Dog Collars  Blog

Gentle Leader Head Collar-How to use them

by tomjaq September 28, 2018 0 comments

– The Gentle Leader can be a really useful piece of equipment and I actually used one when I trained Degan here over 10 years ago. Now today we are going to hang out with instructor Steve. He’s one of the instructors, head instructors from McCann Dogs and we are going to try putting a Gentle Leader and he’s going to show us how to put a Gentle Leader on this great, big Irish Wolfhound puppy named Sky.

I’m here with instructor Steve. So today instructor Steve is gonna talk to us about the Gentle Leader. – Now the Gentle Leader, guys, is one of our most popular training tools for some of, maybe our more excited dogs or some of our bigger, stronger dogs. It’s a great piece of equipment that relies on control without force. So the Gentle Leader is a very specific piece of training equipment and it’s one that we really like here. It is very different from other head collars in how it’s fit. It is two different loops. One which goes around the back of the head which sits high on the dog’s neck right at the base of the skull. And the other one that comes around the nose. Now, a couple of misconceptions. This is not a muzzle. It does not constrict any movement in the dog’s jaw at all. Dogs are free to open and close their mouths as much as they need to. But it gives us that control from the point under the chin.

Gentle leaders-benefits

Now one of the best benefits of a Gentle Leader is that it can really help calm some busier dogs down. Those younger dogs that maybe don’t have that full emotional control yet or even some of our bigger, stronger dogs that need a little help. Functionally, the way the Gentle Leader works is the head collar sitting nice and high on the back of the skull actually helps mimic how a mother dog would grip a puppy and takes advantage of those pressure points to help calm those dogs down a little bit. And we’ve seen a lot of our students who all of a sudden, the moment we put it on, see those dogs settle down and start to get a little bit more success.

They can build on that success with their training. – I think it’s really important point and you actually saw use the Gentle Leader with Beeline the first time that we took her into the city. And it really had an incredible calming effect on her. – Now a lot of people feel that once they’ve put a Gentle Leader on their dog it’s a forever piece of equipment. It really isn’t. Like any other training tool, we use it to gain success with our dogs and once the dogs start to understand what it is we want them to do, we can wean off it. And wean off it is the critical part because there is such a big difference with the Gentle Leader on versus not.

dog collars

It’s important that we take a few steps to show the dogs how to come off that Gentle Leader and work towards working with a flat collar. So with the Gentle Leader, the best way to start to wean off that Gentle Leader is to go in stages. So when my dog is a little excited and I need that extra control, I would use it as it is, with the nose loop on, head collar set high. But in a situation where my dog might be a little bit more calm we might be having a little more success in our training, I can take that nose loop and slide it right off the dog’s nose.

With that slid off, I can take my leash, clip it back up here and my dog works now in a nice, high collar. Still gives me a great level of control versus maybe a looser fitting regular flat collar. Now one of the hardest things to figure out is how the heck to put this thing on. When you pick it up, it’s a bit of a jumbled mess. Well, the easiest way to do that is to take the head collar and hold it like a capital T and from the center of that T, I push up the nose loop. So this is the first part that goes over the dog’s muzzle and then the head collar will wrap around and do up nice and tight. And I have my dog Sky here to give this a try. Now, she’s never had one on so this is gonna be a good type of thing because it does take some dogs some getting used to in terms of how this is gonna work.

Sky, stand. Good girly. So, again, I hold it like a capital T. I push the nose loop up. And what I will do for her ’cause she’s never had one on, is I’m actually just gonna take a treat, I’m gonna put my hand through that nose loop with the treat. Simply move this towards her nose. Say yes, and reward as it touches her nose. And I’m going to take it away again. So we’re not forcing it on her right off the bat. We’re getting used to it. Good girl, very good puppy dog. And she’s pretty compliant with this, so I’m going to continue from there. So again, I will take a treat. Put it on her nose, and as she’s eating that I’m just gonna slide that nose loop over.

While she’s chewing on that treat, I’ll bring that head collar around the back and simply do up the buckle. Now in order to get the full function of the Gentle Leader, fit is critical. The head collar on the Gentle Leader should be snug enough that I can simply get a finger or two underneath. That way, it will continue to grip the base of the skull and help calm those dogs down. (upbeat music) That gives the dogs full range of motion with their mouths but gives me great direction when I add pressure on the leash.

Now, speaking of leash pressure. The other critical portion to keep in mind with the Gentle Leader. It gives me great control of the nose but when my dog is being compliant and doing what I want them to, I need to make sure that pressure comes right off and this nose loop and the clip of your leash hang straight up and down. Now, I have the Gentle Leader on Sky. Again, she’s never had one on so this is a bit of adjustment for her.

But you’ll notice that because we’ve done it slowly and in a positive manner, she’s quite comfortable with it. Good girl. Now, I talked about a minute ago, making sure that I can add pressure when I need to. Hi girl, you stand and wait. But that I let this pressure off. And I’m just gonna walk around with her a little bit and I want you to keep an eye on the clip of my leash. As I turn and move, I can add a little pressure to give her that direction. But when she’s moving with me, I can loosen that up. Make sure that there’s slack in that leash and then praise her for moving with me. Sky, let’s go, good girl. Reward her for walking nicely with me.

Now, if I need her to turn and add a little pressure. I can use the leash at that point. But then you’ll notice the slack goes right back in that leash and that clip hangs straight up and down. Good girly, very good girl. So again, I’ve had some success with Sky on this. And this might be a time I would look at transitioning off the Gentle Leader. So again, I will take the nose loop. Slide it right off her nose. Good girl. Slide it out and clip it back up underneath into that nice, high collar. And now that we’re here, I can do a little bit more walking. Okay, let’s go. Yes, good girl. Good, let’s go, what a good puppy dog.

Now we talk about Gentle Leaders for busy dogs and some of our more excited dogs. But I’ll be honest, Gentle Leaders are also extremely beneficial for some of our bigger dogs. You know, this dog, if she wasn’t so conditioned to working with me and we’d had so much fun training, it’d be pretty hard for me to hang on to her if she wanted to go somewhere. So this gives me the control without having to use a lot of force. It’s very gentle on them, it’s very calming and really helps give them the direction that they need.

So when it comes to Gentle Leaders, they are a tool that’s available to us. Our goal with you and your dog is to help you be as successful as you can be and we want you to view these different pieces of equipment that way.

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