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Head Halters VS A Flat Buckle Collar

Posted on 09/22/10 55 Comments

Today I wrote a post for a training list about head halters being my tool of choice in training. I thought I would share it here with all of you.

Don’t get me wrong, I want all of my dogs on a flat collar– it is easier on so may levels. However, I want the great beahaviour I can create with a head halter. So my goal when first putting a head halter on a puppy is to get it off as fast as I can — but keep the good behaviour that is established by using the halter.

Here is my post;

Head halters vs collars — here is my firm belief;

A dog in training on a head halter receives more reinforcement from their owner than dogs on a flat collar and a dog in training on a flat collar receives far more reinforcement from his environment then dogs on a head halter.

Think of how we create drive and intensity in a dog’s behaviour (be it for a retrieve, a recall or in schutzhund work to create intensity for bite work).  You hold the dog back using their opposition reflex to create more desire towards the intended target.


That is what you are doing when walking your dog in a distraction filled environment on a flat collar or harness where you can’t control what the dog is focusing upon.

At first, (potentially as a puppy) the dog might just have an innocent curiosity as he walks by something that grab his attention. He looks, alerts, ears come up, perhaps a low woof. But each time the dog is dragged away from the distraction (be it other dogs running, children skipping, wildlife  etc) on his flat collar and lead you are helping to the evolution of this curiosity into drive towards– and potentially aggression targeted at those distractions.

With a head halter you turn the dog’s head away from the distraction and hold his head towards you as you back away say 6 -10 steps then give the dog his head to as it is now an “ItsYerChoice” moment. If the dog chooses to lunge back towards the distraction, you repeat the back away process — controlling access to any reinforcement the dog my gain from his environment.  If instead the dog chooses to focus on you when you drop your leash and give him the choose — brilliant — you keep walking creating an opportunity to reinforce your dog for a good choice (ignoring distractions while walking with you).

I have used a head halter on every dog I have ever trained since 1990. My goal when I put one on a dog is to get one off as fast as I can. So I am comitted to training every time I walk my dog on a head halter — reinforcement comes from me — not the environment. I did try with Buzzy (born Sept 1996) to raise him without a head halter. I failed miserably and put one on him in the spring of 1997.

The halter allows me to create great rehearsals of behaviour so that when I fade the use of the halter  I end up with a dog on walking ona flat collar but with the good responses that were established while on the head halter.

I then have a dog I can walk on a loose leash anywhere under any distraction, plus I have a dog that understand what are the “good choices” he has available to him when faced with the choice of a distraction.

I am not saying all of this is not possible with some dogs on a flat collar but I am saying this reality IS possible with ANY dog on a head halter (and in my opinion you will get there faster).

Take a highly distraction filled environment and with many dogs, especially the motion sensitive ones, you are paralyzed when faced with big-time distractions.

If there isn’t enough (value for the dog) with you (ie your cookies are not compelling enough if you are luring or the history of reinforcement is not convincing enough) your dog will continue to stare at or lunge at the distraction — thus allow the dog to look to his environment over you for his source of reinforcement when faced with similar distractions in the future.

Thus resulting in a big reason for weak recalls and handler created aggression.

There will always be nay sayers who want to finger point at head halters as a potentially injurious tool. When I worked on the AHA committee for the “Humane and Ethical Treatment of Animals in Training” I can tell you we saw proof of dogs being killed by trainers (some in “puppy classes”) with a leash and collar.   Proving that any tool can become a weapon if used incorrectly.

The key is education. In my career I have found that very few people know how to properly;

1)Acclimatize the head halter (by playing games etc)

2)Swiftly yet humanely turn the dog’s head away from distraction & present choices for reinforcement during these sessions.


3) Fade the use of the halter but keep the good behaviour it created.

Once that knowledge is in place a head halter is something no on would do without — it would become as important to a dog’s training as a leash and collar.

FYI, I have a chapter at the back of my book Shaping Success dedicated to teaching how we use a head halter here at Say Yes.

Today I am grateful for tools like head halters. I could not imagine the frustration of raising a motion sensitive Border Collie without one (oh wait, I can, I tried it with Buzz  “. . .  ooh look something shiny!”)


  1. Gale says:
    Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 3:31am

    head halters on a brachicephalic dog is not easy… no muzzle to speak of.. I have a new client with a 12 week old English Bulldog (aka farting machine) and no place to put the halter.

    With RZ reinforcement, I rarely had to put a collar on my dog and she’s wanted by anyone who meets her.

    Some of my clients with large pulling, or fairly dominant dogs were using harnesses, and I showed them how that can make an uncomfortable situation a dangerous one because when you pull hard enough on a harnessed dog makes him rear up, which is a threat to other dogs.


  2. Janine Vander Yacht says:
    Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 11:03pm

    OK, I have a little issue with my head halter training. Overall he is being very accepting of the halter and behaves like a gentleman with it on. Even today when we upped the distraction level and were approached by an 8th grade boys football team in full gear. He loooves kids and these were really cool in all those wierd bulky clothes but he sat still and did not bark or lunge one single time. Anyway, every once in awhile he will just drop to the ground and start flailing around like a fish out of water. I reach down the leash to the head halter and gently try to lift his head back and up toward me but I think he was a contortionist in a former life, the positions he can put himself in! I finally end up having to lift his whole body up and put him back on his feet and then ask for a hand touch or a sit and we go on about our business. I try to watch for hints that he is about to do this but have yet to see one, he is so quick! Any suggestions from anyone?


    • Sydney says:
      Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 12:21am

      Janine, I have not had that problem but from what I have heard you should just keep on walking at a good clip so he can’t rub his face.


      • brittany says:
        Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 9:01am

        I’ve had the same problem- as well as headbutting to get the thing off. No matter how fast I walk, she stops to try to paw it off- she’s tried to do it mid-run!

    • Mary M says:
      Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 1:50pm


      If we work from the premise that “dogs do what is reinforcing” then somehow your pup is getting reinforcement for throwing themselves down on the ground. From what you described you are “cueing” a reinforced behavior after the event of throwing himself down, this means without your being aware your dog has earned the reward of performing the valued behavior after having the negative behavior (in effect behavior chaining this pattern). So first I would stop asking for anything when he throws himself down.

      How I would handle this (and have handled a dog pawing at their face):

      Slide your hand down the lead so that you are holding the dangling part of the halter move the dog down and back behind your RZ then walk on, with a faster pace for the dog to drive into RZ on the walk. After the dog takes a few steps with you reward —–IMPORTANT do not reward immediately after the incident, wait until the dog performs the desired behavior i.e. walking next to you for a few steps).

      If you are consistent with this, your dog will get over the silly behavior of throwing themselves down, as this no longer holds any chance for reinforcement. Also, you might want to leave the GL on the dog during the daytime, even when not walking with you (as you do with a flat buckle collar) so that it is not novel to have this halter on. Susan showed us how to simply secure the dangling part onto the side of the halter with a twist tie while your dog is in their crate, etc.

      Hope this helps, overall when your dog acts out related to the head halter act like nothing happened and keep moving in the direction you intended on going until the dog refocuses their energy on the correct behavior.



  3. weaver says:
    Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 6:10pm

    I recently went to a match held by UKI in the Pacific Northwest, USA, and was surprised to see how many dogs, walking around on the grounds, had head halters on. Dogs without halters were the exception. The dogs I saw with halters, were happy and focused and their body language did not show any negativity. Evidently, their owners took the time to introduce the halters properly.

    I feel that a collar, even a leash, is noticed by the dog; if the experiences are positive, then wearing a collar or being on a leash becomes positive.


  4. Cathy says:
    Friday, September 24, 2010 at 7:17am

    Do any other venues, ex. USDAA, NADAC, restrict haltys?? I was gently corrected also at an AKC agility event with using one on my 13 mos BC. I will be going to a NADAC trial soon and would love to use it if it’s okay.


    • Karissa says:
      Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 12:24pm

      NADAC absolutely allows head collars. I believe all agility organizations other than AKC allow them.


  5. Tricia says:
    Friday, September 24, 2010 at 12:20am

    I’ve used head halters ever since my first seminar with Susan and have been enthralled with them ever since. Now, my Aussies and BC all walk calmly on a flat buckle collar, but with an incredibly bad back, I use the gentle leader to keep me safe when I’m at dog trials. A judge at an AKC told me I could get a waiver to use the gentle leader if I sent in a doctor’s note and request to AKC. Instead, I just stopped trialing in that venue. There are much more friendly environments to trial in.


  6. Bev Anderson says:
    Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 10:57pm

    I shudder at comments about the use of e-collars, pinch and choke collars. I am not a teacher/trainer but have done some obedience in the past and now am into other dog sports. I truly believe that ‘correcting’ with collars is not the way to get your dog to ‘love’ working with you or enjoy anything with you for that matter. . . how would you feel if someone constantly yanked on your throat while you’re trying to figure out what your owner is asking of you? Not fun.


    • s knowlson says:
      Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 5:22pm

      If they are yanking constantly on a check chain then they are using it incorrectly. Certain dogs require a proper correction. Haltis do not teach a dog to heel properly!


  7. Janine Vander Yacht says:
    Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 6:09pm

    I gotta say thanks a million Susan for telling us about the Snoot Loop. I just got mine in the mail today and put in on my mini aussie for the first time, no muss, no fuss, just a few cookies through the loop. He wore it without a complaint. I have tried the gentle leader and other head halter but my stubborn guy would not stop fussing with it. I never thought I’d get him use to a head halter. Yippee! now I can start training him with it on! Thanks again for a great recommendation! I look forward to the day we wean off of it 🙂


  8. Jessica says:
    Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 5:26pm

    After seeing dozens of dogs slip their collars, and having one of my own be particularly good at slipping a collar, I only use and only recommend to my clients, the martingale collar (over a flat buckle collar). Once the dog graduates from the Easy Walk or a GL if needed, it’s on a martingale for safety.


  9. Michelle says:
    Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 12:17pm

    I have never used a head halter of any kind, nor have I needed too. I dont have large dogs, and dont use a pinch either. I train on a buckle/clip collar and it works perfectly fine. I dont yard the leash either. On walks, one is on a flexi leash, the other on a standard leash, more because I cant control two flexi’s and he doesnt go far enough ahead to need one. I associate halters to jogging, no one jogging ever looks happy (until its done) and like a dog, until its off!! Yes they may be needed for some, but I like my dog to get to be a dog too and dont want to control them so much at such a young age either. I like them to test and learn by association. And I repeatedly get compliments on how well behaved my dogs are. I do think that dogs wearing these get the stigma that they are out of control or miserable. I sometimes pity the pup for being under such control. But I know they have their place and better that then them pulling an owners arm off. I choose not too if its my choice 🙂


  10. Susan says:
    Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 1:02am

    I have tried all the positive training methods with my Mini Aussie, who is now 2 years old, to get him to walk on a loose leash and not lunge at other dogs and men. I have had many well behaved dogs in my life, but this one is my biggest challenge and also the love of my life. I was at my wits end about his behavior and my sister-in-law who has two German shepherd dogs advocated an E-collar or pinch collar and to enroll in a traditional AKC obedience class. I could not bring myself to use either collar, but decided to enroll in the traditional class as it was very affordable and there were lots of dogs and men to practice around, although they did require a choke chain collar. After going to class and doing figure 8s around other dogs and having my dog lunging and choking and scaring other dogs and myself, I decided to boldly come to class the next week using a Gentle Leader (GL). The difference in my dog at that class was amazing and all the students noticed the change. The assistant trainers told me privately that they love the GL, but that the traditional trainers look down on them. After class I asked the head trainer, with the assistants present, if I could continue with the GL and he said “yes as long as the dog does the work”. This started an opening for a conversation between the head trainer and assistants where they expressed their opinon on the merits of the GL and although the head trainer still seemed skeptical, I believe if we continue to show improvement we may start to turn the tide of the local AKC opinion from aversive choke chains, pinch collars and e-collars to the more efficient Gentle Leader! Go ahead, get out your Gentle Leaders and go to class.. you may begin to change some minds too!


  11. Lynne Helmhold says:
    Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 12:18am

    Good luck at the worlds!! Susan, do you allow the puppy/young dog any free time to sniff etc at all, or do you control them with the halti 24/7?


    • Myranda says:
      Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 11:13am

      I realize I’m not Susan but I can answer your question as I train with headcollars.

      The thing you want with your puppy is for him to pay attention to you and not be all over the place on a walk. Sniffing and wandering are for the dog park, not for a walk, and not for a puppy who is still learning how to behave.

      Imagine your child out on a walk with you. Do you want him running around picking up every stick or toy out of neighbors’ yards or do you want your child walking with you?


  12. Dianne says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 8:45pm

    I have been having distraction problems. I got the halter back out. I had got my puppy used to it but found I hadn’t need it. Now I do, it is really helping even after one day. Thanks for all the help. We were doing well at 4 and 5 months old but within the last week or so as she turned 6 months the distraction seem to be a bigger attraction. The recalls are still going well. The heeling was my biggest problem. the best cookies in the reward zone just didn’t cut it, they are now of interest.


  13. Cindy Chick says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 4:42pm

    I’ve tried to train 3 of my dogs using the head halter, and universally all 3 dogs hated it with a passion. I spent weeks introducing it with lots of treats, trying to desensitize for weeks afterward, and they still hated it. I’ve never seen a dog look so depressed as my little girl when I put the head halter on her. I know some dogs are fine with it, but I agree with trainer Pat Miller. She doesn’t use them much any more because she says that for many dogs they are aversive tools. That said, I know they’re great for some dogs.


    • Sydney says:
      Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 11:35am

      Most of the people reading this are too young to remember when seat belts were first introduced. They restricted your movement and felt aversive. We got over it.


    • Myranda says:
      Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 11:19am

      Which all have you tried?
      There’s the Halti and Gentle Leader, both of which I have seen the worst fighting with. The Snootloop is good especially for smoosh faces, but haven’t tried their other version. The Comfort Trainer is a newer one I have ordered for my Bluetick Coonhound pup, and I have seen that from the reviews, dogs don’t fuss with it or hate it because of the material. There’s also others, but I would try the CT first since the reviews are so high.


  14. Kat says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 4:18pm

    What do people suggest for dogs that are short in the nose for a head collar…is there a gentle leader product that would work?


    • Janine Vander Yacht says:
      Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 6:13pm

      Snoot Loop has a model for short nosed dogs.


      • Fran Saidel says:
        Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 5:57pm

        I have a Brussels Griffon – tried the smallest Snoot Loop for short-nosed dogs. Not even my trainer could get the right adjustment for him.

    • Myranda says:
      Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 11:17am

      I find the Snootloop B style works fine with smoosh faces. You have to take time to get it adjusted well though, and it is tricky. I had to break out a needle and thread and hand-adjust every part to get it right for a small pug.


  15. Joanna Kimball says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 3:17pm

    AKC doesn’t allow anything but flat buckles or chokes onsite and 99% of the dogs are on chokes. And yes, most of us show people absolutely hate head halters.

    I’ve used them and I really, really don’t like the whole philosophy behind them. I hate the fact that I have to convince the dog to ignore the bad sensation because cookies are coming – the dog doesn’t ever LIKE it. I also don’t like any tool that gives the dog a continual signal like a halter. They ALWAYS feel it. In contrast, a collar – including a prong – is a neutral 99% of the time and only signals when you wish it to.

    And yes, biomechanically I’m extremely, extremely concerned. Properly using a halter means that the pull is always DOWN and to the side. I’ve never seen someone absolutely consistently maintain that, and it’s impossible to maintain when the dog lunges.

    However, I think the #1 reason people on show grounds hate them is that the overwhelming majority of the time a dog normally walked on halter = out of control dog. “He walks perfectly if he’s on his Gentle Leader!” is heard hundreds of times as the dog careers wildly through the booths. You have NO idea if the Pomeranian your dog just knocked over is somebody’s pet or the #1 Toy in the nation whose owners are financing two hundred grand a year to special and you’ve just scared him right before he’s supposed to go into the BIS ring. At a show site you are expected to keep your dog immediately next to you and under control and calm at all times WITHOUT cookies, and seeing a halter on a dog is something we all associate with a rude dog and potential disaster.


    • Cassy says:
      Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 6:08am

      It doesn’t matter if it is the #1 show dog or “just a pet”, all dogs are equally important to the people who own them.


    • Paivi Kero says:
      Friday, September 24, 2010 at 8:16am

      I disagree on even a flat collar being neutral. Dogs do feel it. They just get used to it. At least my puppies have all had a getting used to period with the collar. You notice it more with more sensitive dogs. And I know some dogs can have of fear of or dislike to the flat collar.

      And I don’t think the head halter is a bad sensation to the dog if it is used Susan’s way. I have myself used it the wrong way and my dogs never really got used to it let alone like it. But if you make it a game from the start like Susan does, I believe no healthy dog will have a problem with it.

      I guess it’s not the tool but how you use it. I can even think of excellent use for the prong collar: On the wall under the sign “I love my dog and I would NEVER use this.”


    • Myranda says:
      Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 11:27am

      Joanna, I would like to argue your point.

      I have trained with headcollars, body harnesses, front clip harnesses, and even the chokers and prongs that every AKC event is so fond of. I have found that out of all of these tools, the headcollar is the only one that ALWAYS works if used properly, and it is the only one I can fade out of and have no problems with doing so.

      I’ve also found that in 99% of the dogs I’ve tried to use prongs and chokers with, I have to switch to something else because the HANDLER doesn’t enjoy the feeling of hurting their dog to teach him good manners. I think the AKC needs to take on some new age thinking.

      So, if you’re up for abusing your dog into compliance, go for it, but if you want a way to teach your dog to behave without hurting your dog, I think the headcollars are the better option.


  16. kate says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 2:37pm

    I love them too. really anything that prevents a dog from being choked…I’m a fan of.

    Gentle Leaders are so helpful for all the reasons mentioned. I didn’t think of the environmental one tho… Especially when you’re working with fearful dogs who would otherwise lunge at people or other dogs or even if an owner has back problems.

    Goal always to teach the dog that sticking close by when on leash or just being mindful not to bolt to the end of it.


  17. Gale says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 2:23pm

    I have never had to use a head halter; Clicker training to heel is done so quickly, and it lasts. I clicker trained my puppy to heel in obedience position in under 5 minutes, and also trained her to walk on a loose lead a few steps ahead of me when she is on her show collar/lead, and that took no time at all, and that included the extinction of the automatic sit that I had taught her. On her flat collar, she sits when I stop walking and starts up when I start walking in perfect position.
    She will be 5 months old on Thursday.


    • Jessica says:
      Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 5:30pm

      Don’t take this the wrong way, but a 5 month old puppy is not completely trained. She’s gonna forget that heel, I’ll bet 10:1 odds. A 5 month old puppy hasn’t become a teenager yet.


      • veronica says:
        Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 5:49am

        Jessica and Gale

        My Sheltie was trained with a clicker since 8 weeeks old was just beautiful with shaping her heelwork.Like your dog she was good at heeling,kept position and with “high paw action”.This was so easy to get with a clicker.
        But then just like what Gale mentions the pup goes through their developmental phases ( like our children do).This was between 1 and 2 yrs of age.So I was up against adolesence which brought on distractions and a dog that started testing the boundaries.
        For I while she went backwards and just seemed to lose interest.I was at a loss as I worked so hard with her to achieve success.I had a history of reinforcement plan in place but still would make some progress then again another set back.
        I persisted and it wasn’t till she was 2 1/2 that things started to gel.
        I don’t know why, that being did I train it wrong or it was a case of the dog doing it when she was mature enough and wanted to.
        Now she works beautiful, is consistant and in competition ( with high marks)and usually earns a ribbon/trophy place.

        I just think we have to take on board the challenges our dogs throw at us.
        It helps to have a good tool box full of options weather that be a gentle leader/halti,motivational toys,clicker,tasty treats or whatever works for the dog to get results.
        The whole process is a learning experience for dog and human a like.

        Just find what works for your dog and success in just around the corner.

      • Bonnie says:
        Friday, April 15, 2016 at 9:09am

        I agree! My young English Cocker was spot on with walking and heeling at 5 months, but now that we’ve hit the 9-10 month age she is like a wild beast! Suddenly every leaf, movement, human, is more interesting than walking nicely with me. We continued with training, but it didn’t matter. One day she was perfect, the next day she was nuts! I will be very happy when we get done with this phase!

  18. Judith Batchelor says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 12:16pm

    Susan- are you going to rerun the re-callers e course again sometime soon (Even if it is next year or later this year)?



  19. terrischmidt says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 12:13pm

    This doesn’t have anything to do with head halters; just wondering if you could review how long each membership has to look over the material once our recallers course is finished up. I’m not sure of the finish date since we still have one webinar left and how long the material will be here for us to review. thanks,


  20. Sydney says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 11:06am

    I bought a snoot loop 3 years ago and used it occasionally at first, then not at all. UNTIL I started the Recallers course. The other day we were walking in a new neighborhood and a cat was on the lawn. She got very excited, I slid my hand down to the clip and we backed away, gave her a choice and backed again and again until she chose to pay attention to me. We were a house away. Normally, I would have shortened the leash and pulled her past the cat. Then I walked toward the area where the cat had been. I got her to sit and we continued on our walk. Around the next corner something behind a fence got her interest, but no pulling and she checked in with me. Yesterday we walked past two cars that surprised us with barking dogs. She completely ignored them. I know we have lots more work to do, but it’s fun taking walks now – I hope for distractions!


    • Shelley says:
      Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 12:20pm

      That’s great news, welldone the two of you.


  21. Jenn says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 11:01am

    When I got my first reactive BC I used every method to train him to walk nicely on a leash, with NO success. I was then told to read Shaping Success. OMG did that change everything! I have now trained all 5 of my dogs on the Head Halter and if I even bring the Halter out they all get excited for training time! I shaped every one of them to put the halter on so there are no ill feeling towards it or strees reactions that I tend to see with some other dogs. EVERYONE should read and implement that chapter out of Shaping Success. It changed my dogs’ view on training tools perminantly 🙂 🙂 🙂


    • Anne-Marie says:
      Friday, September 24, 2010 at 6:49pm


      I can see you had success training your dogs with a halter. I dont’t know what to do..I have a sheltie 3 1/2 years old who is very reactive with all kind of distractions from his environment. I use the Gentle leader at some occasions to have a better control on my dog’s reactions specially during walks. My dog doesn’t like to wear the halter but he accepts it while walking. I just wish that I could have read what Susan suggest in the article about training with the Halter right from the start with a puppy. I would not have all the problems I have today with my dog. I just wonder if I can shape my dog to accept the Gentle leader even if he doesn’t appreciate it right now? Also, I just bought the book “Ruff love” and the DVD “crate games” I hesitate to start either one program because I don’t know if the halter be a nuisance or help? In the Ruff love program, the dog has to wear the harness when not crated, at least for few months. I want to improve my dog’s behavior and I’m ready to do whatever it takes to achieve it.


      • Chris Osborn says:
        Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 10:48pm

        Get Susan’s Shaping Success book. It has great instructions to shape acceptance of the halter. There’s a lot of stuff in there that will help a lot with other aspects of training. The halter introduces “it’s your choice” opportunities, and as your dog masters the choices, he will become happier with the halter.

      • Myranda says:
        Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 11:33am

        If your dog hates the Gentle Leader, change halters. Use a different one so he doesn’t associate the new one with the old one. I suggest the Comfort Trainer because the reviews are outstanding and I think you will have better success than trying to change his mind about the same halter. Then try Susan’s book.

  22. Kathy says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 10:56am

    I was not aware of the AKC rules about head halters. Not allowed on show grounds. Last weekend when we were going by a ring and my year old BC who gets a little over excited thinking she needs to go say HI to everyone had a gentle leader on because I knew this was a situation that is very hard for her to handle. My leash was verys loose,my dog looked very happy, I was feeding lots of cookies and talking to her and she was doing fantastic. A handler who handles lots of dogs here ran right into my face and started SCREAMING to get that off that dog right now!!! This helpful person kept screaming for a few min. At that point I was just trying to get my doggie quietly off to the side of the area, then deal with the situation, right about then my dog was scared wondering what was happening and about three other people ran over to me and told me to get that off my dog before they called an AKC rep and had me written up. The reaction was so over the top You would have thought I had hurt my dog and not that she was not quietly walking and getting tons of cookies. They had me feeling like I had done something horrible and unthinkable to my dog, not that my dog was calmly walking with her tail wagging, I was smiling and giving her lots of treats it was so much nicer then if I had been pulling and she had been yanking me to get to jump on dogs and people as she walked by. Amazing what they will allow people to do to their dogs but what everyone will wig out and try to protect a dog over. 😉


    • Shawna Buckley says:
      Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 12:40pm

      I had a similar situation happen last weekend at a trial in New Mexico. The hysterical helpful person was actually a vendor who really wanted to sell me his bungie leash contraption to keep me from hurting my dog. (snort) He tried to push a handout on how many dogs are injured with head halters – I cut him off with “when used improperly.” He continued to act like a jerk while I calmly went away with my well behaved puppy on a loose lead.

      So – I took off the head halter and when walking my pup boys around without their halter, I simply looped my leash around the muzzle, creating a temporary halter. Worked like a charm – I believe Susan showed us how to do this during AIDT.


      • Mary M says:
        Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 2:51pm

        Susan – Can you send a picture of the looped leash around the nose, either in the recall section or here.

        I too am someone who trials in AKC, and cannot use my head halter on my dog in this environment. At this point I am no longer on head halter, however it remains attached to my leash and would be great to know how to create similar effect with a leash if I find that my dog needs to go back on the halter.

        In the meantime, I say all of us put pressure on AKC to allow head halters on their show grounds….I mean jez they allow choke chains, because of the breed show rings, and I know of many many cases of dogs being killed in a choke chain, have yet to hear of a head halter fatality.

        Thanks for any visual on the use of the leash in a pinch so to speak….I am so darn visual!


      • Catherine Clifton says:
        Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 12:05am

        I’ve used mine at 2 AKC trials. I didn’t think about it being in violation of AKC rules. Nobody said anything to me at either trial. I was so focused on my dog, perhaps I missed some scandalized looks.

        It would have been far more disruptive to have an exuberant 70 pound puppy lunging to the end of his leash continually to greet all people and dogs. It’s remarkably effective, particularly in light of the 18 months he went without it. I’m hoping it won’t be long before we don’t need it anymore, but until then . . . I guess we won’t be going to AKC shows.

    • MicheleA says:
      Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 6:54pm

      Thanks for the warning Kathy, I did not know this, I have my head halter in the car but I have never used in the show buildings or near the rings, I did see a woman this week-end outside the breed ring who had a nasty little Welsh terrier and she made a loop out of her leash and got the dog under control, the dog was a completely different dog when it had the loop on……I would sooner see that then someone getting bit by a out of control dog.


    • Kathy says:
      Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 8:17pm

      I am certainly no expert, but I had the same experience at an AKC trial using a gentle leader. I took the dog, gentle leader still on him, to the stewards table and requested that they find a judge or official to rule on the gentle leader. The judge came over and told me that if anyone else gave me a hard time about it, refer them to him. He did say that you might get some officials who had a different view, but his view was that they are a wonderful tool and more than acceptable on the grounds. Just not in the ring.
      Check it out at the next trial you visit and see what kind of response you get.


      • Deb Bogart says:
        Monday, September 27, 2010 at 12:51pm

        Even though I completely agree that head halters shall be allowed on AKC show grounds Kathy, I would like to caution you that the judge allowing you to use yours was completely against the regulations and that judge could have been suspended for giving you permission to us it. Right from the AKC Rules and Regulations: “Pinch/prong and electrical collars (dummy or not), head halters and special training collars are not allowed anywhere on the trial grounds.” I wouldn’t take the chance of having someone charge into my space telling me how wrong it is. I have used the leash as a head halter several times and no one even gave it a second glance. Until AKC wakes up and sees what they should be allowing and not allowing on the show grounds, this seems to be working for me. And I responded to AKC each time they request input about the upcoming changes to the rules and regulations to allow the head halter…..obviously no one is listening yet, but I’ll keep at it.

    • Julie S says:
      Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 10:09pm

      We have known for the last 30 years that the AKC is not up to speed with the best practices when it comes to dog sport. If they were up to speed, positive reinforcement of dogs in the ring would not be a sin.

      It seems ironic that choke collars are allowed but head collars are not. We do know that AKC is more concerned about image than humane animal treatment. A head collar looks too much like a muzzle. How many letters do you suppose it would take to make AKC reconsider this rule? Perhaps we should begin a campaign suggesting that AKC allow its participants to lead by example and demonstrate humane tools rather than out of date tools. Get the head collars out of the closet and help the public understand the value. I see more head collars on my dog walks now than choke collars. Yeah!


    • veronica says:
      Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 5:42am

      Kathy.What a traumatic experience you and your dog had to endure.
      I didn’t get that reaction from other handlers but had the same problem with my BC and used a gentle leader too.For the same reasons.
      Lucky It was for a short time.I too used heaps of reinforcement and the dog reacted like yours,that being a possitive experience with wagging tail, focused and a happy expression.
      I do regard myself as a possitive reward based trainer….just use heaps of reinforcement and the dog took it as ” If I wear this I get heaps of cookies”.
      Just like the “collar grab”
      Thanks to Susan…again


  23. Helen says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 10:45am

    Before joining your Recall class, I have had problems with Bob getting very excited when going to the park and going out to new places especially if the rest of my family comes – he likes to bark!
    In the past I have tried the halti for general walking, he didn’t like it, I eventually gave up.
    Well, since hearing you talk about the head harness and your take on controlling the environment. I’ve put it back on. Wow, No more barking! And I really think it is down to the change in my attitude – It’s yer choice doggie! I also love your ‘we don’t lovvvve our seat belts, so why should your dog lovvvve his head harness!
    Thank you! We will be playing games with the halti tonight!


  24. Shelley says:
    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 10:41am

    Susan what are your views on harnesses please for after the dog is trained and totally reliable after the gentle leader training?

    I have just watched a Utube movie from Turid Rugaas and wondered what your thoughts were?


    • Kat says:
      Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 11:16am

      I am also very interested to hear your views on harnesses to “balance” the dog as described by Turid Rugaas.

      Thank you 🙂


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