Best Head Halters And Gentle Leaders

On a good walk with your dog, you are in control and your dog and you are both comfortable and enjoying yourselves. For many people who struggle to control their powerful dog’s pulling, such a walk seems out of reach. When people are exhausted by walking their dogs and scared of losing control, they may walk their dogs less, making problem-pulling even worse. This becomes an endless cycle, in which dogs never learn leash-walking skills or self-control because their owners can’t control them during training.

ProductDetails

Best Head Halter

Featured Best Head Halter

Halti Optifit By The Company of Animals

  • Gives Superior Control
  • Well Constructed/Durable
  • Padded And Comfortable

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Runner Up

Featured Runner Up Best Head Halter

Gentle Leader By PetSafe

  • Simple Put On, Take Off Design
  • Most Tolerated By Fussy Dogs
  • Large Size And Color Range

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Best For Aggressive/Reactive Dogs

Featured Best For Aggressive Dogs

Walk'n Train By Coastal

  • Pulls Mouth Firmly Closed
  • Collar Connected Safety Clip
  • Discrete Design

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New Emerging Star

Featured New Emerging Star Head Halter

Perfect Pace By Bold Lead Designs

  • Lead And Head Collar In One
  • Sleek Minimalist Design
  • In Leather And Fabric

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The goal of a head halter is to keep your dog from being able to pull hard: comfortably and safely. You can focus on walking and training your dog, without having to worry about being pulled off your feet or exasperating shoulder or back pain.

No training tool will simply stop your dog from pulling when you put it on. All training tools require a dedicated training protocol, but a the right head halter for your dog can give you more control and better results for powerful pullers than other training tools. Find the best head halter for your dog and learn how to use it properly with this exhaustive comparison and training guide.

Head Halter Features

  • Padded
  • Eye-friendly noseband
  • Easy to put on
  • Well-tolerated
  • Size range
  • Quality material
  • Adjustability
  • Design
  • Clip to collar
  • Distributes pressure evenly
  • Works on long and short snouted breeds and dogs with sloped foreheads, like collies and bull terriers

Head Halter Uses

Train Powerful Pullers. If your dog can just about pull you off of your feet, you need a way to safely control her during the training process. A head halter is the only safe, ASPCA and AKC recommended tool for controlling powerful pullers. A head halter allows even people who are not very strong to control powerful dogs.

Control Reactive or Aggressive dogs. Dogs that can be reactive or aggressive towards other dogs or people can be dangerous to walk unless you have complete control. These dogs will only get more reactive if they are not walked. A head halter lets you safely control your dog’s face and keeps her focus on you. Halters that pull a dog’s mouth closed when she pulls are best for this.

Protect Dogs Who Pick Things Up. Some dogs have a dangerous tendency to swallow things that they shouldn’t on a walk. A head halter lets you control when your dog puts her head down so she won’t pick up anything that she shouldn’t.

Stop Dogs From Barking. Dogs that bark on a walk or in the yard may not respond to your verbal cues or being pulled by a harness. A gentle pull from a head harness, however, can break your dog’s focus, stop her barking, and make her look at you so you can reward her for the resulting quiet.

Attributes of a Good Head Halter

Provides Control. A good head halter should let you pull your dog’s face towards you easily and gently. It also should make it convenient for you to control your dog’s head.

A Comfortable Fit. Your dog may be irritated when she tries to pull against the head halter, but when the leash is hanging loose she shouldn’t seem to notice it. Your dog shouldn’t try to pull off her head halter or rub it off on everything.

Stays On. No training tool is much good to you if it comes off. A head halter should stay on during regular use.

Gentle. A good head halter won’t put excessive pressure on the bridge of the nose or cause your dog’s head to snap sideways when used properly.

Where the Lead Clips Matters

Under the snout halters put the most pressure on the bridge of your dog’s nose. They give the most control over powerful dogs, but they may hurt dogs when used correctly and injure dogs when used incorrectly.

At the throat halters give a balance of pressure to the bridge of the nose and the neck and head. They can still pull the head abruptly, potentially hurting the neck, but are much less likely to do so than halters that connect under the muzzle.

Behind the head halters are the most comfortable and safest for your dog. They won’t put pressure on the bridge of your dog’s nose or her throat. Rather, pressure is distributed across the head. These halters may not give as much control over very powerful dogs.

Product Reviews

1. Halti Optifit By The Company of Animals:

Halti Optifit Premium Head Collar

The original Halti has been a favorite of positive trainers for years. The Halti was invented by Dr. Roger Mugford to solve some of the problems presented by other head halters, like too much pressure going onto the bridge of the nose or the possibility of the dog slipping off the nose strap and escaping.

While it isn’t possible to entirely stop a dog from pulling off the noseband when she gets the chance, this halter clips to your dog’s collar for added security. By using a martingale collar with a Halti, you can feel confident that your dog won’t slip away from you. The design is equally effective on long nosed breeds like shepherds or wolfhounds or short nosed breeds like boxers and pitbulls.

The Halti is designed as a training aid to be part of a training program to control pulling and other problem behavior. The pack comes with not only the head halter but also a DVD to teach you how to use it properly. This is important, because the Halti head halter isn’t designed to be used like a normal collar.

The company encourages you to also purchase a Halti training lead to be used with the head halter. This is because training involves clipping the leash to both the Halti and your dog’s standard collar. When your dog pulls hard, you will put pressure on both the head halter and your dog’s collar. This keeps too much pressure from being exerted either on the bridge of your dog’s nose or on her throat. Once your dog has developed the self control to keep herself from lunging after things, you can transition to just the head halter or a standard collar.

The Halti Optifit is upgraded in most ways over the orginal Halti, but some people still prefer the original. Here are some of the things that set the Optifit apart.

Both models have a Neoprene-padded noseband that is wider than most head halter nosebands. In the Optifit, the Neoprene padding extends even past the edge of the nose band, keeping it from moving around on your dog’s face or sliding up into her eyes when she pulls.

The Halti Optifit is designed to let your dog pant, yawn, drink, and generally move her mouth naturally, since the chin clip self-adjusts to a comfortable size. Using a clip, rather than the self-tightening loop style of the original Halti, means that the nose strap won’t tighten too much when your dog pulls. Furthermore, the Optifit is equipped with self-adjusting cheek straps that fit the contours of your dog’s face.

Many of the complaints from users of the Halti Optifit say that the halter moves up and down on their dog’s nose, slips around the muzzle, or that the clip comes loose or breaks. This may be because some users aren’t using the halter in the recommended way. They are putting too much pressure on the self-adjusting clip by letting the dog pull too hard on the head halter instead of adjusting pressure to the collar.

  • Lead clips under the snout

Features

  • Nose band is padded with Neoprene for comfort and to keep it out of your dog’s eyes
  • Easy to put on, but an extra step from the original Halti in adjusting the chin clip
  • Well-tolerated, especially when used as instructed with the leash clipped to the standard collar and head halter
  • Three sizes to choose from to fit most dogs from neck size 9.5” to 25”
  • Self-adjusting chin strap and adjustable neck
  • Made of thick, strong nylon webbing (the same weave as a car seatbelt) and Neoprene padding
  • Clips to collar for safety
  • Distributes pressure to neck as well as the bridge of the nose when used as instructed
  • Works on long and short snouted breeds thanks to the Neoprene noseband which won’t slide around

PROS:

This is an effective training tool when used as instructed. While you can’t expect that your dog will stop pulling immediately, you will instantly have more control and need to exert less effort to control your dog. The Halti can make it possible to safely and comfortably walk and train powerful dogs with little self-control or training, since you can rely on both the collar and the head halter as needed. This innovative training system solves many of the problems of other head halters.

CONS:

The Halti Optifit doesn’t have color options to choose from like other head halters, and not everybody likes the black straps, red padding, and reflective cheek straps. Some people, especially owners of bully breeds, find that the public reacts more to these head halters, thinking they are some kind of muzzle, than to other head halters which are thinner or come in softer colors. Because the Halti connects to the lead under the snout, it can pull your dog’s head too hard or abruptly if not used properly with the collar lead.

2. Gentle Leader Head Collar By PetSafe:

PetSafe Gentle Leader

The Gentle Leader brand is so synonymous with head halters that head halters generally are often referred to as “gentle leaders”. This is a well-established, affordable head halter that is the preferred choice of many trainers and owners alike.

Gentle Leaders come in a range of attractive colors. This, combined with a relatively thin collar and noseband and the lack of cheek straps, means that the Gentle Leader is less likely to be mistaken for a muzzle than some other head halters and is more discrete on your dog. This can be an important distinction for the owners of powerful breeds and bully breeds which some people may find intimidating.

The nose strap of the Gentle Leader is padded with Neoprene for your dog’s comfort. The sturdy nylon strap are fully adjustable so you can get exactly the right fit, no matter what size or shape your dog’s head. Sizes are available for dogs from under five pounds to over 130 pounds, in five size ranges, so you can feel confident of getting a customized fit for your pooch.

The Gentle Leader relies on an attachment below your dog’s throat to avoid putting too much pressure on the bridge of the nose or the throat. The collar fits at the base of the chin, above the trachea, and behind the dog’s skull. This means that pulling against the collar shouldn’t put pressure on the trachea as a normal collar would. A sliding clamp keeps the noseband in place and keeps your dog from pulling it off.

When your dog pulls, the pressure is distributed to the neck, head, and bridge of nose to turn her head and keep control. When pressure is relaxed, the noseband sits loose and comfortable on your dog’s nose so she can eat, breathe, pant, etc. naturally but won’t be able to get it off.

  • Lead clips under the throat

Features

  • Easy to put on, just slip over the nose loop and clasp the collar behind the head
  • Well tolerated, especially since the noseband rests loosely when pressure is not applied
  • Size range to fit dogs from 5 pounds to 130 pounds
  • Sturdy nylon straps and Neoprene padding
  • Fully adjustable neck collar and noseband
  • Slender design and range of attractive colors make it unlikely to be mistaken for a muzzle
  • Distributes pressure to neck, head, and bridge of nose simultaneously whenever pressure is applied

PROS:

The Gentle Leader is a discrete, all-in-one tool that gives you the ability to train powerful dogs safely and comfortably. This head halter is designed to spread pressure when your dog pulls across the bridge of her nose and her head. Because it clips under the throat instead of under the chin, the pressure is more evenly distributed than with other head halters. The loose noseband of the Gentle Leader is well-tolerated by most dogs when they aren’t pulling.

CONS:

The discrete look of the Gentle Leader comes at the expense of a wider and therefore more comfortable noseband. Although the noseband is well-padded, it is narrow enough to leave a mark on many dogs with significant pressure. There is no included safety clip to connect your leash to a harness or collar. Many users rig up their own solutions by slipping the leash through the collar before attaching it to the Gentle Leader or using a short leash or chain to connect the collar and Gentle Leader, but it would be nice to have an integrated safety mechanism. Since the Gentle Leader sits so high up and tight on the dog’s neck, it is possible that a dog could slip out of it if she managed to get the noseband off.

3. Walk’n Train Head Halter By Coastal:

Coastal Walk'n Train Head Halter

This head halter combines the low-profile design and color options of the Gentle Leader with the eye-friendly cheek strap design of the Halti. The noseband is held in place by two fixed cheek straps that connect from the noseband at the corners of the mouth down to the collar. A safety latch is included to connect to your dog’s regular collar.

This head halter is designed to apply pressure to the bridge of your dog’s nose. The company says that this, “encourages compliance naturally, as a mother dog would do to communicate with her pups.”

The leash clips just below your dog’s snout, so all pressure is applied directly to the bridge of the nose, rather than being distributed across the neck and head as most other head halters aim to do. The cheek bands keep the halter from slipping from side to side or into your dog’s eyes.

The design of this head halter gives you more control and power over your dog. If you have a very difficult time handling your dog and other head halters haven’t given you enough control, this might be an option for you, but for most people, the dual control of the Halti is preferable.

  • Pulls mouth closed, better for aggressive/reactive dogs
  • Lead clips under the snout

Features

  • Eye-friendly noseband thanks to the cheek straps that keep it in place
  • Easy to put on, just slip the noseband with cheek straps over your dog’s muzzle and clip the collar portion behind your dog’s neck
  • Size ranges from a 10” neck and 4” snout to a 30” neck and 15” snout.
  • Adjustable collar and noseband
  • Discrete design compared to other head halters, and several colors to choose from
  • Clip to collar included for safety

PROS:

This head halter gives you more power over your dog, since it is designed to put the full pressure of pulling on the bridge of your dog’s nose. Your dog won’t be able to lean in and pull no matter what direction she pulls from or how abruptly. There is a safety clip to your dog’s collar to make an escape impossible.

CONS:

Since all of the pressure is applied to the bridge of your dog’s nose, this halter can be very uncomfortable for your dog to wear. It can be dangerous if your dog pulls abruptly, since it may pull your dog’s head suddenly, straining or injuring the neck. This halter should NEVER be pulled with a leash correction, and you must be very careful to keep your eyes on your dog at all times while she is wearing this halter so that she doesn’t pull suddenly.

4. Perfect Pace Halter Leash By Bold Lead Designs:

Bold Lead Designs Perfect Pace Halter Leash

This clever head halter is different than any other head halter that we know of on the market. There are a couple of important differences, but by far the most important is that the Perfect Pace Halter leads your dog from the back of her head, rather than from under the muzzle or at the throat. Because pressure is distributed behind the head and under the jaw, it is much more comfortable for dogs to wear. Many users find that dogs don’t react negatively to it, even when they wear it for the first time, even when not bribed with treats.

Since the lead is behind the dog’s head, your dog can move naturally ahead of you or at either side of you, without the lead being snagged on her nose or caught over her head, as happens with under-the-muzzle and under-the-chin head halters.

This is also a safer choice than many head halters, especially with dogs that tend to lunge or suddenly pull, since the head won’t be pulled to the side and pressure won’t be put on the throat. This halter truly controls your dog’s head, not her nose or face. There are two types: one with the halter and leash as one continuous piece, and a separate halter that you can use with the leash of your choice.

The Perfect Pace doesn’t need to be sized. Just put the loop over your dog’s head, criss cross to make a smaller loop, slip the smaller loop over your dog’s nose, and pull the adjustment piece down to secure it. Clip the safety latch to your dog’s collar for safety.

This will work on any size dog, with any kind of snout. Because no direct pressure is put on the noseband, it doesn’t tend to slide into dogs’ eyes or around on their face. Even dogs whose noses slope directly into their forehead, like bull terriers or collies, won’t be bothered by the noseband slipping into their eyes.

The soft woven material is lightweight but very strong. It is not wide or padded, but since pressure is evenly distributed across your dog’s head, it is still comfortable for your dog. The discrete design won’t be mistaken for a muzzle. Choose from a range of attractive colors.

  • Lead clips behind the head

Features

  • Eye-friendly noseband since pressure isn’t put on it
  • Easy to put on, just make two loops and pull it tight
  • Well tolerated, most dogs don’t react to it hardly at all, especially with positive conditioning
  • Soft woven tube-like material is lightweight but very strong
  • Fully adjustable to fit any size dog
  • Comes in a range of fun colors and doesn’t look like a muzzle
  • Clips to collar for safety
  • Distributes pressure to behind the head and under the jaw
  • Back of the neck lead so dog’s head won’t be jerked and lead doesn’t get snagged when dog switches sides
  • Works on long and short snouted breeds

PROS:

This innovative head halter distributes pressure across your dog’s head, giving your control more safely and comfortably for your dog than other head halters. Rather than depending on correction being applied to the bridge of the nose like some other head halters, the Perfect Pace controls the entire head and puts pressure behind the head and under the jaw. This is a positive training tool that won’t “correct” your dog with painful pressure. This easy to use head halter is one-size-fits-all and works well on most dogs.

CONS:

You may not have as much control over very powerful dogs with this tool as with a head halter that puts more pressure on the bridge of the nose or lets you control how much pressure goes onto the bridge of the nose and how much goes onto the collar. Some users worry that the lead is too thin for powerful dogs, but there don’t seem to be any instances of the lead failing.

5. Halti Headcollar By The Company of Animals:

Halti Headcollar

The original Halti is still a favorite of many positive trainers. It has a wider nose band than most head halters, and soft, thick, Neoprene padding. While the padding doesn’t extend past the nose band like on the Optifit, it is still thick enough to provide your dog with a comfortable fit.

Like the Optifit, this head halter has a safety loop to attach to your dog’s collar and prevent escape. Unlike the Optifit, the original Halti has a slip chin piece, rather than a clip. This means that the noseband tightens when your dog pulls against it, then loosens so that your dog can pant, yawn, etc. naturally when the leash is not taught.

Some people like the greater control provided by the slip nose band, while others worry about the pressure exerted on the bridge of the nose. If you are using the head halter properly when training, you should be able to redirect pressure and distribute it evenly between the bridge of the nose and the neck, turning your dog’s head without exerting too much pressure.

Users who let their dogs pull too hard find that the original Halti tightens excessively on the noseband, while the Optifit clip breaks after a year or less. This is because neither product designed to withstand intense, continuous pulling. When used properly, either the slip chin strap or the clip work well.

The cheek strap on the original Halti is fixed, not adjustable like on the Optifit. Some people prefer this, as they find that it holds the halter in place better. Others prefer the adjustable strap for the same reason. Both types of strap generally do a good job of holding the halter in place and keeping the nose strap out of your dog’s eyes. The original Halti doesn’t have any reflective stitching on the cheek strap. This, combined with the lack of visible red padding, makes the halter a little sleeker in appearance than the Optifit.

  • Pulls mouth closed, better for aggressive/reactive dogs
  • Lead clips under the snout

Features

  • Noseband is padded with Neoprene and thicker than most head halter nosebands
  • Easy to put on, especially with the slip noseband piece
  • Well-tolerated when used carefully in combination with a standard collar
  • Size range to fit dogs with 13” to 28.5” necks. The original Halti has more sizes: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
  • Made of thick, strong nylon webbing (the same weave as a car seatbelt) and Neoprene padding
  • Neck strap is completely adjustable and nose strap tightens as needed
  • Clips to collar for safety
  • Distributes pressure to neck and snout when used in combination with standard collar
  • Works on long and short-snouted breeds. The adjustable cheek strap of the Optifit may be a better option for some face types.

PROS:

The original Halti has been a favorite of positive trainers for years, especially for use with powerful or determined pullers. The innovative system, which uses the head halter in combination with a standard collar, makes training even very powerful dogs safe and comfortable for dog and handler. Compared to the newer Optifit, the Halti differs in the non-adjustable, non-reflective cheek strap, the slip chin strap as opposed to a clasp chin strap, and the lack of extended padding on the noseband.

CONS:

While some users prefer the sleeker look of the original Halti, others find the extended padding on the noseband and reflective stitching on the cheek band of the Optifit to be preferable. Some users found that the nose strap tightens too easily and gets too tight on the original Halti, making it difficult to distribute pressure properly between the noseband and the collar. The Optifit solves this problem with the self-adjusting clip. Finally, even though this head halter is sleeker than the Optifit, it is still thick and only comes in black. This, combined with the thick, solid cheek straps, may make this head halter look more like a muzzle to the public, increasing negative reactions to powerful breeds. While the original Halti has more sizes to choose from, those sizes don’t cover as great of a range of neck sizes.

6. Dog Head Collar By Barkless:

Barkless Dog Head Collar

This sturdy head halter is designed to be used in conjunction with a collar. It is more customized to order than some other options, which means that there may be less adjusting each time you put it on. Quick release buckles make putting it on and taking it off even easier.

Integrated cheek bands fit from the corner of your dog’s mouth to connect the noseband to the collar piece. This keeps the noseband from pulling up into your dog’ eyes or being pulled around on your dog’s muzzle. The cheek straps are important because this head halter doesn’t clasp under your dog’s chin, but rather hangs loose until your dog pulls. The cheek straps keep the noseband from moving around or slipping off when there is no pressure and when pressure is applied.

The wide, soft, nylon webbing is soft and flexible over the extent of the collar. You can feel confident that this purchase will be a long term one, thanks to the lifetime warranty. Sizes are available from a 3.54” snout and 8.27” neck to a 4.72” snout and 23.62” neck. Snout measurements are more important than neck measurements, as the neck is highly adjustable.

This head halter is designed to be used in conjunction with a standard collar or harness, using a training leash that is clipped to each one. It is necessary to distribute pressure through the collar and head halter to prevent too much pressure from being put on the bridge of your dog’s nose.

  • Pulls mouth closed, better for aggressive/reactive dogs
  • Lead clips under the snout

Features

  • The sturdy cheek straps make for an eye-friendly noseband
  • Easy to put on, especially since it comes more size-customized than other options
  • Well tolerated, as long as it is sized properly, thanks to the loose fitting noseband
  • Wide, soft, nylon webbing
  • Choose the exact snout size for your dog and adjust the neck piece for a perfect fit
  • Integrated clip to collar for added safety
  • Distributes pressure to neck and muzzle if used appropriately with collar
  • Lifetime warranty

PROS:

This sturdy head halter does a good job of keeping the noseband from moving around or getting into your dog’s eyes whether she is pulling or the leash is slack. Because it comes already sized for your dog’s muzzle, you’ll just need to adjust the neck collar portion and you’ll be able to clip it on and off easily without further adjustment. When used properly, this head halter allows you to control your dog without putting too much pressure on the bridge of your dog’s nose. An integrated safety latch to connect to your dog’s collar makes you feel safe about this choice.

CONS:

This is a big, thick head halter. Especially with the thick cheek straps, and only red and black colors to choose from, this halter can too easily be confused with a muzzle when you’re out in public. The noseband, while thick, isn’t padded, so it may wear on your dog’s nose if she pulls a lot. Because the cheek straps aren’t adjustable, this may not be the best halter for short-nosed breeds. The size range isn’t as wide as some other halters, so if you have a very large or small dog, this might not be the best pick for you.

7. Snout About Dog Head Collar By Kurgo

Kurgo Snout About

Here is a simple and attractive option to reduce your dog’s tendency to pull. Despite being so simple, it makes for a highly customized fit. Simply pull out the correct size for your dog’s muzzle, clip the collar around your dog’s head, and adjust the size to fit your dog’s neck. Once fitted, you’ll just need to slip it on and clip it every other time you use it. Snout Abouts fit dogs with necks from 10” to 29”, and come in three sizes.

The design of this head halter allows for a wide, comfortable noseband but doesn’t look like a muzzle, thanks to the fit under the throat and the attractive color choices. Reflective trim is integrated to keep your dog visible at night but not look unattractive.

Because pressure is distributed from under your dog’s throat to the bridge of nose and around the head, the Snout About should turn your dog’s head without putting too much pressure on the nose.

  • Lead clips under the throat

Features

  • Easy to put on, just slip over the noseband and clasp the collar buckle
  • Sizes for necks from 10” to 29” and highly adjustable noseband and collar
  • Wide noseband for comfort
  • Highly adjustable noseband and collar
  • Under throat attachment and attractive colors make it look unlike a muzzle
  • Under throat latch distributes pressure to neck and muzzle when used properly
  • Lifetime warranty

PROS:

This attractive head halter is easy to fit and put on, and people are unlikely to mistake it for a muzzle, thanks to the attractive coloring. An integrated reflective strap gives you nighttime safety without compromising on style. The under-the-throat clip is designed to distribute pressure across the bridge of the nose and across the head to give control.

CONS:

Many users are distrustful of the plastic clip on this head halter, despite the lifetime warranty. This may not be an ideal head halter for dogs with short noses or very little forehead, since it may be pulled down over your dog’s nose or slide up into her eyes. Because relatively constant pressure is applied to the bridge of the nose, dogs may find this head halter to be less comfortable than other halters, and they may be less likely to understand when they are pulling.

Fitting Your Dog With A Head Halter

Ordering different types of head halters requires different measurements. Most head halters ask for a measurement from your dog’s throat around the back of the head behind the ears, where the neck collar portion of the harness will clasp. Unlike most collar measurements, which require two fingers width between the dog’s neck and the collar, head halters usually require only one finger width. This is because the collar always sits in the same position at the back of your dog’s head, and must be snug enough not to pull over the ears.

Some head halters also require a snout measurement. To take a snout measurement, measure with a soft tape measure around your dog’s closed mouth at the widest point.

Other head halters fit a wide range of sizes and weights. If choosing such a head halter, just make sure that the halter you choose is approved for your dog’s weight.

How To Use A Head Halter

No training tool can simply be put on a dog and expected to have the desired effect. The person holding the leash has the responsibility to teach the dog what behavior is appropriate and not appropriate. Here are some general tips to acclimating your dog to any head halter.

Acclimating Your Dog To The Halter

In order for the walk to be a positive experience for you and your dog, both of you must feel comfortable, safe, and that you are participating voluntarily. You won’t enjoy the walk if your dog is dragging you around, but neither will your dog enjoy it if you are dragging her around while she fights her training tool. A dog that has simply learned to “submit” to the training tool is a sad sight to see, with drooping tail and ears and no interest in the walk.

To teach your dog to enjoy her new training tool, make it fun and do training on her terms. Here are some simple steps to acclimate your dog to her new head halter. Patience and small sessions are the key to success. Take as many sessions per step as it takes. Remember, only proceed if your dog is actively participating. It is much easier to teach a dog that has never worn a head halter to like it than it is to convince a dog that has had a bad experience not to be afraid.

  1. The Head Halter Is Good. Soon your dog will learn to love to see her head halter because it means going for a walk, but at the beginning teach your dog to associate the halter with good things by giving her treats anytime she gets close to it or sniffs it. Hold the halter and reward your dog every time that she sniffs it. Soon, your dog will be following the halter wherever you move it.
  2. The Nose Loop Is Good. Once your dog is following the halter around for treats, open the nose loop with one hand and hold a treat just through it with the other. NEVER MOVE THE LOOP TOWARDS YOUR DOG. Let your dog put her nose through the loop to get to the treat of her own accord. As your dog gets more comfortable, encourage her to draw her nose further and further in by drawing the treat forward, until your dog is putting pressure against the bridge of her nose with no problem every time.
  3. The Neck Collar Is Good. When your dog is comfortable with the nose loop, you can begin acclimating her to the neck collar portion. Begin by just pulling the collar tight very briefly while your dog eats a treat with her nose through the noseband, then release the pressure. Do this until your dog is standing comfortably with the collar and noseband in place. This is a good time to adjust the fit as well.
  4. The Head Halter is Good. Once your dog is comfortable with both the noseband and neck portion of the collar, you can begin clipping the halter on for brief periods. Keep your dog distracted with treats or toys during these brief periods. You’ll be able to leave the collar on for longer and longer, until your dog barely seems to notice it, assuming it is fitted properly.

The First Walk

Once your dog has become acclimated to the head halter in your home and yard, you can begin walking. It is advised that you always have a martingale collar as backup when training with a head halter. Give your dog as much freedom as possible on this first walk so that she doesn’t begin to dislike the pull from the head halter. Let her sniff to her content and change directions if she wants to pull. Bring plenty of treats to reward and encourage.

What If Your Dog Fights The Head Halter?

If your dog fights the head halter by trying to pull it off or back out of it, distract her with a good treat. If your dog isn’t interested in a treat, calm her by petting her and physically preventing her from pulling at the head halter until she is calm. Then, start walking briskly without pulling and see if your dog forgets to worry about the halter. If she fights it again, calm her and remove the halter. You will need to redo the steps of acclimating your dog to the halter and take more time before trying it on a walk.

Loose Leash Walking

When you and your dog are walking under normal conditions, the leash should hang loose between you. If your dog puts tension on the leash, return the pressure gently until your dog stops pulling, then release the pressure so the leash is again slack. If your dog persists in pulling in a direction, change direction. In general, the rule is that the leash should nearly always be slack, and pressure from your dog to sniff or do other things should be light and brief.

Taking Control

If you want to take control of your dog’s head when you are passing another dog closely, going by some food on the sidewalk, or for any other reason, hold the halter six inches to a foot from where it connects to your dog’s lead. Leave enough distance that your dog has some slack, but not so much that she can turn her head around or reach the ground.

Don’t apply continuous pressure, but rather gently apply a little pressure to keep your dog moving forward or to stop her from pulling ahead, then slacken the leash. Just as with loose leash walking, when your dog pulls, gently pull back and then release tension when the pulling stops. Even on a very short lead, your dog should not apply constant pressure.

Head Halters For Reactive And Aggressive Dogs

Head halters are a great choice for reactive and aggressive dogs for a couple of key reasons:

  1. Control pulling so that a powerful dog can’t pull you towards another dog
  2. Control of the head to keep the mouth close to you and away from another dog that is passing by or approaching
  3. Ability to break eye contact by pulling the head, which can prevent a negative response in reactive dogs
  4. Encourage eye contact by pulling your dog’s face towards you so that treats or other positive reinforcement can be used to distract

To manage a reactive or aggressive dog on a head halter, take control near your dog’s head whenever she focuses on a target of aggression. Break her focus by calling her and pulling her head towards you and rewarding with treats until the other dog or person has passed. When you are working with a potentially aggressive or highly reactive dog in public, put a yellow ribbon around her neck to signify participation in the Yellow Ribbon Project, which warns that dogs may be reactive or nervous.

Training vs Managing

A head halter can give you a lot of control and make walks much more pleasant, but it also comes with some risks. Anything that causes your dog’s head to jerk abruptly or with force can damage the neck. Too much pressure on the bridge of the nose can be painful. Badly fitted head halters can push up into your dog’s eyes or hurt the corners of her mouth. It is essential to very carefully fit your new head halter and watch informational videos and read instructional guides about how to use your head halter of choice properly.

Potential Problems

Head halters may not be good for brachycephalic dogs or small dogs who may have a tendency towards collapsing trachea or neck injury. If you have a smaller dog or a dog with a very short snout, especially if breathing is sometimes difficult anyways, it is important that you bring your dog and the halter to your vet so that your vet can determine if the halter is safe to use with your particular dog.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Head Halters Humane?

Like most training tools, head halters can be used to inflict pain and punishment. When used incorrectly, some head halters can inflict pain or injury even if the handler doesn’t intend it. Some head halters, such as those where the lead attaches below the snout, are designed to apply more pressure to the bridge of the nose. If these halters are used incorrectly or with punitive training they may well be inhumane. Head halters that attach behind the head are generally humane even when used by an amateur.

Do dogs associate the pull from a head halter with a correction like a snout correction from their mother?

Some makers of head halters and trainers who use them claim that they work because the pressure on the bridge of the snout is similar to a mother dog correcting a pup. It is much more probable that the pressure simply causes discomfort, rather than a psychological association with puppyhood punishments.

Do dogs “shut down” with the head halter?

Some trainers, both positive and dominance-based, claim that head halters cause dogs to “shut down” and lose their “sparkle”. Any unpleasant experience with a training tool can make a dog shut down, whether that tool is a head halter, a buckle collar, a slip lead, or anything else. Since head halters take more adjustment to get used to than other tools, more dogs are rushed into it and therefore feel negatively about the experience. If your dog turns into a robot dog and loses interest in everything when you put on any training aid, you are doing it wrong. If properly acclimated, your dog should come running in excitement when she sees her training tool.

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