Saturday, January 1, 2011

One of my Favourite Training Tools

Since Loose Leash Walking seems to be a major struggle for most dog owners I wanted to take some time and introduce one of my favourite dog walking products: the Gentle Leader. It's fairly well known but I still come across quite a number of frustrated owners who haven't heard of it. 

The Gentle Leader works in a similar way to a horse halter/head collar. It fits over the mouth and snaps behind the ears. Dogs can eat, drink and play with it on. It does get mistaken for a muzzle sometimes but don't be fooled; dogs can definitely still bite with it on! 

The purpose of the Gentle Leader is to take away the dog's ability to pull. Although no training tool will solve pulling all by itself this one comes the closest. In my opinion it works better than harnesses, choke collars, shock collars or prong collars and is of course humane. I find it works best for medium to large breed dogs such as Australian Shepherds, Labradors, Malamutes, etc. For the smaller dogs I generally recommend a Sensation Harness or an Easy Walk Harness but you can use Gentle Leaders on the small ones too. 

The down side to head collars in general is that some dogs simply don't like to wear them (picture your puppy at 8 weeks with his/her first collar and they flail around). You need to start off slow by putting it on, feeding a few treats and then taking it off right away. I recommend doing this a few times and leaving it on just a bit longer each time. After a few days try a walk.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you have previously used a type of correction collar: martingale, prong or choke chain then you need to be very careful about not "correcting" with the Gentle Leader. You don't want to throw your dog's spine out of wack and it's not meant to be jerked about in a harmful manner. On the bright side if you have damaged your dog's throat by using a correction collar than a Gentle Leader will be safer and more comfortable for your dog to wear. 

I've used a Gentle Leader for 3 out of 4 of my own dogs: Russ, Tank and Marco while training them to walk on leash. Tank still likes to wear his. Make sure to combine a Gentle Leader with training (using treats to reinforce heel position, direction changes to keep your dog interested and not moving forward when he/she pulls). 

Where's Your Sit runs a special program just for Loose Leash Walking for those of you in the Calgary area struggling with this issue on your otherwise well behaved dog.

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