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Using Head Halters In Dog Training

By: Amie Smith

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Walking With a Head Halter

Mistake #1 - The number one mistake most owners initially make is keeping tension on the leash at all times. Most people have become conditioned to do this because it used to be the only way they could control their dogs on leash. But as discussed earlier, with the head halter system, tension on the leash gives the powerful message that the dog must change his behavior. No tension on the leash means that the dog is displaying acceptable behavior. If there is constant tension on the leash the dog will never learn what is acceptable and non-acceptable behavior. On your first couple of walks, it is often helpful to have a friend accompany you to help you remember to not rein your dog in inappropriately.

Positioning - Have your dog stand or sit by your side and leave enough slack in the leash that the dog can move approximately one foot in front or behind you. The arm that is closest to the dog will be locked in an extended position by your side and will hold the leash so that the amount of slack you have chosen will remain constant. By locking your arm in an extended position, you will be less likely to inappropriately apply tension to the leash. The arm farthest away from the dog holds the remainder of the gathered up leash and can either be by your side or folded across your stomach.

Starting off – Give your dog a command such as "Rover heel" or "Rover let's go" so that your dog knows that you are starting off. Make an effort to walk at a constant speed and not to change your walking speed to accommodate your dog. If your dog forges ahead, tension will naturally be applied to the leash and your dog will be forced to stop until you are in line with him again. If he lags behind, continue walking, the tension building on the back of his neck will compel him to walk forward again. Your dog will soon learn that the only position where there is no tension on the head halter is walking by your side. He will learn this very important lesson without you having to do anything but walk at a constant speed. A few willful dogs will attempt to struggle with the head halter a few more times. If this occurs stop, apply steady, upward tension to the lead. As soon as he relaxes, release the tension and start your walk again.

Head Halters as a Training Tool

A head halter can be an effective tool in the modification of behavior problems by helping you teach your dog a more appropriate alternative behavior. You can use the tension on/tension off system to correct any inappropriate behavior such as excessive barking, jumping on people, and aggression. Just apply tension to the lead when your dog acts inappropriately and release the tension when he relaxes. For training of indoor behavior problems, you can leave the head halter on your dog with a loopless training lead as long as you are present. That way you can easily gather your dog up and correct inappropriate behavior. As with any training, it is important to proceed at your dog's pace and set up practice sessions where your dog will succeed. Be sure to make training positive by including delicious treats and praise for desired behavior. Some owners discover that simply having their dogs wear the head halter causes the frequency of unwanted behaviors, such as aggression, to decrease.

Head halters can be obtained from a number of different sources that include:

1. Gentle Leaders® are sold through veterinarians and elite pet supply catalogs (distributor Premier Pet Products. Tel: 1-888-640-8840).
2. Snootloops® are modified from the Gentle Leader® design by the addition of two side bands to hold the noseband on more firmly. Available from Animalbehavior.com
3. Haltis® can be purchased from pet shops, pet supply catalogs, and on the Internet.
4. Haltis®, K9 Kumalongs®, and Comfort halters® are available from Internet sites.

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