Pulling on the lead is one of the few unpleasant experiences of bringing up a new puppy or dog. In recent years dog head collars have revolutionised our ability to help train good lead walking manners, as well as being a useful training aid to help keep your dog’s attention. Although fairly straight forward to use, it is important that head collars are correctly fitted and that your dog be properly acclimatised to them:
How should the collar fit?
Both the Gentle Leader and Halti collars should fit fairly snugly such that one finger can fit under the strap that fastens behind the ears. The nose strap should locate no closer than 15mm from your dog’s eyes. On the Gentle Leader, the clip should tighten under the chin such that only one finger fits.
How do I acclimatise my dog to the collar?
It will take a week or so to acclimatise your dog to a head collar. But these tips should help smooth the way:
- Have some tasty treats at hand. Place the head collar over your hand such that it hangs around your wrist.
- With the same hand, hold a treat with your fingers and offer it to your dog, but holding the treat such that they have to nibble at it. As your dog is nibbling the treat, simultaneously slide the collar over its face.
- Now release the treat and while they are munching away, finish fitting the clasp. Give your dog another treat and praise them warmly.
- At this point it is important to keep your dog distracted- either by you playing with him or letting your dog use its favourite toy. After 2-3 minutes remove the collar and play for a few more minutes.
- Repeat this 3-4 times a day for the first week and only playing with your dog whilst they are wearing the head collar. As you progress, start to introduce a command word that your dog can start to associate with the collar being fitted. Don’t use a lead until your have completed this stage.
- Once your dog is able to wear the collar for 5 minutes without distraction (i.e. scratching or trying to remove it), attach his lead and continue playing with them for a few minutes. Repeat this until your dog is not distracted by the head collar or lead.
- Once your dog is acclimatised, gradually build up the time your dog spends wearing the head collar and lead to the point you can take short walks.
- Remember, keep this a positive experience for your dog and don’t try to achieve too much in one go.
- Don’t allow your dog to wear a head collar unsupervised. This will give them a chance to learn how to remove them.
- Never tug your lead hard when your dog is wearing a head collar. This may cause them neck injuries.
- For the same reason, never use retractable or very long leads as these may allow your dog pick up speed before the lead takes up.