Should your dog wear a head-halter?

Head halters are quite useful tools.  It helps with dogs that are large and strong that pull on leash. But most importantly head-halters are a must for those dogs that for whatever reason lunge and pull towards other dogs or people.

I am amazed to see how, when used correctly, head-halters can become the difference between being able to walk a dog that is too strong and with big displays of aggression and not being able to walk the dog at all.

The way this piece of equipment works is similarly to how a horse halter works on a horse.  Wherever the head of the dog goes, the rest follows.

Case in point:

I am working with a client who has a large dog that at times can lunge at people should a person approach them. This happened while we were working together. I saw my very keen client stop the dog in its tracks and literally prevent him from lunging towards the person- instead the dog sat!

Later that afternoon, I am working with a couple with their dog who has similar displays as the one in the morning. This particular dog was new to the head-halter and part of the training was teaching the dog that wearing it means he gets to go for a fun walk.   During this same session, I see how my clients can readily redirect their dog effortlessly.  They are amazed at the difference in influencing where the dog is looking and even walking.

There is a bit of a learning curve for people working with their dog and a head-halter.  Because the leash is attached to the piece of equipment that rides high behind the dog’s head it is absolutely crucial that people are gentle and avoid jerking the dog around. It is also important to avoid putting pressure on the front of the halter.  This can be easily achieved by being mindful that the clip of the leash should hang below the dog’s chin instead of pulling on the dog with the clip parallel to the ground.

If you are struggling with your dog pulling on the leash, teaching your dog to wear a head-halter can be very helpful. Do keep in mind that your dog will not learn not to pull, but it will make it a lot easier for you to walk him by how you can influence the direction the dog is walking. If your dog engages in lunging and hard pulling as a result of being afraid, the head-halter is frankly the only way I would recommend walking the dog.

Below is a simple training plan that can help your dog become comfortable with the head-halter.  In addition, make sure to follow the instructions for fitting the halter.  There are quite a few brands out there and each one of them fits a bit differently.  A correct fit is indispensable to ensure your dog is comfortable with the halter and that it works as it should.

Introducing the head-halter:

To make your dog associate the halter with good things, get out the yummiest treats you can think of, and follow the steps below. The steps can be done in one session or over several, depending on your dog’s comfort level.

Step 1. Reach through and treat.

• Hold the halter up by the nose loop with one hand so your dog notices it.

• Reach through the nose loop with your other hand to give your dog a treat.

• Repeat until your dog is asking for the treat by sticking his nose through the nose loop.

• From now on, every time your dog sees the halter, treat him. When the halter goes away, stop treating.

Step 2. Nose loop on and treat.

• Again, put the nose loop on, then treat, and remove the halter. But now begin to leave the nose loop on for a few seconds longer each time before you present the treat.

• When your dog is eagerly pushing his nose through the loop as soon as you present it, leave the loop on while you feed him several treats in quick succession.

• Slowly build the duration until your dog happily wears the loop for 5-10 seconds.

Step 3. Nose loop on, buckle and treat.

• Ask your dog to put his nose through the loop. Then hold one neck strap behind his neck so he feels a light pressure. Treat. Take off the halter, stop treating.

• Repeat this until your dog gets only one or two treats and is still comfortable. (Over please)

• Now add the second strap. Don’t close the buckle yet, just hold the two straps. Apply light pressure and treat. Remove the halter and stop treating.

• Repeat this until your dog gets only one or two treats and is still comfortable.

• Close the buckle and immediately offer a small avalanche of treats. Praise lavishly. Keep it short—after a few seconds remove the halter and stop treating.

• Repeat until your dog can comfortably wear the halter for 10 seconds.

Step 4: Wearing the head-halter and treat.

• Put the head halter on your dog and immediately feed him his dinner. (Have his dinner ready beforehand.)

• When he is done, clip on the leash and immediately go for a lovely walk. Take some treats and treat him throughout the walk. (Have your shoes on and be ready to go.)rtdftytdf