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Head Halters: Gentle Leader vs. Halti « The Pawsitive Dog Blog

Head Halters: Gentle Leader vs. Halti

Head halters are still a useful and humane tool for teaching loose leash walking.  As with any of the tools we use (including leash and collar), they are a means to an end and should not be considered as a replacement for proper training.  You still have to do the work!

Gentle Leader with double-ended leash

Gentle Leader with double-ended leash

There is no “magic” product out there to solve your problems.  They are most often considered for dogs who have developed a pulling or lunging problem that makes them difficult or unsafe to walk (as in the case of the 100# owner and the 80# dog).  They allow the owner to turn the head and redirect the dog’s attention.  They are extremely useful in dealing with dogs with aggression issues.  They are not a muzzle, although many people will assume so if your dog is wearing one… consider it an opportunity to educate the public :-)

The two most commonly seen and available head halters in the USA are the “Gentle Leader” (GL) and the “Halti”.  They each have their advantages and disadvantages.  The general premise is that they work like a horse’s halter.  If you can control the head, you can control the body.  Some dogs are very resistant to them (often the ones that
would benefit the most) and some accept them with little adjustment period.  You can increase your chances of success by introducing the halter in a slow and positive manner.

Gentle Leader:
Manufactured by Premier Pet Products, they were formerly only available from trainers and vets, but are now available in many retail places.  They come in various sizes and colors, but I suggest choosing a color that closely matches your dog’s face.

Description:
Two “loops” that connect below the chin at the throat.  The “neck loop” fits like a collar high on the neck just behind the ears.  The fit is quite snug.  The “nose loop” goes over the dog’s nose and rests just in front of the eyes. It is adjusted fairly snugly so that the loop won’t slide off the end of the dog’s nose.  There is a ring at the bottom where the two loops connect.  This is where the leash attaches.

Advantages:
Well made.  Nice feeling fabric.  Choice of quick release or buckle.  A second ring on the neck loop allows you to use it as a collar (nose loop hangs loose at throat rather than over nose) in transitioning off of using the GL.  For dogs that accept it readily, the owner can be walking the dog in a matter of minutes.  It doesn’t require much training for owners to get started.

Disadvantages:
Snug fit is fairly restrictive.  Some dogs find this objectionable.  Generally costs more than the Halti.  The position of the leash attachment gives less control than that of the Halti.

Halti:
Created by Dr. Roger Mugford and manufactured by Coastal.  They are available in many pet supply stores and catalogs.  They come in a variety of sizes, originally only in black, but some colors are now available.  If you choose a color, choose one that blends with your dog’s face.

Description:
One piece design has cheek straps that connect the nose loop and neck loop portions.  Newer models may have some adjustment options.  Leash connects to a ring that is located on the bottom under the dog’s chin.  All have quick release connectors.  Fit should allow a finger to easily slide under both cheek straps.

Advantages:
Looser fit and lighter weight fabric is less restrictive and better accepted by some dogs.  Location of the chin ring gives better leverage… easier to turn the dog’s head without twisting the neck.  Less expensive and may be easier to find than the GL.

Disadvantages:
Feels a bit flimsier to the touch.  Looser fit means that the dog can paw it off or back out of it easier.  It is recommended that a back-up leash or collar be used for safety and the Halti now comes with a short safety strap to attach it to the collar.   Lack of adjustment means it may not fit all head shapes.

My Opinion:
In most cases, I prefer to use a Halti over a Gentle Leader.  I like the more relaxed fit as it is accepted by more dogs and the placement of the leash attachment gives me better control.  I always use a double-ended leash with head halters to prevent putting steady pressure on the dog’s head, which is the main reason dog’s object to head halters.  This double-ended leash system is also safer and gives me much better control with less effort.

SAFETY NOTE: A head halter should only be used with a short leash (6 ft. max). Use with a longer lead could allow the dog to run to the end and be jerked by the head. While rare, this could result in a neck injury. The head halter is a training tool and should be used properly at all times.

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27 Responses to “Head Halters: Gentle Leader vs. Halti”

  1. Mary Ann says:

    I’ve been using a halti on my 1 year old Kelpie, she is adjusting, and training is going well. How long should one use a halti? Is it meant to be used just for the training period? This puppy is very spirited, my concern is, can it hurt their sinuses? I have a proper fitting one that gives complete freedom in the mouth area etc. I notice that she snorts sometimes when she pulls.
    Please give me the scoop!
    Thank you.

  2. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Hi Mary Ann,

    You may use the Halti as long as you feel it is necessary. Ideally, you will eventually try to wean your dog off of it, but she is still young and there may always be situations where that bit of extra control comes in handy. If she is relaxed and comfortable wearing it, that can also help her relax in those challenging situations. It becomes valuable to her as well as to you. I wouldn’t rush to get her off of it. Used correctly (and preferably with a double ended leash), it is safe for long-term use.

  3. Jane says:

    Is a halti or gentle leader more effective for a dog that jumps? My dog likes to lunge and jump after people (mainly joggers and bikers) on walks–he doesn’t pull much actually. It’s not aggressive, just overly friendly. I just worry about neck injury, but I’m also worried about him hurting someone if he manages to jump when my guard is down (that has happened when I was talking to someone and my dog was trying to jump on someone on the other side of me going by. He is in obedience classes, but he forgets his training when he sees someone he wants to jump on.

  4. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Hi Jane,
    Either one will work as well if you learn how to use it properly. I prefer to always use a double-ended lead with a head halter. With one end clipped to the head halter and the other end to a flat collar or harness you will have much more control over your dog with less risk of injury. Remember to keep the leash loose when he is walking nicely. If he lunges, use both leads to catch him, turn slightly, let his feet come back to the ground and gently release the pressure of the leash. If you keep your arms slightly bent but relaxed, you will be prepared to catch him should he lunge. Also work to praise and reward him each time he makes the choice to keep his feet on the ground when he is excited.

  5. Mary says:

    I have a 4 year old Aussie. We adopted him a year ago from a couple whose life was changing and they could not keep him. I think our Aussie was the Alpha in the household he came from and rarely was taken on walks or controlled. He is a wonderful adoring dog except when we go for walks or when people come to our door. Then he turns into this excited dog that is almost impossible to control.

    When we are walking he gets so excited when he sees another dog and sounds like he wants to tear them apart. He really just wants to see the dog and play…. If the owner of the other dog is willing to come close he will calm down and sniff and wants to play. He also will bark and jump at bikers and joggers as they go by us.

    I have been making him stop and sit and stay and I get in front of him when something approaches and tell him to stay but he wiggles around me and it is a chore. It takes all my muscles to hold him and constant verbal cues for him. Every once in a while he will do it beautiful as if to say see I can do this sometimes….. when I want.

    We adopted him to be a companion for a Siberian Husky who was rescued from a puppy mill when she was 1. We had our Husky for 3 years when we adopted the Aussie and she is doing great but still skittish about any aggression around her. She trust me completely but really gets scared and skittish if I try to correct the Aussie. She and the Aussie have become fast friends and best buddies though so that is good.

    We tried the Gentle Leader a few months ago for about a month and at times it worked like a charm on the Aussie. But most of the time he was a bucking bronco. He kept managing to slip it off his face in a matter of seconds and so we kept trying to tighten it up so he couldn’t get it off. My worry was we had tightened it up too much on his snout and he could not pant enough to stay cool.

    Once when we were going on our walk he had the leader on and was starting to walk with me and not pay attention to the leader. He did really well for a few blocks. When we crossed a street (thank goodness not a busy one) he did his quick second maneuver to try to pull it off and got his toe nail caught on the muzzle part and it pulled him down in the street trying to get it loose and off.

    I couldn’t help but laugh at his antiques with all his moving around on his side with is paw caught his leash caught around his other feet and he was essentially hog tied. I found myself in tears laughing in the middle of the street with our Aussie’s paw stuck while trying to get out of the Gentle leader. It was a priceless moment I wish I had on tape for how Not to use the Gentle leader.

    Would the Halti work any better for our Aussie? We did have some luck with the Gentle leader and are going to try it again now that it is cooler and I won’t be worried he can’t pant enough to cool off. Before we tried it again I have been searching online for something that will work better or we won’t have to fit it so tight to get it to stay on him.

    I love the idea of the two ended leash to be used for walking him….. that is a great idea. I use a gentle harness right now for him and think I am going to put a regular harness and try either the Gentle leader or the Halti with it and a two headed leash.

    I would welcome any other suggestions! I adore both of these dogs and can get our Aussie to behave but it is a chore. I love to take them on long walks but have to be on constant alert to any joggers, bikers or other dogs in the area.

  6. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Hi Mary,
    I think that before you try the Halti it would help to get a little help with your leash handling skills. One thing I have found is that the more we “man handle” the leash, the more the dogs bulk and balk. So learning how to stay calm and use as little pressure as needed can really help you. I recommend you check http://www.ttouch.com for a TTouch practitioner near you. They will teach you the proper way to use the head halter, a double-ended leash, and your harness as well as ways to help your Aussie relax. You can also check out http://www.functionalrewards.com for a method to help him deal with his excitement about seeing other dogs. Hopefully he gets regular opportunities to play with safe dogs off leash.

  7. Chiao Shih says:

    I have two Great Pyrs (a 1 & a 2 year old) & was wondering if a GL/Halti paired w/ a double leash would cause any harm to my pup pups?

  8. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    A head halter can be very helpful for a large dog like a Pyr. You will need to introduce it slowly to improve their willingness to accept wearing it. I find dogs to be more comfortable with the looser fit of the Halti. The double-ended leash helps you avoid putting steady pressure on their head, which is the main reason dogs “fight” the head halter. The double leash also keeps them close beside you so the risks of injury are much lower. Used correctly (double leash, no steady pressure, no abrupt jerks), the head halter is perfectly safe.

  9. kasim says:

    Hi i have a 15 month old american akita whos been on the halti for about 8/9 months and he just doesnt seem to get it, he will pull after birds cats dogs and foxes even when been corrected day after day, he also pulls when he wants to mark territory. it seems he doesnt aknoledge me and with treats no matter what it is, dog treats, turkey, cheese after a couple he is just not interested at all… HELP!

  10. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Head halters are only a tool to help with teaching your dog. They should not be used as correction devices. In most cases, the more you “correct” the more often you have to correct and the less likely the dog is to listen to the correction, and thus, the harder you have to correct to make an impression. You would be much better off teaching your dog to *choose* to pay attention to you over paying attention to all the distractions around him. This is often referred to as “doggie zen” or “it’s your choice”. We must work to build our dog’s trust in us and their desire to cooperate with us. That is a foundation of the relationship we have with them. No tool is a substitute for a good relationship. It’s time for you to go back to the beginning and examine the foundation of your training and relationship. Yes, those northern guarding breeds can be challenging to work with :-) You just have to figure out what he wants and make it worth his while to work with you to get those things. Easier said than done, but there are no short-cuts to quality training.

  11. Chris says:

    We rescued a 5 year old beagle 6 weeks ago and are having such a hard time walking him. All he wants to do is sniff in the grass. He will also sit his butt down on the sidewalk and not budge even when dragged. We started him on the martingale collar on recommendation from a trainer we had for one hour. It worked great for a few weeks but now he is back to a mind of his own. Tonight we we had a scary incident of pulling on him too hard and the choking that resulted. Would either of these alters help our issue? I don’t even want to walk him anymore.

  12. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Beagles have been described as noses with legs . Yours has likely been practicing the nose on the ground behavior for 5 years. It’s unreasonable to expect him to change in 6 weeks. However, a head halter (HH) will be a very useful tool in helping you achieve your walking goals. You will need to invest the time and energy to create true value for the HH. You want him to actually enjoy wearing it *before* you attempt to use it on a walk. Here’s a nice video of the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hMFHt2iFdU Be mindful that it may take several sessions with your dog to achieve the same results. While you are working on creating value for the HH, you also want to create value for you. That means every time your dog looks at you or is along side you (where you would like him to walk), you will need to reward him. It helps if you use a reward marker (like “yes” or the click of a clicker) to tell him he just earned a treat. The more rewarding YOU are, the more he will seek out interactions with you and the less he will go off sniffing on his own. However, since he is a Beagle, you can use the opportunity to sniff as a reward for his attention to you. Each time he looks at you, you can praise him and then send him to “go sniff”. Stand still and wait. Eventually he will get tired of sniffing the same spot within the length of the leash and check in with you. Be sure to praise and reward him well with several small treats before you resume your walk. In the beginning, you walks may consist of 2-3 steps, a “go sniff”, and a few more steps. That’s okay. Your goal is to be rewarding and relevant to your dog not to “go for a walk”. So be patient and keep practicing.

    When he is happily wearing the HH, you will have more of an ability to prevent him from sniffing if need be. That does NOT mean you get to drag him around with his nose in the air. You will continue to make attention to you highly rewarding with occasional “go sniff” rewards as well. If he tries to go off sniffing without your permission, calmly slide your hand down the leash to the HH and with gentle pressure lift his head up and next to your leg, then release the pressure. You are asking him to listen to you but giving him a choice. If he goes right back to sniffing, lift again. Repeat, calmly, until he realizes that YOU are far more interesting that whatever that was (you may actually need to keep stepping away from something if you know it’s super appealing – like dropped food or roadkill!). Praise the heck out of him for finally checking in with you.

    This process with take serious patience and dedication with this dog. I would probably also use a front ring harness (like my Freedom Harness) and a double ended leash to give you the most control with the least amount of force should your actually need to get from point A to B with him quickly. But no dragging him or getting upset. Beagles can “dig in their heels” quite well (think mule) if treated this way. So it’s more about getting inside his head and making him think you are worth listening to and that all the great things he wants come through paying attention to you.

    Working with a good positive trainer will help you reach your goals faster. You may also want to read “When Pigs Fly” (see my resources section) for even more help on motivating this guy and learning how to get him on your team.

  13. diane says:

    My 8 month old great dane pup is a pleasure on walks — has low prey drive and is never tempted to pull when other dogs are around unless they are in their yard, going crazy on their side of the fence – then my pup gets quite riled up, but he can be dissuaded. He does, however, go ‘wild’ when children want to approach him to pet him! Because of his size I always refuse them.

    However, I recently took him to training class to improve his social skills – however, he pays no attention to me/rewards, but just wants to play with the other dogs. The instructor insists that I get a prong collar – I have refused because I have brought him to class to learn how to train him, not force submission through fear.

    I am considering however, the Halti-collar as a alternative to the prong collar. Will it achieve the results that my trainer is trying to get?

  14. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Hi Diane,

    Group classes are often pretty overwhelming for young dogs and it is very hard for them to remain focused for long. I consider these classes to be more about the humans learning how to teach at home rather than a place where the dogs learn new skills. In fact, you may do better to practice at home and sit out the “new” stuff until you have a chance to work on it at home.

    But back to your question. Yes, the Halti would be helpful in preventing your pup from engaging in behavior you don’t care for. But it must be introduced in a positive way in order for it to be most effective. Unfortunately, many people just put them on the dog and pull their heads around which leads to the dog hating the head halter. So be sure to fit it properly and introduce it gradually with lots of rewards and fun associated with wearing it.

    If you instructor is insisting on a prong collar then s/he is not what I would consider to be a reinforcement based trainer. So you may want to reconsider taking him there. I know there are places where this type of class may be the only kind available. You can still make the best of it by staying on the edge of class, keeping your pup busy with a stuffed Kong so he doesn’t disrupt the group, and just practicing your lessons at home. It takes courage to not go along with training methods you don’t agree with, so I applaud you for not being bullied into using a prong collar.

    I understand your concerns about not letting kids pet him. Danes attract a LOT of attention! But you may be inadvertently creating a problem by not allowing any interactions. If you can orchestrate situations when dog and kids can both be safe and polite, and reward them both, that would go a long way toward helping him like kids and teaching them how to interact with each other. Perhaps having kids behind a fence or sitting on a bench and walking your pup past them (assuming he is just exuberant rather than aggressive). Create a positive association for seeing kids, especially kids running and screaming, by starting at a distance and gradually working closer. Again, the Halti may be very useful in these situations if he gets a bit too excited. But think of it as you back-up tool rather than a primary source of control.

    I also encourage you to work on impulse control and focus exercises at home, in your yard, and on your walks. Do this with games and exercises like “leave it”, “it’s your choice”, “wait”, and “eye contact”. Good luck with your Dane. Most that I’ve known are just big, lovable goof balls.

  15. Cathy Stack says:

    We adopted a dog from the Humane Society. He pulled so much on a neck collar that it made walking him uncomfortable. He is anxious around cars, other dogs, and bikes.
    We tried the Gentle Leader collar and it changed our lives. The problem is that he is now fixated on getting the nose piece off. He wants to rub his snout and now uses his paws. Unfortunately he has been successful so the first part of the walk is a giant struggle, eventually it gets a little better.
    I have not been using the double latch leash but it makes total sense.
    Do you have any suggestions? I’d hate to think he’ll have to be in the fenced part of the yard when he’s outside. Do you think the Halti style will improve his efforts to get the collar off?

    Cathy Stack

  16. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Hi Cathy,
    What you describe is pretty typical of dogs that were not gradually introduced to the head halter and the Gentle Leader in particular. I would start over using a Halti because it doesn’t fit as tightly as the GL and dogs tend to accept it better. However, you will need to introduce it gradually in a very positive way so he likes it better. I highly recommend the TTouch double-ended leash because it has a very small clasp at one end for use with the head halter. This prevents having the heavy weight of a normal leash adding pressure to the head halter. But, for now, you can tie the handles of two leashes together so you can practice as if you had a double-ended leash.

    When you get the Halti on, you don’t want to go for a walk, or even attach the leash at first. Play some games around the house and feed lots of yummy treats while he is wearing it. Then practice with the leash in the yard and near your house. When you are ready to walk, be sure to feed a steady stream of tiny treats until he settles into the fun of walking. That will help keep his mind off the Halti. Try very hard to avoid any steady pressure on the end of the leash attached to the Halti. It should be your “training wheels” that you only use if he tries to jerk, pull, or lunge or if you need to turn him away from something that upsets him.

    Also, since you know the sorts of things that worry him, you will want to work hard to make good things happen for him (your very best treats) whenever those things appear. Avoid getting so close to his “triggers” that he can’t think or listen to you. You may want to learn more about the BAT 2.0 method of dealing with his triggers.

    Hope this helps make walking easier and more fun for both of you!

  17. Marilla says:

    Hi there, I use the Halti on my 10 month Am staff.

    Every time I go to put it on she looks really sad, and when its on she is alwasy rubbing her nose on the grass trying to scratch it and when I take it off she runs around the house rubbing her nose on anything that she can.

    Is this normal or is there a chance that the material they use bothers her ? there is no redness on her skin and no hair loss where the halti sits.

    Cheers.

    Marilla

  18. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Hi Marilla,
    First, it’s important to make sure the Halti fits correctly. You should be able to fit your thumbs under the cheek pieces on both sides at the same time. Then, consider how you introduced your pup to the Halti. Too many people just stick it on the dog, clip on the leash, and off they go. Very few dogs are accepting of this approach and resort to varied attempts to scrape it off their face.

    I’d go back to the beginning and make it a really positive thing for her. Here’s a nice demo of a good approach: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BDeGor9VTA Use super high value treats and make playing the “get dressed” game fun for her. Keep your sessions very brief so you are taking it off before she has a chance to scrape at it. Work up to letting her wear it during meals or a brief session of her favorite game. When she is comfortable with that, then you can clip on a leash for just a few moments. Remember, I recommend using a double-ended leash so you don’t put steady pressure on her Halti – that’s the biggest reason dogs fight it. Keep up a steady stream of happy talk and yummy treats while she wears it.

    When you are ready to try walking, be sure to carry treats for frequent reward whenever the leash is loose. If you feel you need to control her head, slide your hand down the leash to the Halti and bring her head slowly toward your leg and up, then slightly relax the tension. You are, in essence, asking her to calmly attend to you rather than what she was doing. Do NOT grab, jerk or hold her tight if you can at all help it. When you are done with your lesson (keep them short), ask her to sit and remove the Halti while she is calm. Don’t let her run around trying to get it off. You remove it as a reward for her calm behavior.

    Staffs are strong dogs so a Halti can be a big help if used correctly. I would also outfit her with a well-fitting harness for added control with comfort. My Freedom Harness is a good option.

  19. Patricia says:

    My 16mth old Jack Russell has been using a halti since he could go out but still manages to pull he is a nightmare any suggestions please.

  20. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Hi Patricia,
    While I recommend using a double-ended leash with any head halter (other end connected to a flat collar or harness), these are all just tools. The tools alone will not teach the dog not to pull. Depending on the personality of the dog, and terriers are generally pretty head strong, they can learn to “lean in” to any “no pull” device and pull any way. So a critical element in your work needs to be rewarding him for what you DO want, which means ANY laxness in the leash and/or attention to you. Allowing him to move forward when there is tension on the leash is inadvertently rewarding him for pulling. It will be tedious at first to wait for a moment of slack leash, reward (tiny treats and praise) and take one more step. Focus on practicing in the house first… even just in one small room with few distractions. Work up to walking around the outside of your house and in your yard before you attempt walking in public. And when you are ready to venture further out walk one house to the left and back to your house, then one house to the right and back to your house. Continue in this back and forth manner until you can go around the block.
    I’d also work on games and any little way you can engage his attention. Use those games as rewards (playing with you) for bits of nice loose leash walking. Too often these young, smart dogs are just bored and looking outward for excitement when on a walk. Aim to be the “source of all good things” for him, even if that means he has to offer a sit or eye contact with you to gain permission to “go sniff”.
    I also know how frustrating it can be to have a crazy, out of control, pulling dog on the leash. No fun for either of you! It’s natural to get more heavy handed on the leash, scold, drag, etc. when the better approach is to slow down, tone down, calm down. Set yourself up for success by working indoors first, allowing plenty of time to just stand there and wait for him to do something you like – stand without pulling, look at you, sit, etc. Be patient and reward behavior you like. You will also want to provide appropriate outlets for his energy. Things like running games, play dates with other dogs, hide-n-seek or other find-it games. It’s unreasonable to expect him to walk on leash as his only form of exercise or to have the attention span or self-control to keep the leash loose for very long. Progress gradually. Keep notes to log your progress.

  21. Renee says:

    Hello! We have a very strong 90lb 1.5 year old yellow lab. He does pretty well walking with an easy walk harness if there are no distractions. He goes nuts when we see another dog–pulling, jumping, vocalizing. I’ve read about some dogs being a “frustrated greeter” and this sounds like him. He doesn’t exhibit these same behaviors when we come across people. And if he’s given the opportunity to greet the dog he is fine. But the way he carries on, other owners seem wary of him and honestly we try and avoid crossing paths of other dogs because his behavior is hard to manage. Even the best treats cannot distract him on walks, we have tried, and this is a very food motivated lab. I’m considering a halti or gentle leader. Any thoughts?

  22. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Hi Renee,
    It does sound like your boy is a frustrated greeter. Your question is about tools for walking him, but that is only half the issue. Let’s talk about that first. I’m not a huge fan of the Easy Walk harness as it has a lot of play in the front martingale so it feels “sloppy”. It also doesn’t fit most dogs very well, IMO. I don’t like to see the front strap ride too low and interfere with a dog’s natural shoulder movement. So I suggest a better fitting harness like my Freedom Harness which has a ring on the back as well as the front ring. This gives your additional control when you need it.
    A Gentle Leader may be helpful for you, but you would need to spend adequate time conditioning him to it so he is comfortable and relaxed when wearing it. Even then, I would use it in conjunction with the harness and a double-ended leash.
    One issue may be that the more you try to “control” him around dogs, the more pressure you put on him and the more frustrated he gets. This leads me back to the non-equipment issue. I encourage you to look into the BAT 2.0 technique for dealing with frustrated greeters. I would also practice a lot of “It’s Yer Choice” around the house. The point of both is teaching the dog that calm, relaxed behavior is much more likely to get him the things he wants in like instead of “throwing” himself at them. Self-imposed self-control is a critical skill for our pet dogs. They rarely come hard-wired for it. It’s something we have to teach. Teenagers, like your boy, are often very impulsive and “wild” unless they have been strategically taught how to control themselves. The best part is that you can use access to stuff he wants (like playing with other dogs) as a reward for his choices of self-control.

  23. Doreen Young says:

    Our 7month GSD pup barks and lunges at sole pedestrians, cars, joggers and cyclists yet is friendly and happy with people she comes across in busier situations. She enjoys being patted and does well in her obedience classes. We have been using positive reinforcement for 2months now following our behaviourists advice but have reached a plateau. Would a GL help ?

  24. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Hi Doreen,
    I’m glad to hear you are working with a positive trainer to raise your puppy. As a young male with guarding and herding instincts, it’s not too surprising that he has some reactivity issues in certain situations. A head halter (HH) may be a useful tool in helping him make better choices in these situations. However, it is important that you first acclimate him to wearing it so that he is relaxed and accepting of having it on his face. I don’t think most dogs really like head halters, but done correctly, they can accept them comfortably. Your trainer should be able to help you with the details of that. Expect to spend several weeks on this part of the process.
    When he is comfortable wearing it, playing games with you in it, eating treats with it on and having the leash attached then you can use it to help him in public. I prefer to always use a double-ended leash with one end on the HH and the other on a flat collar or well fitted harness. Your goal is not to allow any steady pressure on the head – that often leads to the dog “fighting” against the HH.
    Should he react to a person or moving object simply slide your hand down the lead toward the HH, move his head toward your leg (and possibly take a step or two back) and then ease any tension on the leash. You can keep your hand close to his head, just in case.
    What you are trying to accomplish is simply telling the dog “That’s not an acceptable choice of behavior to me. Would you like to choose again?” When you ease the tension, if he does NOT react again be sure to praise heavily and even give a few treats for his “good” choice. If he chooses to react again, apply a little pressure to move him a bit farther away and offer him another “choice point”. Repeat as needed until he makes a more appropriate choice – sit, look at you, stand quietly and watch the “thing”, step back even more – anything that is not lunging, barking, etc.
    The HH is a tool to help you stop him from getting too investing in any inappropriate choices, but it is important that you not just use it to “correct” him or drag him away. To ultimately fix your current problem he has to have opportunities to make the correct choice as well. Since you know what tends to set him off, you will pay close attention as you start getting into those situation so you can quickly reward ANY small choices that you like rather than waiting for him to erupt and having to deal with that. Remember to praise and reward all the good choices he makes *before* he “loses it”. With the moving objects, a common trigger for herding breeds, you can also set up scenarios where the choice is easier for him – a skateboard moving slowly at a distance, positioning him a good distance from a quiet street with a slow speed limit. Set yourselves up for success as you systematically work through the things that trigger a reaction from him. I find it also helpful to teach them an acceptable alternative behavior (AAB) for when they are faced with their triggers – something like “when in doubt, sit and look at me”.
    Good luck! GSD’s can be a handful when young, but they are super smart and willing learners.

  25. Doreen Young says:

    Thank you so much for that helpful (and speedy)response. I like the idea of sliding your hand down the lead….our pup is a bitch, from a highly recommended breeder who judges shows etc etc so we are sure of her breeding. As we live in a built up area you can imagine the issues we could have if we don’t work this through. Onwards and upwards.

  26. pawsitivedog pawsitivedog says:

    Glad to hear she (sorry for that oversight) is from a responsible and reputable breeder. In my experience young GSDs often “speak first” in new situations. This could be partly an arousal issue for her. Another idea for you is to channel that arousal into a more suitable activity – perhaps playing tug with you. That could give you the option of having her carry a toy in her mouth which may curb some of the barking as well. Try not to overreact to her reactions. I know having a large guarding dog can lead us to be overly sensitive to how others perceive our dogs. That’s how I felt with my Dobes. It helps if you can keep thing light and stay calm, even if she looks like a nut at times :-) Keep at it! Impulse control games like “It’s Yer Choice” are an excellent way of helping young dogs like this learn to make “better”, more socially acceptable, choices.

  27. Jennifer Leipfert says:

    Hello there! I am working very hard to owner train my 5 month old bulldog as we work towards her service dog certification. She pulls quite a lot and we have used a pinch collar with her for a few months but it tends to irritate her skin. We are considering switching to a Halti collar as it would hopefully give me the control I need but be safe for her as well. Any tips for training her when we switch?

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