By: Chris Pearcey
It just isn’t fun walking a dog that pulls. While there are products that can provide a quick fix for some dogs, ultimately, training and time will build the connection with your dog. In the meantime, let’s just get walking.
Head harnesses function much like head halters used on a horses. “Where the nose goes, the body will follow,” so the saying goes.
I have yet to work with a dog who is thrilled to wear a head harness. The most important thing you can do to avoid wasting your money and becoming frustrated is to acclimate your dog to the harness. It takes a little time, but if you don’t do it, you’ll have a dog that is constantly working to get the harness off of his/her face, and that doesn’t make for an enjoyable walk.
The average dog can be convinced that wearing a head harness is a good thing in just a few short training sessions. Some dogs will take longer—be patient. It is worth it. You’ll need lots of tasty treats and a distraction free environment.
There are several excellent videos and articles on how to acclimate your dog to a head harness, such as the following:
Fitting the collar can be tricky. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Check with a local pet care professional-trainer, dog walker, pet store owner – and see if they’ll help you.
Remember to check the fit each time you put the harness on your dog. As your dog grows, it will need to be adjusted. In addition, as the harness becomes broken in it may become looser.
Halti vs Gentle Leader
The only reason I typically recommend the Halti over the Easy Walk head harness is that the Halti has a built in safety mechanism just in case your dog slips out of the harness.
With the Easy Walk harness, if your dog slips the harness off, you are left standing with a leash and a harness in your hand, while your dog runs free.
The Halti has an additional clip that connects the harness to your dog’s collar. Because of this, if your dog slips out of the harness, you are still connected to your dog.
It is an extra step in getting ready for a walk, but one that I find well worth it.
You’ll need to use a regular leash with a head harness, not a flexi (retractable) leash.
Much of the control you gain over your dog with the head harness is because he/she is more connected to you. The slightest movement of your hand can communicate information down the leash.
A tight leash gives the dog information that your speed or direction has changed. Your dog should turn his/her head towards you for a check in. With training, your dog learns to check in with you constantly and make adjustments.
If you use a flexi, or retractable, leash with a head harness, you will be training your dog to work against the instructions he/she is receiving from you through the harness. There is constant pressure from the leash, so eventually, the dog will learn to ignore the pressure because the information it provides is meaningless.
If a head harness is properly fitted and the dog is properly acclimated to it, pulling by most dogs will be reduced. You can now begin to communicate more effectively with your dog and enjoy your walks!
Image courtesy of Amazon.
Chris Pearcey is a Certified Behavior and Training Specialist working in Central Texas. She has worked with dogs and their owners to improve their relationships since 2006. Feel free to contact her at Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org.