Dogs: Thoughts on head collars

Often advertised as having magical properties in helping dog owners walk their dogs stress free, gentle leaders, haltis or head collars have become a very popular item often recommended by breeders, dog trainers and veterinarians. However, as effective as they are in controlling dogs, I tend to see them as bandages being placed on behavioral problems.

Taking a closer look at gentle leaders, we may notice that they compare well to halters used on horses. They embrace the dog’s muzzle with straps passing over the nose and behind the ears. Under the throat area then there is an area where the leash can be snapped on. They basically work by controlling the dog’s head and nose which gives more advantage for the dog owner.

Unfortunately, not all dogs are fond of this equipment that may take time to be accepted and which may be challenging to put on. Some dogs will roll on the ground in a desperate effort to take it off, often getting injured by the straps rubbing against their skin. In any case, most dogs eventually accept the head collar just as they did accept the leash and collar as puppies.

When it comes to the use of the gentle leader, I compare it to the use of those strong mouthpieces used to control horses. Horse trainers looking for short cuts tend to use the strongest bits in order to obtain a controllable horse. At some point, more and more stronger mouthpieces are needed to be used because the horse become “numb”to them. After using the most severe bit on the market, the horse trainer gives up and takes his horse to be trained all over, by a more experienced trainer. That trainer will then toss way all the strong bits and use the lightest available in the market along with proper training.

In other words, gentle leaders do not help owners establish leadership. A good dog/owner bond and a well obedience trained dog will need nothing more than a normal collar and leash. No need to use prong collars, choke collars, pinch collars or electric collars. The solution is simple and all it takes is time, effort and patience. Short cuts will not do any good.

There are however, some instances where a head collar may be helpful. And that is as a last resort, and for those people that are weakened or frail and unable to properly control their dog because of a physicalailment.

If you are willing to have a very obedient dog, save your money from buying a head collar and invest some time with a good obedience trainer that does not rely on non sense equipment. The most worthy piece of equipments in effectively walking a dog is your will power and leadership.

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