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Use of head halters/haltis

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I have Flint enrolled in an 8 week obedience class mostly for the socialization. We live on a farm, there is little to no traffic, he sees very few people except my DH and hangs out with the other 2 dogs. Right now, I have a flock of Muscovy ducks and the plans are to get sheep.

 

My plans for Flint - to train with him to work sheep and possibly do some tracking. I have no desire to do any dog sports with him. He is, and as far as I'm concerned, will always be a farm dog. I really just want him to be comfortable on a leash around other dogs since I do hope to trial him in the future.

 

Flint has a lot of drive and at home is very observant. Getting him to focus on me in the class (this was our 2nd class) is problematic even with food. He is extremely focused on the other dogs, and would love the people to interact with him.

 

The instructor wants to put him in a head halter. At this time, I'm opposed - I don't think the head halter will make him focus more on me..perhaps I'm totally wrong. She believes I'm damaging him psychologically ... not exactly sure what she meant by that - but Flint was stressed for sure at the beginning.

Flint spent most of the time, observing..did some barking which I redirected by removing him to an area away from the other dogs. By the end of the class, he was content to watch all the other dogs moving through their paces without him reacting to the movement..I was happy with that.

I would like some input - am I being unreasonable about not putting him in a head halter? Thank you.

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I would like some input - am I being unreasonable about not putting him in a head halter? Thank you.

 

Not unreasonable.

 

While some dogs do become calmer wearing a head collar, it's a management tool not a training tool. If you can manage him in class by withdrawing him to where he feels comfortable as you did, then I see no need to use one if you don't want to.

 

I don't like the idea that a dog must learn to focus on the handler even when there is something that worries or over excites it around. That just adds to the stress for both dog and handler. Far better IMO to allow the dog to recognise what is bothering it while still far enough to be within its comfort zone and reward for calm behaviour.

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The instructor wants to put him in a head halter. At this time, I'm opposed - I don't think the head halter will make him focus more on me..perhaps I'm totally wrong. She believes I'm damaging him psychologically ... not exactly sure what she meant by that - but Flint was stressed for sure at the beginning.

Flint spent most of the time, observing..did some barking which I redirected by removing him to an area away from the other dogs. By the end of the class, he was content to watch all the other dogs moving through their paces without him reacting to the movement..I was happy with that.

I would like some input - am I being unreasonable about not putting him in a head halter? Thank you.

 

 

OMG - RUN AWAY from that instructor. (Actually, you don't have to be as dramatic as that.) I think YOU are on the right track - remove Flint to a distance where he is below threshold and can focus on you. It sounds like you have begun to accomplish that. Excellent. You can get closer during the 8 weeks.

 

One instructor told me she had a dog in one of her classes who couldn't even come into the building because it was so stressed. The owner was patient enough to spend her 8 weeks working the dog outside the building and gradually approaching it. By the end of the 8 weeks, the dog was able to come inside the building without stressing. So the dog and owner never did participate that class, so to speak, but that was OK with both of them. The dog progressed well in later classes after that.

 

I have a rescue Sheltie mix who ran at another dog (to play with her) in a beginning agility class. (My dog had just come running out of the tunnel, and another handler was playing with her Cavalier just 20 feet from the tunnel exit - which the instructors had expressly told all of us NOT to do.) The owner complained to the club about my 'dangerous' dog, and the instructor had to take 'action' - so she made me put a Gentle Leader on my dog. My dog had issues anyway, and never showed the same gusto for doing agility after her head halter period. (She didn't have much gusto to begin with since she is so fearful, but she was beginning to enjoy it.) I knew very little about fear issues, head halters, etc. 13 years ago. I sooo wish that I did not allow the head halter, but I figured the instructor knew best.

 

How adamant is the instructor about the head halter? Will she agree to your alternative plan for getting Flint to focus on you? Heck, you could 'damage him psycologically' by using the head halter.

 

Good Luck,

Jovi

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Does he pull or lunge toward the other dogs/people? Head halters are meant to stop pulling. They can redirect the head towards you, but they don't necessarily redirect the focus. If he is pulling toward the other dogs and people, I can see where a head halter might be a useful tool, at least until he learns to ignore the distractions. Its near impossible to work on leash work while the dog is overstimulated. It'll help save his neck and won't allow him to 'practice' pulling. (Use head halter in class, and work on leash walking at home in a less stimulating environment first.)

 

If he's just not focused, I think distance from all the stimulation (like you've said you did already) would suit you better. Gradually move closer to the group as he learns what is expected of him (staying calm).

 

Your whole purpose in bringing him to class is to help get him used to new situations and being around other dogs. Having only been to two classes, I think it is reasonable for him to still be excited by what is going on around him. He has to learn to settle down and focus on you. It takes practice and time. You might talk to the trainer more before or after your next class and see exactly how she thinks the head halter will help. Some dogs do not react well to the head halter when its first put on and it could be just adding another distraction. If pulling is the issue, you might also try a no-pull harness.

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If you want to continue in the class would the instructor be open to you bringing a mat or a Kurunda style cot to class so you can teach him a place command? I watched an obedience / basic level class where the dogs were all on place during the class while other dogs did their thing. The dogs were calm, some attentive to what was going on while some snoozed and a couple would glance at their owners but none obsessing over anything. Place is great to teach a dog to be calm (and that no person or dog is going to approach so it can be a safe place for nervous dogs) eventually the dogs were just naturally laying down during class without the cots.

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Personally, I would not put a head halter on my dog. I've seen too many dogs who just look miserable wearing them and it is my opinion that most dogs find them inherently aversive. I know, there are exceptions, but it's not a risk I would take.

 

My choice would be to use CU exercises to teach my dog to be calm around the other dogs, and I have never had a problem finding an instructor who wasn't more than willing to let me make alterations to my dog's participation in class to facilitate that.

 

That said, if you want to appease the instructor, you might ask if you can use a front clip harness instead. That is actually the only compromise I would consider. If an instructor insisted that I use a head harness, I would go elsewhere.

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I know of one dog for whom the head halter seems to work miracles for walking. All pull and sniff without; near perfect attention and control with. She doesn't like the thing, though, and will remove it as soon as the she's able to.

 

With that in mind, I'm also hesitant to use one with my own dog. I'd rather be able to get her attention on lead (and off) with a name and a "watch me" command. Since she's new to our home and our trust is still building, I'm not sure that I want to introduce something so coercive either. We're still in the beginning stages of that kind of control though, so don't take my word for it, my opinion may change if needs be.

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I agree with what everyone has said, I think your instinct is right. I have used head halters with some of my foster dogs as an aid when walking on a leash but I do not see them as a tool for focus. Focus and self control can be taught... Just takes time.

 

If you can find an instructor who is familiar with the concepts of controlled unleashed prat might be your best bet for achieving your very reasonable goals.

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I know of one dog for whom the head halter seems to work miracles for walking. All pull and sniff without; near perfect attention and control with. She doesn't like the thing, though, and will remove it as soon as the she's able to.

 

The haltie worked miracles on Murray. Without it, he'd haul me down the street had I roller skates on. He has such a high visual lock, the haltie gives just enough of a self-correction that he realizes I am walking him, not the other way around. We started using it at about half way through STAR Puppy and now that we're on Good Citizen, he's graduated off the haltie at home and we only use it in class. He sits and waits for it to be put on, no rubbing his face on my leg/the floor/the instructor. Honestly, he has his head up like he's at a dog show prancing around. It's a tool, if a screwdriver is what you need, don't use a hammer.

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Thanks for the input. I've decided to take Flint into the village on Saturday mornings. My neighbour has agreed to come with me so he will get used to other people around. The village has a library, hardware store, and a LCBO (liquor store for those non-Ontarians), as well as the main highway. I'm hoping with a handful of good food and my neigbour, Flint will enjoy the experience and I'll get him to be a bit more attentive to me.

As for the class, I know the instructor very well and while she wasn't overly pleased with my decision, she did not make a big issue of it. I think so long as Flint isn't overly disruptive to the other attendees, there won't be much of a problem. For the time being, I'll continue to work Flint by moving him away from the group if he gets over excited.

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The head halter has done miracles on my dog. He went from being an over reactive to everything to a much calmer dog he is now. Hes almost weaned off of it, although he still needs one at trials. He's also much more confident wearing the HH than without it. Its a great tool to use in conjunction with CU and BAT skills.

 

Ita not a focus tool, its used for redirection. If you can redirect him without it, you don't need it. Mine and many other dogs are hyper focused, very still and stiff, tuning out everything else that a regular collar wouldn't work, and i would have to pick him up.

 

Your dog sounds like he is doing very well, able to be calm and watch other dogs by the second class is amazing, with little prior socializationg. Be proud!

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I teach rather large 4H classes with a group of kids and a bunch of farm dogs- undersocialized and other issues. We advocate the use of head collars. But we use them as management in class and strongly suggest the owners work w/no lead at home. If used properly they work great. If the dog is allowed to lung they can be dangerous to the dog (keep a short lead and NP). If the lead is kept tight all the time, then off lead control will be very difficult to achieve.

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I teach rather large 4H classes with a group of kids and a bunch of farm dogs- undersocialized and other issues. We advocate the use of head collars. But we use them as management in class and strongly suggest the owners work w/no lead at home. If used properly they work great. If the dog is allowed to lung they can be dangerous to the dog (keep a short lead and NP). If the lead is kept tight all the time, then off lead control will be very difficult to achieve.

 

I totally agree.

 

If a handler is getting stressed about their lack of control in class then a head collar can help them achieve a measure of success.

 

People who struggle with basic control are more likely to give up on a dog so it can be a relationship saver, but not everyone needs that extra help.

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I have used a head halter on my oldest border collie...but my main reason was at a barn agility class she would not stop trying to eat horse manure and if I kept the leash tight, she'd cough with the pressure. Put the gentle leader on her and she couldn't reach the ground and also wasn't choking herself trying to. I would also use it the odd time walking her on lead in high traffic areas where I wanted more control of her head.

Hubby tried it on his aussie who pulls but he hates it and doesn't adjust to it like my BC did. With him we went to a no pull harness (with him treats also work as they are very very high value to him).

I havent used it with my young dog. She does have some focus issues but they are 2 separate ones. The first one is an obsessive must watch motion type thing - I've thought the head halter may work to help me get her attention better in these situations where she is excited aroused. Her second issue is a fear based one of certain things she sees and gets nervous of and won't stop looking at because of the fear. I think in this case it would probably make her worse to have the head halter on her and try and control her that way.

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The vet behaviorist suggested I acclimate my fear aggressive dog to wearing one because when he was muzzled for safety he seemed to get calmer. I was skeptical, but darn if it doesn't seem to work! For that reason I wouldn't say they are bad.

 

However, if it makes you uncomfortable then don't do it. There's other ways to get what you are looking for.

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I've had similar issues with Kenzi and am pretty much doing the same as you are. I enrolled her in a basic OB class. But before doing so, I spoke with the instructor and made sure she was fine with me using the class how I needed - ie, go off with Kenzi and do my own thing with her as needed. She isn't hyper focused, more easily aroused.

 

It started out really small - 2 other dogs. Perfect for Kenzi. since then a couple more dogs have been added but its still working fine.

 

I take lots of high value treats to class - cooked chicken or beef, hot dogs, cheese. At first she was getting several a minute - basically I was rewarding any focus on me.

 

If things get to be too much for her, then I take her to a corner and get her settled down.

 

It's working nicely. By the 4th week of class the instructor said "wow, I didn't think I'd ever see her that calm". lol. She'd not exactly calm yet, but she is controlling herself very nicely and giving me nice focus/has good leash manners and responsive around other dogs.

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thanks Mara..it helps to know I'm not out in left field! There are 9 other dogs in this class, 2 GSDs, a Bernese mountain dog pup and a clone of my Dusty! so, it makes for a very stimulating situation for Flint. I'm hoping by class 4 - he'll be better too :)

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I tried a head halter with my dog when she was a puppy and pulling on the leash like crazy and it would stop the pulling, but she hated her walks, and as soon as the halter came off she was back to pulling so I abandoned the idea (though it had been our trainer who had suggested it). After that I just worked on our leash walking with a regular, comfortable body harness until I got her to walk without pulling. I used the harness during that time to keep her from harming herself, and still use it when I have her on a long lead so she won't hurt herself if she forgets she's on a lead at all.

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Head halters are potentially dangerous. If the dog takes off suddenly while wearing one and hits the end of the leash, or even if you make a sudden stop, the dog's head is wrenched around which can, and has been known to, cause serious neck injury. I would never use one.

 

OTOH, the Easy-Walk harness, or similar front-attachment harnesses, do the same job of redirecting the dog without risk of injury to the neck.

Find a new trainer.

D'Elle

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It's a tool and can be used with great success or abused, depending on the dog and methods applied with it. I have personally used them and been happy with their affect on many dogs. I have, however, seen plenty of people using them wrong.

 

Ultimately it is your dog and you don't have to use a training device or method on him that you don't feel comfortable with.

 

BTW, when using a head halter, you need to introduce it slowly. For example, put it on, praise and feed lots of yummy tidbits. I think the biggest mistake people make is putting it on and immediately jumping into intensive training.

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We made our first trip down to the village today. My friend came with me - she carried the liverwurst :D Flint was really good! He ignored the trucks, transports, cars..loved the people and generally acted reasonably given the new surroundings. I am very happy with our first trip out. Here we are at the traffic lights and he's not even looking at the transport - YAY Flint :)

post-3503-039307300 1361057647_thumb.jpg

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I am revising my prior opinion; as a training tool, I think a head harness is great, if used properly. I do not use it on every walk, as my dog seems to hate it (not a big deal) and it has, to date, kept her from doing our necessary walk things (i.e. pooping and peeing). It has improved her walking overall though. We've only done a few very short walk sessions with it on though, so we'll see how things shake out.

 

I believe that using the harness properly means that I give a lot of feedback and reward her for staying close while the head halter is on. I do the same thing without it as well, but the harness allows very minute applications of lead tension to guide the dog's attention back to you.

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The Gentle Leader or Head Halter can be a great tool to help with certain training issues. I have used it a lot with dogs that are easily distracted, have fear issues, etc and the handler needs to have control of the head. I teach all my puppies to use them, firstly, because I never know when I might need to use one, and also since I recommend them, I use my dogs for demos. BUT the most important thing is the handler has to understand HOW they work and be able to teach the dog HOW they work. They work by applying pressure, and you have to teach the dog to give to the pressure, not fight against it which is what the dog's instinct tells it to do. I have a detailed handout of how I teach the dogs to give to pressure that I give out, and I also personally spend at least two hours with someone showing them the steps, and let them work my dogs so they know what the final outcome is.

 

The biggest problem is that people slap these things on their dog without understanding how they work and also expecting that the dogs will just accept it. If I am the only one getting a dog used to one, usually I have them 95% trained in a couple of hours. I can't remember the last time I had a dog that I worked with that hated one. WIth the owners, I have them work through the steps over a one week period - they have to have the dog totally used to it before they start using it in a class situation or on a walk.

 

It is merely a temporary training tool OR it can be permanent. I have worked with a lot of people over the years that are physically restricted for one reason and another and wouldn't be able to walk their large dogs without the use of them.

 

One of the biggest things is that when a dog is using one, the leash is only a foot or so long - you don't let the dog have the full length of the leash.

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