Using a Halty on Your Dog

Do you recommend using a halty? Or is there a psychological reason these are ill advised?

"Head collars" (Halti's®, Gentle Leaders®, Snoop Loops®) can be wonderfully effective and humane ways to control your dog, but like any training tool, they are not for every dog. There are a few dogs who don't do well on head collars, and if your dog truly panics when you try it out, then I'd stop trying and go to another method. But most dogs grow to love them, because just like leashes, they mean wonderful long walks are coming soon! Ideally, our dogs would be under perfect voice control, but let's face it, it's not safe to let most dogs off a leash in many situations. Given that most of us need our dogs to be on a leash some of the time, head collars can be very useful and gentle tools.

One of the great things about head collars is that they give you much more control over your dog, in a much more humane way than choke collars or prong collars do. Just as people lead large animals with halters (which control the head of the animal), you can get more control over a boisterous dog by having a halter-like device on the dog's head. A collar around the neck allows dogs to push their bodies forward into the collar and pull you along like a sled (just as a horse pulls a wagon!). But a head collar controls their head, and when you exert light pressure on the head collar, the dog can't use his or her body to push forward.

Dogs on head collars don't choke and gag like dogs do when they're straining forward on a regular buckle collar, nor does the owner have to snap and jerk the leash as they are taught to do with choke collars. Most dogs adapt well to head collars, and their owners are thrilled that they can now walk their dog without having their arms pulled out of their sockets! It is important, however, to get your dog used to this new-fangled thing around her muzzle gently and gradually. Follow the directions carefully, being especially sure that the buckle strap fits just right (it connects just behind the dog's ears). I like to hold the muzzle-loop open and let the dog eat treats through it first, then give the dog treats while the loop just sits on his or her muzzle. Take it on and off five or six times, and then attach the buckle behind the dog's ears. I always walk the dog in the house first, giving him treats every few steps for ignoring this funny feeling thing on his head.

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Patricia McConnell Ph.D., is an adjunct assistant professor of zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. Her company, Dog's Best Friend Ltd., specializes in family dog training and treating aggression in dogs.

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