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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We are in the process of training our 1 year old leash manners. We start Obedience School tomorrow (he is to come in a flat buckle collar), but wondering how a halti would work for extreme pulling (when he catches a scent) or for leash reactivity? He is 80 pounds... need I say more? This pooch is strong! We go for 3-5 miles everyday and I would love for it to be a more peaceful experience. :)

I am not wanting to use any form of choker or shock collars. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I am doing the "you pull, I stop, you come back to me, you get a treat, we continue" idea. However, if he catches an interesting scent or sees another dog, this does not work. I must add that he is friendly with people and dogs. But, I am sure people are hesitant when they see a barking, pulling German Shepherd eyeing their dog.
 

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i had same problem with my gsd shes now just a year old and weighs in at 83 pounds , we tried everything but finally settled on a front loading harness till she learned what pulling really was? i just dont think she realized she was so strong..so the harness i use 90% of the time but she can walk very nicely on her collar now and knows the feeling of pulling..if this all makes sense
 

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I tried the Halti when my pup was younger (3-4 months) and he hated it! I also was worried about hurting his neck with it.
My dog was a puller and I used (and still occasionally do) the Sense-ation harness. I found that this was a much better method for us and I know I wasn't hurting him.
This harness has the ring in the front as opposed to the back of the harness to prevent pulling, it really does work!
 

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I use a Halti for Zimmer, who is 75 pounds and a terrible puller. We started with an Easy Walk harness, but I took it back when I noticed it was rubbing all the hair off on Zim's chest (weird, I know, and it was properly fitted, too!). He's got short, course hair, and it's not very thick, so that could have been why. Don't let this deter you; the harness worked great for the two weeks I had it.

We switched to the Halti about three weeks ago, and Zim immediately hated it (as I suspect all dogs would because, let's be real, who wants to be lead around by something on their face?), but he's definitely gotten used to it after an introductory period. His pulling has decreased by about 40%, and it's much easier to redirect him when I want to avoid dog-to-dog confrontation, but the more and more I read about them, the more I think I'm going to return it as they can cause serious neck damage. So that's something to consider.

This probably didn't help much, BUT I recommend trying the Easy Walk harness first because every dog is different. :)
 

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I've actually found that head collars are a really safe and effective alternative. There is a small chance of injury, especially if used incorrectly, like with anything including a buckle collar! They do have an acclimation period of a couple of weeks, and I would highly advise you to seek out a trainer who is very familiar in working with them to show you the ropes. But, they don't carry the risk of injury and behavioral side effects that adversive-based collars bring (not that I'm against those collars in certain cases, but I think that if you have the option not to use them, this may be a better fit).

Here is a respected veterinarian and animal behaviorist on the subject: Are Head Collars on Dogs Dangerous or Safe? It’s All About Technique! | Animal Behavior and Medicine Blog | Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS.
 

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The Sense-action harness is pretty good for pulling issues. I used it first but it didn't work well for my dog's leash reactivity (when she lunged or became fcused on other dogs, the harness made it hard to control her) so I ended up using a Halti with her. The Halti did work well and helped with her reactivity, once I got her comfortable with it. I used it in combination with training and desensitization, and rewarding her for being calm around other dogs. I found the Halti also had a calming effect when she was wearing it, she was less likely to react than when wearing the harness or a collar.


For pulling, I've had good luck using a method similar to this:
Use the No-Pull Recipe also known as Penalty Yards to teach your leash puller to walk calmly at your side or anywhere within his leash length using clicker training
I also did a version of this except without a clicker or start/finish line, basically just backed up whenever the dog pulled and only moved forward when the leash was slack. Sometimes I used a goal, something the dog wanted to get to, but sometimes just walking. The stopping when he pulled did not work, but backing up did.
I did that with the dog on a flat buckle collar, no jerking on the collar or leash corrections at all.
 

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I personally hate Haltis and any head collars. But I understand most tools have their place in training.

IMHO, I feel that prongs/chokes are much more humane. A halti puts direct pressure and rubs on one of the most sensitive areas on a dog's face, so much so that is often times leads to rubbing and fur loss. That kind of pressure will cause a continuous irritating sensation to the dog, even if the dog adjusts and learns to ignore it. A small leash correction on a prong collar causes a second of pressure and then release.

I think there is a lot of misinformation about training tools, especially against tools like prong collars. I was TOTALLY against them, until I started training with my old trainer. Now, prong is my preferred method for a dog that needs a little more correction on lead. I think haltis are also given too much praise, and too many people DON'T properly train with them. Instead they just use them as a lifelong crutch.

That being said, if you don't feel comfortable using a training tool like a prong, then don't use it. I would hope you wouldn't completely shut yourself off to the idea without knowing more about it, but I would suggest something like an easy walk harness way before using something like a halti.

My trainer gave me this article, and it explains it much better then I ever could. I strongly urge people to read it, if not to simply get another view on the topic.

http://suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/problem-head-halters

A few of my favorite parts highlighted:

"From a psychological point of view, even if the halter does not create much fighting and resistance (I've seen some dogs only mildly fuss before resigning themselves to it), it can have an unpleasant effect on the dog overall. At a clicker seminar a few years ago, I watched a well known trainer work with a lovely little Lab bitch. Enthusiastic and happy, she came charging into the seminar room, towing her hapless owner. The poor dog had been chosen for this demo because she pulled. (Side note: dogs only pull on lead. I have never seen a dog pulling off leash - ever! It takes two to play the pulling game, and perhaps what we need to invent are ways to correct the handler who makes pulling possible! But at no time did this trainer address the handler or her responsibility in the problem behavior - i.e., pulling.)

At any rate, the halter went on, and the change in this dog was awful. From alert, eager and happy, she became a very depressed dog who stood with tail slightly tucked, head lowered and no longer interested in engaging with the trainer. In short, there was an overall suppressive effect similar to that on dogs experiencing non-contingent punishment. This is a good thing?The trainer in question seemed to think the results were wonderful."


"The easiest test I know of whether or not the head halter is having an overall suppressive effect on the dog is this: take it off. Does the dog visibly brighten? Does his body posture change? Does the light return to his eyes? I'm not talking about the joy of simply being set free to run and play. I'm talking about the difference between the dog standing there on leash and collar but without the head halter vs. the dog wearing the head halter. If there is a difference, I think the aware trainer has to ask, "Then why am I doing this to this animal?""


"Proponents of the halter claim that it is no different from halters used on horses - a concept in use as long as man has tried to control horses. With 34 years of horsemanship under my belt, I assure the reader that this is simply not true. There is a profound difference in effect and fit. For the horse, the halter sits well down on the long, bony part of the muzzle, far away from the eyes, not just under the edge of his eyes. For many dogs, the halter nose piece comes just under the inside corners of the eyes."


"In terms of psychological effect, there is another difference between dogs and horses. For the dog, the muzzle area is rich in psychological impact. Dams gently grab errant puppies by the muzzle (or even the entire head, depending on their age), much of the canine greeting ritual is directed at the muzzle (subordinant animals often lick at the muzzle or even gently grab the muzzle of a dominant animal), and quick disciplinary grabs are often directed at the offender's muzzle. Just taking your hand and putting it across the bridge of a dog's nose is a very meaningful communication. Would you try it with a dog you do not know too well? Why not?"


"What horrified me was the number of people (remember, these are professional trainers and serious dog folks!) who would simply stop at a booth, allowing the dog to drift ahead until he reached the end of the lead and then had his head brought sharply to one side."


"NOTHING in the dog's physical construction or his nervous system prepares him for the force of an unexpected, externally directed, sideways and upward movement of the head while his body is still moving forward (sometimes at considerable speed!). For the horse, the leverage is similar but with key differences: the force is directed sideways and downward, and the muscles of the horse's neck are among the most powerful in his body. There is also a considerable difference in force that can be applied to a 1000 lbs. of horse vs. 25-75 lbs. of dog. Interestingly, when working with young horses, ponies and miniature horses, care must be taken in the use of the halter with allowances made for the height difference - knowledgeable handlers do not apply force upwards and sideways, but turn the animal's head in the same plane as would happen with a larger horse."
 

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I believe Suzanne Clothier no longer uses or recommends prong collars, though I may be mistaken?

I personally am not against the use of any training tool in the right situation, and I think you definitely have to find the right tool for you and your dog. A lot of people are against head collars AND prongs. You will know the right tool for you once you try it and work with it for awhile. Again, I'd work with a trainer for a head collar (but I would to learn how to use a prong too). The tool itself is only about $15, so you don't have too much to lose if you try it! Here is a great video on getting started with the desensitization process:
. I think a lot of how the dog responds is based on how you approach it. This is a tool that takes time to acclimate the dog to. It is also a tool that requires skill gaining on the human end to use properly. However, I have personally had great sucess with the head collar, both for non-aggressive dogs who just needed a little more control and for human and dog aggressive dogs where I had to control their mouths. It is now pretty much my go to training tool, and my dogs are not suppressed or unhappy and I don't worry about injuring them because I am skilled and comfortable with using this tool and introducing it to my dogs. Good luck!
 

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I don't agree about prong/choke collars being inherently better, they can cause problems as well; and can also become a crutch if used without actually working on training the dog to not to pull. There can also be issues if collar corrections are used inappropriately with reactive dogs (or even if the dog is allowed to "correct itself" with a prong/choke by reacting and lunging while wearing one, this could cause problems). Using that type of collar corrections might also suppress the reactive behavior for the time being without curing it or doing anything for the dog's underlying issues.

I am pretty sure my dog's previous owners use of the prong collar cause my dog's reactivity to worsen (from how they told me they used it and how I should respond to it, and her demeanor when I got her). When I got her I couldn't even walk her on a flat collar around other dogs, let alone any training collar on her neck as any neck pressure caused her reactivity to become much worse, and pressure on her neck from a collar ramped her up/lowered her reactivity threshold, due to the past use of the prong collar. I had to use either a head collar or harness, could have nothing that put any pressure on the neck as it would worsen her reactivity a lot.
 

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JMO- but I think halti things belong on horses, not dogs. Sorry, but I couldn't imagine putting one on a shepherd. My wife hit the nail on the head about my thoughts on it... "It's degrading to a dog like a shepherd". I am NOT picking on anyone... and no one has to think what I think. I also think when you have a dog that isn't calm and you put that on, you're risking serious neck injury.
 

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I used both a Halti and a Gentle Leader (the head one, not the harness) and both worked great with Piper after she stopped thrashing around with it. Her pulling stopped almost completely, but she was still very lunge-y when she was excited and I was worried that she'd like snap her neck. I also didn't like he way it rubbed fur off of her muzzle.

You specifically mentioned that you didn't want to use choke or shock collars, but would you consider a prong/pinch collar? I switched to a prong collar and haven't looked back since. Her pulling became almost non-existant within the first week, and she has continued to improve even when the prong isn't on.

The other problem that I had with the Halti/Gentle Leader is that EVERYONE would scoot away from her because they thought she was dangerous and muzzled. First of all, it's hard to socialize a puppy properly when everyone is terrified of the muzzled fluffball. Second, GSD's already have a pretty bad rep because of how they have been portrayed, I definitely didn't want to encourage that thought process at all.

Ultimately, obviously, it's up to you on what you go with.
 

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I am doing the "you pull, I stop, you come back to me, you get a treat, we continue" idea. However, if he catches an interesting scent or sees another dog, this does not work. I must add that he is friendly with people and dogs. But, I am sure people are hesitant when they see a barking, pulling German Shepherd eyeing their dog.
They are not my first choice for a large dog but I have seen it give a calming effect to some dogs. And I do mean calming and not shutting down as was suggested.

That said, the second part of your paragraph above is where you need to focus no matter which tool you decide to use - my recommendation would be a front clip harness. Stop taking walks with a certain distance and route in mind, that's not how a dog would naturally walk and explore. Change direction often and randomly without cuing your dog. Dont pull in the direction you are going but turn, go to the end of the leash and wait for them to follow. Your dog will start paying more attention to you because your behavior will be unpredictable and exciting. Use the scents of trees, bushes ans piles as rewards for walking nicely and give him permission to go sniff instead of letting him take you to them.
 

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I'm not sure on her current stance on prongs.

If I had to pick, I would pick a prong over a choke. The prongs actually allow the pressure to be distributed evenly across the neck instead of localized to one point.

And I TOTALLY agree, ANY training tool can be used correctly, or incorrectly. And MANY owners misuse prongs/choke chains. I just feel like I have never once seen someone train with a halti properly, whereas I see many people properly training with pinch collars. And as far as an inherently better tool, that is a matter of opinion and I know every dog is different, however I feel strictly from a HUMANE standpoint prongs are more humane because they lead to less irritation, stimulation, and even "pain" to the dog. That's just my opinion on the HUMANE standpoint, not on the better training tool. A prong or even choke chain would most certainly shut some dogs down. Good trainers are open to all possibilities.

The OP originally posted no choke chains, so I did not mean for my post to lead to promoting prong collars. On Berlin I am using an easy walk harness right now while we work on leash walking in class with the flat collar. Zeke uses a choke chain because he is trained, but while training as an older pup/young adult we used a prong.
 

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Another option to the Halti is the Canny Collar. It attaches in the back so the head control would be in a downward motion instead of the side motion. Like the Halti, it does take a period of time for the dog to get use to it.

Gsdraven had excellent suggestions. Be unpredictable. As you are walking, suddenly make right/left turns, walk in a circle, square, figure 8's. Neighbors will probably giggle, the dog will look at you 'what are you doing' but he will learn he HAS to keep his eye on you.

Prong collars, if used correctly, is another option. Although if you choose to use one, be sure you use a back up collar as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thank you...

Thanks so much everyone!

Our class starts tonight so am hoping there is some talk on leash pulling. I think 99% of the pulling is due to him wanting to get to a scent faster or he sees another dog and must get to it. He is very strong (as you all know) so I am worried I won't have control over him.

I am still not sure on if we will get anything to lessen the pull as ideally we would love for him to focus on us. I have thought about the effects of a halti if he lunges as he is quick. I don't want anything happening to his neck. I don't think other collars would work (i.e. prong, choke, etc...) anyway as when he pulls I am pretty sure he can feel his buckle collar on his neck. He keeps going as if he doesn't care.

I will try the make walks more fun, too. Great suggestion. He just loves to sniff. I think he goes into overload as we live in an area where there are lots of bunnies and deer.
 

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Well, can tell you the Halti was not "degrading" to my dog- although I'm not quite sure what that means, it seems like an anthropomorphism, it did not hurt her confidence or cause her to shut down or be depressed while wearing it. In fact my dog's confidence improved a lot while we were using it, it did have a calming effect but in a positive way, if she had been shut down or depressed using it I would not have used it as that was a problem she has when I got her... She had issues with confidence and I wouldn't have used anything that made that worse. Once she got used to it she was happy while wearing it as she was without it.
It did not cause her head to whip around or twist/pull her neck in strange positions, or pull her head sharply to the sides. In fact I think the only way it would really have whipped her head around like that is if she ran to the end of a long leash and then I suddenly stopped her, which I would never do and you shouldn't allow a dog to do with any leash/collar, and could cause injury with various training collars, not just a headcollar.
It did not rub on her nose or wear the hair, although I know some people do have issues with that with some headcollars, there are things you can do to to prevent it. I think the Gentle Leader is more prone to this than the Halti, plus the GL needs to be tighter I think to keep the dog from pulling it off, the Halti has straps on the sides to do that job. I never had a problem with that with the Halti even when we had an old model. The newer model Halti also has padding on the top for comfort so it should not cause a problem. Also with some dogs who may keep constant pulling on the leash/collar, they may cause more pressure on the nose and result in rubbing or friction, if that is the case I would suggest they may not be a good candidate for a head collar, or you might not be training them enough/properly in conjunction (they're not supposed to beconstantly pulling on the headcollar), or else possibly a different brand/type of head collar might work better for them. I know some people have had better luck with one brand over another. I never had a problem with this with the Halti although I was concerned about whether it would be uncomfortable. Yes my dog didn't like it at first because of course having something on their nose is not something they are used to but once she was acclimated to it she was ok and it never caused any issues with rubbing. She did not put up oppositional pressure against it, it was not taut or tight while walking. It was more of a guiding tool. As someone mentioned there are also other headcollars that attach differently, and they might work better for some dogs. I know people who have had better results with the type that attach at the back.
I think if used correctly a headcollar is a humane option and it can be an alternative to collar corrections which can cause fallout or increase reactivity if used on the wrong dog/situation.
I hear people say that a good trainer considers all tools but then I hear a lot of misconceptions and people being against using headcollars ever, when they can also be a good tool for some dogs. :confused: In my dog's case the Halti was the most humane tool, and the one that worked out best for our situation, and it helped both of us a lot. We did not have good results using ANY collar that attached at the neck when I got her because even a little neck pressure greatly increased her reactivity, so it was either headcollar or harness. We tried harnesses first but they did not provide any control when she did react and she would be able to pull me towards the dog she was reacting to when wearing a harness, so it was not really safe. The Halti helped me to be able to take her out where we could train, socialize and just get out in more situations/places, and it helped to improve her reactivity issues to make her a more confident, relaxed and comfortable dog. So in her case it worked out very well. If we could have used another humane tool, I would have. I tried other tools first and I did not like the idea of using a headcollar at first but once I tried it and realized how useful it could be and how much it helped, I came to realize it could be a good tool to have available when the situation/dog called for it.
I am not saying they are amazing/perfect or you should slap one on every dog, in fact I don't use any training collars as a matter of course, I prefer to work on a flat collar (or no collar) whenever possible. It depends on the individual dog and what they are working on. I am just saying they can be a useful device; if used properly like most training tools and they're not horrible.
 

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Oh I also wanted to add, one thing I didn't like about the Halti is people did often mistake it for a muzzle, which I think is pretty silly since its obvious the dog can open their mouth since she could eat, drink, pant, etc...
I didn't care if we were just out walking or training, but If we were at an event or other place with a lot of people I didn't want people to think she was muzzled, plus my dog liked when people would pet her. So when at events I tried to do things to combat it. Sometimes I had her wear a bandana that said something that made it clear she was friendly, or an "ask to pet me, I'm friendly" patch on her backpack, although that sometimes made people mistake her for a service dog which they would sometimes do even without that at times (I made sure to clear that up if I heard anyone say it.) I'd often do those things even if she wasn't wearing the Halti also, since a lot of people seemed to think GSD=mean anyway.

I also attached some cute ribbon to her old model Halti (I switched out the ribbon every so often) so it would look less muzzle-like:



When we got a new model it was purple so it looked a little bit "friendlier".
 

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I think it would depend on the individual dog to some extent. Cole hated the Gentle Leader we got for him and would act all depressed whenever he was wearing it. We tried a number of ways to condition him to like it, but it wasn't working and I hated making him wear it. Now he loves his prong collar, so it's been a much more effective training tool for us.

Although I've never used one, I think the various "no pull" harnesses would be less objectionable to the dog, and like Balloons mentioned, unlikely to be confused for a muzzle :)
 
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