogs that weigh over 40 pounds that are hyperactive, aggressive, or pull on the leash.

Head collars

The newest style of dog collars are called head collars or head halters. This style is fashioned after the horse halter. The advantage of a head collar is that it pulls the head from side to side but does not choke the neck. Head halters are a humane and safe way of signaling dogs to turn in a particular direction or to stop. Commercial brand names include the Gentle Leader® Head collar or Halti®.


The most commonly recommended leash is a nylon or leather four or six-foot
lead. Ironically, the smaller the dog, the longer the lead. This is because a tiny dog's neck is further away.  More sensibly, the smaller the dog the thinner the lead.

With nylon leashes it can be fun to match the color of the collar and leash to be "styling."  Leather is more expensive than nylon and can dry out if repeatedly soaked in water.  Some dogs who chew leather may target the leash if left available. Many dogs try to chew on their leash regardless of material.  Don't allow even a second of this.  If observed, give a verbal short sharp interruption like "At!" and use your hands to pull the leash out of the dog's mouth.  Then either get moving, redirect into a chew toy, or otherwise be sure this does not develop into a habit.

The snap should not be so large it hits the dog under the chin. If your dog pulls, brace yourself, bring the leash to the center of your body and prevent being pulled over.  If the dog pulls, just stop walking and insist the dog sit and calm down before any further forward progress.

Chain leashes are not recommended for walking because they catch the dog's hair and nails, often pulling them out. They are also difficult to hold onto, noisy, heavy, and can slap the dog in the face. However, a chain leash can function well as a tether when doing the Close Tethering technique.  The chain cannot be chewed through when you have turned your head.

Retractable leashes

Retractable leashes retain control, yet allow a much wider leash range on a walk. This increased range allows the dog to run ahead and sniff at one spot as you continue walking. Soon the dog is passed and left behind, still happily sniffing. The dog can then run and catch up without you having to stop your walk for dog sniffing.

Because the retractable cord stays taut, if used correctly it will not tangle around the dog's legs.  Practice using a retractable leash in your yard prior to taking the dog out on the sidewalk because it requires some skill to handle safely.

Make sure you know how to stop the leash and retract it when approaching traffic, people and other animals. If your dog has any tendency to dart into traffic, be especially vigilant. 
There are some disadvantages to retractable leashes. If the dog suddenly takes off and hits the end, a retractable leash can jerk or yank at a head or neck collar, which has the potential to cause neck damage.  Therefore, if the dog begins running, swing the handle away from the dog and lock it.  Then when the dog hits the end, instead of a sudden jolt, your arm is swung forward which cushions the stop.

Except in severe pulling cases, it is not recommended to use both a head collar and a retractable leash at the same time.  Because a retractable leash maintains constant tension, this will likely confuse a dog wearing a head collar because it is the release of tension on the leash that is a reward for walking without pulling.

Retractable leashes require the person walking the dog to pay closer attention to the dog so that he or she does not get too far away, wander into a road or become tangled around an object.  A retractable leash does not deter pulling. If your dog is difficult to control, this tool is best used after your dog has been trained to walk on a fixed length leash.

There are two types of retractable leashes. The shorter length leashes (16') usually use a flat tape that looks much like a regular nylon leash, but longer. The 26' leashes are mostly thin round nylon cord.  These extra long retractable leashes should not be used around children because the thin nylon lead can cut through skin if the dog moves suddenly.  If not careful, deep cuts, burns, eye injuries or even amputations can result.  However, if used carefully many dogs and people use them safely on their daily walks.

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