Training Your Dog to Use the Gentle Leader Head Collar
The gentle leader head collar (GL) can be best described as a training collar used to reinforce proper leash walking and distraction training. The dog is able to fully open their mouth and therefore the gentle leader does not stop biting or barking. Even though it can be used for dogs with mild behavioral issues that is not its main purpose and will not help for major behavior issues. The gentle leader can be purchased on Amazon or any Pet Store (our dogs wear a size Medium). We have tried the gentle leader vs. the easy walk harness and decided we prefer the gentle leader for our dogs. Here are the most frequently asked questions about the Gentle Leader for dogs…
Does the gentle leader work for barking? Does he bite?
Nope! and Nope! The GL will not control an aggressive dog or a dog with major behavior issues.
How do you put a gentle leader on a dog?
The GL strap attach behind the ears. The loop goes over the snout. The leash attaches at the loop under the snout. Pulling on the leash tightens the snout strap and deters unwanted behavior.
Is the gentle leader a good tool for my dog?
Dogs will respond differently to training tools so there’s no right answer to this question. The GL worked for us but we know that some people prefer other tools for training.
Why did you choose the gentle leader?
A few Reasons….but we would first like to preface that not all training methods work for every dog and that we respect different training choices.
Skin Irritation: the skin under Calvin’s armpits is the most sensitive part of his body. He has very little hair there and it is constantly getting infected even without his harness on. We have tried countless harnesses….hundreds of dollars later, only the GL keeps his skin from getting irritated.
Best Results: for US the GL had the best results out of all training tools we have tried. We were introduced to it by a professional trainer and have found that in San Francisco it is often the tool of choice because it does not hurt the dog but can be extremely effective. Within 4 weeks Calvin was able to pass the CGC test WITHOUT the GL.
Reinforce Boundaries: The GL allows us as handlers to reinforce boundaries. It is a reminder that he needs to look to us for guidance and cannot focus on the distractions around him.
Pressure off the Neck: We wanted to minimize any pressure on the neck and potential trachea issues. When a lab gets stubborn…they don’t care how much pressure is applied.
Which gentle leader do you use?
We use the PetSafe quick release in size Medium and the Comfort Trainer in size 3 . You can also search for a “Halti” or “Head Collar” these use loops instead of a plastic clips and are more heavy duty.
What are the top use cases for the gentle leader?
When used correctly, the gentle leader is great for teaching proper leash etiquette and perfecting the leave it command. As a result, the dog is more focused while waiting for its handlers next directions.
How do you train with the gentle leader?
Like all training tools, the gentle leader does not automatically fix behavior. Rather, it is a tool that should be used to enforce proper behavior. The gentle leader is used with a leash correction – when the dog walks ahead or is fixated on a distraction, quickly pop the leash towards you with your correction word. The leash pop in your direction refocuses the dog’s attention towards you (the handler). This reinforces that the dog does not have the autonomy to pull at the leash or stay focused on a distraction – rather they should always be checking in with their handler. Focusing on thei handler is now a non-negotiable behavior!
Our walking etiquette command is “heel” + leash pop as soon as Calvin takes more than 2 steps ahead of us. Our distraction command is “leave it” + leash pop. Give the dog a chance to correct themselves before popping the leash. With time you will find that you no longer need the correction, just the command. Without using a correction and word, the dog will be confused as to why they are being corrected.
How long do you need to use it for good results?
We saw significant results after one month, and then continue to see better behavior everytime we use it. Now, we use the GL for 50% of outings, at the airport, and the office. During evaluations, like the Canine Good Citizen Test, dogs are not allowed to use any training tools. After one month, Calvin was able to pass without using the GL.
How do you get your dog comfortable with the gentle leader? Does he like it?
The answer is no….your dog won’t like the GL. He may become indifferent to it but if asked to choose, no dog would choose the GL! The truth is, dogs don’t like giving up control and that is precisely what the GL does. It took a few weeks for Calvin to stop pawing at his face but he eventually did. Sometimes, he will still rub his snout on things. People who use the GL will agree that it’s not always about what the dog wants, but what is best for structure, training and good behavior. A dog that is allowed to do whatever it wants and pull at the leash is still a great dog but it’s a dog who runs its household.
How do you size the gentle leader?
Like a harness, the GL is fully adjustable. Our dogs wear a Gentle Leader size Medium. Ideally, you should be able to fit two fingers behind the head strap and the snout loop should be lose enough to slide to the tip of the nose without being able to fully slide off.
Can he still open his mouth?
If your GL is sized correctly, the dog should be able to entirely open their mouth, hold balls, and pant.
Do you get weird looks outside?
Everyday…but the GL has been getting more popular. We like to joke that you can tell how dog friendly a town is by how many people are familiar with the gentle leader. Lucky for you, it’s no one’s business what training tool you use or how much you choose to train your dog. As our social media account has grown, we get a lot of comments about how we should do things. Dog raising, kid raising, and life in general is no one’s business so just do whatever works best for you. We choose the GL and dog training is important to our lifestyle but entirely understand that some people do not prioritize the same things. You do you!
Do people stop you less on the street?
Yep! Calvin socializes with humans and other dogs all day long. He meets up with friends at the park and beach – on the street, we actually prefer being able to go about with our life without constant stoping. We do not let Calvin have on leash greetings, and he has learned to ignore when strangers call out to him if we tell him to leave it. All of these learned behaviors are thanks to the GL! The added benefit is that that GL does make people less likely to approach your dog, so it becomes easier to teach the dog how to ignore crowds and other dogs!
How do you explain the gentle leader to strangers?
We tell strangers that GL is a training tool best used for leash etiquette and pulling. It does not have to do with barking or biting and he is as friendly as they come.
How do you educate people when they ask “Does he bite”?
“Nope, never….but he could if he wanted!” Is our go to joke and then we will show them how Calvin’s mouth can open all the way with the GL on. If the stranger is being particularly rude, we do not entertain them with our time and just say “no” and walk away. Don’t put up with rudeness about how you choose to train your dog!
Good Luck with the GL
-Your Pal Cal