Opinions on headcollar use!Hi

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Horace's Mum
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Opinions on headcollar use!Hi

Post by Horace's Mum » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:41 pm

Hi guys! It's ages since I posted asking for advice, which I suppose is a good thing! I have recently bought a halti headcollar to try for a very specific purpose. Although Horus is sooo much better than he was, calmer and much more able to listen to me, we still have minor issues with a couple of things, and I am experimenting with the headcollar to manage these better. The main one day to day is cats - he hates/loves them, and once he sees one it is literally impossible to distract him. Occasionally if I see it before him I can frogmarch him past with a constant stream of treats, but that is mainly because he doesn't notice it rather than because he is ignoring it! Once past, he will walk backwards all the way up the road until we are round a corner so as not to let it out of sight, just in case it creeps up behind him. So the halti really helps with this, I just keep it in my pocket and then can slip it on when necessary and he will walk calmly past - to be honest it subdues him so much I usually don't even need to attach the lead to it.

I got it mainly for walking in the hills when we meet random sheep, or have to walk through fields of sheep. He is capable of walking quietly past and ignoring them, but surprise sheep that are hiding make him startle and react (the collie kicks in) and fields become harder and harder as we go through, and I usually run out of treats before I get to the other side - we can do one field, or maybe 2, but more than that and he just can't focus bless him. Again, it works really well for this, but again, I actually rarely need to clip the lead onto it, usually just putting it on is enough.

Which got me thinking. He reacts to the halti the same way he did to his muzzle in the old days - it either supresses him, or has a calming effect. I'm not entirely sure which. This weekend I tried an experiment, we were away at a horse show and I decided to push him a little and take him into the showground and around the trade stands. It wasn't really busy, there was loads of space, but there was more to see than he has been exposed to for a while. I took him on his harness on one lead, and had his other lead round my waist and on his collar, but when we were closer to things then I clipped it onto the headcollar. He could walk easily by my side with no pressure, and sniff the ground, but if he took me by surprise and lunged then his head was immediately brought round to me as well as being closed by the headcollar, so he was safe. If I saw something that would worry him, I could easily pick up the lead and keep him close without pressure unless it was needed.

It worked remarkably well, and we were able to safely walk everywhere. The odd reaction was over in less than a second because his head was gently brought straight round to me, breaking his focus and allowing me to instantly reward looking at me. Normally if he reacts I have to bend down, touch him, wait for him to turn, and THEN I can reward him, takes about 3-4 seconds and sometimes longer if he is really stressing or a dog is barking back. He apparently happily walked past many dogs, lots of people, and settled into having the headcollar on very well - it was the longest he has worn it for because I have been getting him used to it slowly. I felt it gave me much more control but very gently, he was walked off the harness, never needed to take the strain on his neck, and I was able to relax much more knowing that he couldn't hurt anyone and I had full control in an instant if needed. It also had the advantage of cutting off his bark which meant the people around us didn't react to him as the normally do when he shouts - he sounds horrendously aggressive because he has a deaf bark.

I would really like to utilise this and go to places I wouldn't have gone before, for very short periods to see if we can work through a bit more of his issues BUT, I'm not sure whether it would be more detrimental. I know very well what he can cope with, and the halti is by no means an alternative to using positive training, but it is another tool to help us with our unique problems, but I'm not 100% sure that it isn't suppressing his anxiety or adding to it. I use it very gently, he never gets his head snapped round because he is never far enough away to do that, it just allows me to bring his head round and back to me quicker and therefore to reward him quicker for breaking eye contact and being calm. It is very much a training tool, allowing me to work in places where I can't control everything around me in a way that keeps him and them safe. He is able to sniff and do what he likes, and he was getting more used to it as we walked around - in that sense it seemed to help him accept the headcollar because he was looking at everything and sniffing everything.

I would not take him anywhere I wouldn't take him without it - it would just allow us to work differently and hopefully more effectively and safely.

What do you think? Partiularly Em, Mattie and Nettle, because you know us the best, but any opinions would be interesting to hear.

For those who don't know, Horus is deaf and very reactive - he was in solitary confinement for 18 months in a kennel, and has been abused in the past.

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Mattie
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Re: Opinions on headcollar use!Hi

Post by Mattie » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:54 pm

My main objection to a head collar is they way it is used, very few people use it right, somehow I know this won't happen with you :lol:

You know Horus better than anyone else, you know what he is capable of and what he isn't, I think you are just having a confidence blimp :lol:
[url=http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v312/Nethertumbleweed/PIXIE.jpg][img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v312/Nethertumbleweed/th_PIXIE.jpg[/img][/url]

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Horace's Mum
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Re: Opinions on headcollar use!Hi

Post by Horace's Mum » Mon Aug 09, 2010 4:18 pm

Thanks mattie! it's not so much a confidence blip this time (makes a change!) just wanting to make sure I'm not missing something I should be thinking about. Maybe I am thinking too much again!!

emmabeth
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Re: Opinions on headcollar use!Hi

Post by emmabeth » Mon Aug 09, 2010 9:25 pm

I think you are probably over-thinking.

As long as you don't over use this and use it as a 'cover up' to do things you know he actually cant handle (which you wont do!), I don't see a problem with it.

You know him well enough to keep assessing him and to note whether it has a detrimental effect that shows up some time later, I say give it a go, if it shows problems later on then you will spot them before they become too big, and you will adjust what you do accordingly.

Have some faith in yourself!
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

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