Head Halters - Canine Manners 101
In recent years head halters (or head collars) have become a popular choice for many owners and trainers. However, some people are confused if these tools would be the right fit for their dog.
Head collars can be useful to:
- Owners of dogs that are overly exuberant – those that have a hard time focusing and have excessive pulling or jumping issues - especially if you’re struggling with your dog’s strength.
- Owners of dogs that are aggressive toward other dogs while on leash can also find head collars to be a very useful tool. These collars enable the walker to have full control over a lunging dog’s head, allowing these dogs to be walked safely. Using a halter with a reactive dog can also enable the owner to desensitize their dog to other dogs from a distance.
While there are a variety of head collars on the market today, all of them work on the premise of pressure - if your dog leaps about, or pulls ahead of you – the straps on his nose and the back of his neck apply pressure and he learns to slow down. The concept is similar to the halters that horses wear.
A head halter is a safer and more humane choice than choke chains or prong collars. Not only will owners have more control over their dogs if they choose a halter, but they’ll keep them safe from tracheal injury from misuse of training collars.
Many dogs don’t enjoy the feeling of the head halter at first, so it takes some conditioning to get them used to this new type of collar. Place a treat at the other side of the nose loop and as soon as your dog puts her nose through to get the treat, allow her to have it. Repeat this practice many times until your dog is more comfortable with putting her nose through the loop. Then fasten the strap – more treats. Do not use force, but do try to distract your dog with the idea of a walk, more goodies or playtime with a favorite toy. Soon they’ll realize that this new collar means trips outside!
A head halter is not a solution, meaning you won’t be able to one day take off the collar and your dog will be magically trained not to pull. However it will allow you the control of your dog and his focus so you’ll be able to work on training.
- When using a head collar, if your dog starts to pull ahead – stop moving. The pressure from the nose loop will cause him to stop once he reaches the end of the leash. Once the leash has some slack, start moving again.
- Work on the same commands you would be working on if your dog were not wearing the halter (sits, downs, etc). Encourage your dog to walk beside you using lots of goodies as rewards.
- As he progresses with his training, work on weaning him off of the head halter. This tool doesn’t have to be a permanent solution.
While head collars may be mistaken by the unknowing public for a muzzle, they absolutely do not act as one! A dog can still open his mouth, pant, lick you, eat, drink, or play ball with a properly fitted halter.
While head collars aren’t a tool every dog will need, they’re invaluable to the owners who have chosen them as part of their training methods.