No one likes to be walked by their dog, but it happens all the time. The pulling, lunging, and occasional fall have become standard for a lot of dog owners - but it doesn't have to be. A head halter called a 'Gentle Leader' can help with this specific problem and can also assist with curbing several canine behavioral issues.
What is a Gentle Leader?
The Gentle Leader was co-developed by a veterinary behaviorist at the University of Minnesota, Dr. RK Anderson. He created the concept for the Gentle Leader based on a horse halter. Try to imagine what would happen if you put a choke chain on a horse. Could you do anything? No, because a horse is too big. It's the same principal with dogs (even little ones). If you have control of their head, you have control of their entire body.
Standard training collars, such as choke chains and prong collars, put pressure on the front of a dog's neck. The pressure pulls back towards the dog's tail, which will make them pull forward even more fervently. The pulling occurs because dogs instinctively pull against pressure. The more you try and pull your dog back, the more he will pull forward.
With the Gentle Leader, the pressure goes forward toward the nose, so the dog will instinctively pull back. In most cases, it's an instant heel, which makes it extremely effective for big dogs.
The Gentle Leader is not a muzzle - dogs can open their mouths to eat, drink, pant, bark, and even bite. It is more effective than a choke or prong collar because it applies gentle pressure at the base of the skull and on top of the nose.NOT the neck. The neck strap and nose loop instinctively remind the dog of others in the pack, including its mother and, more importantly, the Alpha dog. When fit by a professional and used correctly, it will not only make a dog-owners life easier, but it will make the dogs life better too.
How Does a Gentle Leader Work?
The Gentle Leader was designed to work with a dog's pack instincts, helping to communicate with your dog in a way he immediately understands. The pressure applied to the nose is similar to the Alpha dog in a pack biting the muzzle telling the animal to stop the behavior. Additionally, the pressure on the back of the neck is like the mother dog gently mouthing a puppy telling him to stop the behavior. After your dog has become accustomed to the collar, he will immediately understand what you want since you are communicating in his language.
How Does It Help Dogs With Behavioral Problems?
I have used the Gentle Leader for several years in my practice to assist in the rehabilitation of aggressive and fearful dogs. Since it works with pack instincts, they seem to understand much better. I have seen phenomenal things happen to an aggressive or fearful dog when I put the Gentle Leader on. With appropriate, humane, and effective behavior modification, wonderful changes and re-learning can happen. When used in conjunction with independence and obedience training, a large majority of aggressive dogs can be taught a relaxed behavior, instead of continuing the growling, snarling behavior.
My Dog Hates It!
Gentle Leader A lot of people have told me over the years that they have tried the Gentle Leader but their dogs "hated it". Well, of course they do, because they aren't in control anymore-You are! The more they hate it, the more they need it. Most dogs will fight it but 99 percent of them will 'give in' within minutes because our dogs are looking for a leader, and by using the Gentle Leader, you are telling them that you're the boss.
In the wild, if there is not a benevolent leader, the pack won't survive. Therefore, if your dog doesn't see you as the Alpha dog, he will try and take on that position to save his 'pack' (your family). Having to take the leader position is very scary for a dog and can cause severe anxiety and insecurity. With the Gentle Leader, he will instantly understand that you are the leader and although dogs may fight it at first, most are relieved they don't need to be the Alpha anymore.
The best thing about the Gentle Leader is that it doesn't cause pain or fear like other training tools can. If fit properly by a trained professional, it will allow you to create a happy, secure bond with your dog and make walks more enjoyable. Additionally, if you have a dog with behavior problems, it will assist in re-conditioning those behaviors without pain - making life better for you as well as your dog.
De-bunking the myth
Some people tell me that they have heard the Gentle Leader can cause spinal problems. This is completely false, and there is no recorded evidence to prove this belief. However, it is imperative that the Gentle Leader is used correctly in order to provide maximum benefit, but also to prevent any injury to your dog. Please make sure you have the Gentle Leader fitted by a professional, and you follow the directions implicitly.
Thin nose loop or Thick?
Several of the national and local pet store chains sell the Gentle Leader, but most of the staff does not know how to fit it, or which kind is most appropriate for which dog. Plus, they only sell the 'thin' nose loop kind (5/8"). I prefer to fit the 'thick' nose loop (3/4") on larger dogs, especially those with broad noses like labs and shepherds. If you are using a Gentle Leader for your dog and it is wearing off the hair on his nose, or causing sores, try switching to a ¾" nose loop. You may also try wrapping some moleskin or fleece around the nose loop to decrease friction.
***FYI: The most common cause of friction on the nose is improper fit.The tighter it is at the base of the ears, the looser it can be on the nose and the more comfortable it will be for your dog. Please don't make it too lose or it will slide around on the nose and cause hair loss or sores.
For more information about the Gentle Leader, go to:
Gentle Leader Head Collar
Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness