Head Collars & No-Pull Harnesses
Head collars and harnesses are two effective and humane options for teaching your dog to walk well on a leash, and can be a valuable part of your training toolbox when working with a leash reactive dog.
There are three main types of harnesses-those that clip on the dog’s back: those that connect to the leash at the dog’s chest and those that connect on the back and the chest (such as the Positively No-Pull Harness). Harnesses are a fantastic tool for teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash, and do not put the pressure on your dog’s neck and spine that a traditional collar does.
A harness that connects to the leash between the dog's shoulders is a great option for a dog that does not pull on leash.
- It takes the pressure and discomfort of a collar off of your dog’s sensitive neck, and will eliminate coughing and choking.
- These harnesses work well on small dogs and dogs that are not inclined to pull or lunge.
However, the back-clipping harness is not a good tool for dogs that pull or are reactive on leash.
- Back-clipping harnesses can engage a dog’s opposition reflex, which can actually encourage pulling.
- They also minimize the handler’s level of control over the dog, making it difficult to walk a reactive dog or one that pulls.
Fortunately, there is a tool that can help eliminate pulling and can give you more control over a leash reactive dog.
- The chest-led harness such as the Positively No Pull Harness has a clip located on a strap that lies across the dog’s chest and a clip attached on the back just behind the shoulders for added control.
- The dog’s center of gravity is located at the chest, so when he pulls, the chest-led harness will simply turn the dog around.
- These types of harnesses are humane and do not cause dogs any pain or discomfort.
Leash pulling is often successful for dogs: when they pull and are allowed to get where they want to go, so the unwanted behavior is inadvertently reinforced. The Positively No-Pull Harness clips at the chest and the back, and was specially designed to be effective, force-free, and pain-free. Chest-led harnesses can be used in conjunction with behavioral training to eliminate pulling or leash reactivity.
One option for a dog that pulls severely on leash or has serious issues with leash reactivity is a head collar. It is important that you acclimate your dog to the head collar slowly, as many dogs are unsure of it at first.
- Start by pairing the presence of a head collar with a reward. Show the dog the collar, then reward him treats, play, or toys while the collar is in view. Remove the collar from view and stop the reward.
- Touch the dog’s nose, head, and neck with the collar, and follow immediately with a reward. Repeat until the dog is comfortable with the presence of the collar.
- Place the collar portion of the head collar around the dog’s neck. It will fit similarly to a normal collar. Practice taking this on and off the dog while rewarding the dog when the collar is on.
- Feed the dog a treat through the nose loop of the head collar.
- Gradually increase the amount of the loop that goes on your dog’s muzzle.
- Leave the nose loop on for gradually increasing periods.
- Put the nose loop on the dog’s muzzle and bring the straps behind his head. Gradually increase the time that you leave the collar on and continue with the reward.
- When the dog is completely comfortable with the head collar, it’s time to clip the straps. Reward your dog with treats or a favorite toy or game.
- After you have clipped the straps and the dog does not seem distressed or uncomfortable, you can attach the leash and begin training.
The collar should be fairly snug, with room for one finger between the collar and the dog’s neck. If the collar is too tight or too loose, it will be uncomfortable for your dog and ineffective for training.
Tips for Training With a Head Collar
- You should never use leash jerks or corrections on any dog, but especially not a dog wearing a head collar.
- Some dogs may never acclimate to using a head collar. Do not force your dog to wear it if he is clearly distressed or anxious. There are other alternatives.
- A head collar is best saved for dogs with extreme leash reactivity and pulling. Mild to moderate cases may be best suited to a front-clipping harness.
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