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Using a Head Collar for Dogs - an Owner's Perspective
I have two very high spirited Labrador retriever puppies. One is just over a year and the other is eight months and both have more energy than I have seen in well fourteen years since the last time I raised some pups. I got a little spoiled with my last two dogs as they got older and were very good on lead. Now these two dogs are all over the place, jumping up and, as most retrievers do, want to carry their lead in their mouth.
I like nothing better than getting up real early and going out with the pups for a walk. Constantly correcting and being jerked around makes these outings a challenge to say the least. Since I pretty much have to take both of them out and work with the two of them at the same time I figure I need a little help with controlling these two. Traditionally there are collars that are made for these types of situations. The two that come to mind most are the Woodhouse collar (chain choke collar) and the prong or pinch collar. Both of these collars deliver pain when a correction is delivered to the dog. The chain choke collar closes on the neck and the prong collar has these metal rods that dig into the dog's neck when pressure is applied from the lead. I am not a big fan of giving pain to train my dogs and have been looking for alternatives to get help with the walk.
There are collars that are made to fit around a dog's head and will act just like a halter for a horse. Although each manufacturer has slight variations in the design the basic theory behind these collars or halters are the same. The collar has a loop that goes over the dog's nose, the lead hooks into the lower part of this loop and any pressure from the dog or the lead closes this loop, shutting the dog's mouth and steering their head to the side. You have two points of control here. First, you have control over the mouth in case you have some aggression issues. Second the act of pulling the head of the dog to the side is very unnatural for your dog and brings the attention back to you instead of forging ahead on the walk.
You need to train your dog to get used to this collar as they will not like having this cord over their nose. Doing a few trial sessions with some treats makes this pretty quick work. I have not seen any dogs that like this over their nose at first. I have seen some older dogs that have gotten used to this and no longer complain. My Lab has to stop a couple of times on the walk to scratch her nose on the ground.
When I first used the head collar I was amazed at the immediate positive response I got from my dog. She took to it right away and after pulling a couple of times settled into a nice loose leash walk. She still does not like to put it on but knows that it means going for a walk which seems to outweigh any negative aspects of the collar. The goal is to train my dog to walk with a loose leash and the head collar is a great, very gentle device to use to get to that goal. I use the Halti collar and Premier makes the Gentle Leader head collar as well.