7 tips on using a Gentle Leader

What a big sweetie, she said, giving the mighty Micron a gentle scritching on the top of his noggin.

I’d like to pet that one, too, continues Micron’s new admirer. But you’ve got that muzzle on her, so I won’t.

Oh my.

Food Lady! Make him share his ball!

We do get the comments on the head halter, that handy training tool. And honestly, I don’t mind fielding the questions. It’s much better to have an educational moment than the sly skunk eye we get from those who aren’t familiar. I suspect the muzzle comment is a common theme among volunteer puppy raisers for Canine Companions for Independence.

When faced with the query of why is she wearing a muzzle, we find it easy nuff to give a little shrug and say oh, no that’s a Gentle Leader. A head collar, actually designed a lot like a horse halter. See, the leash is connected under here.

And sometimes that’ll do it. They nod in understanding, which makes me wonder if we’re talking to horse people and they totally get it.

Maybe it’s city folk that ask for more on the philosophy behind the Gentle Leader. But no prob. We got this, too.

Yaxley demonstrates the comfort level
of the Gentle Leader.

Well, we say. Think about it this way. The head halter give us the ability to redirect the pup’s attention if she gets distracted by something. Later on, when the dog is teamed with a person with a disability, it’ll be easier to control a seven pound head than a sixty pound dog.

Lookit, she can still take a treat [crunch crunch] or get a drink of water. The halter doesn’t hold her mouth closed. 

And for these dog lovers, we’ve now got it covered. Checking off good enough so we can all move onto our next thoughts. Things like how lovely Euka is and that’s it’s just not fair to all the other dogs out there since she took up all the gorgeous.

But then you get the next level of thinkers.

We kindly call these folk engineers.

How? they ask. Why?

Um, I will say. Oh hey, we’ve got bookmarks with Euka on them. Just a sec. I’ll getcha one from her cape pocket. 

How indeed. Why do these things work so well, anyway? Hardly anecdotal evidence, we have a proven track record of pups that walk better on lead while wearing a head halter. As well as seeing the Gentle Leader provide a calming influence on an excitable puppy.

It’s been supposed that the halter affects certain pressure points on the dog, similar to how the mom would correct her pup.

Have you seen this interaction? A dog gives a gentle, yet dominant, correction by wrapping a mouth about the top of another dog’s snooter. Not a big deal kinda thing. Like a simmer down there, little missy. Or a similar behavior when the mother dog will grab her pup by the back of the neck.

Is there a spit of truth to this, do you think? I dunno myself. I only live with dogs, it’s not like I talk to them about this stuff.

As if.

We mostly talk about when’s dinner and why are all the tennis balls under the sofa where nobody can reach them and why the heck is the cat allowed on the kitchen counter.

He’s not.

Hey, but I can offer you this. Through trial, error and four puppies I’ve been hit in the head with certain knowledge about how to work with this Gentle Leader training tool.

Suggestions for success with Gentle Leader training:

  1. Follow the directions for the correct fitting. Too loose or too tight – whether the nose loop or neck strap – will cause you a handful of probs. Do this first. Then check the instructions again. It’s that important.
  2. Start the pup young. Eight weeks old, if you can. Just a few minutes at first, then work into longer periods.
  3. Gentle Leader Time is Happy Time. Introduce at a relaxed time of day. Say, like just for a few minutes while watching the tube in the evening. Or slip the thing on and feed a meal. Good things happen when the GL shows up. Euka recognizes hers and know it means Adventure Awaits.
  4. The pup will paw at it. They all do. They will tell you that’s what their dew claws were made for, to hook into the nose strap and tug. Just don’t remove it while the pup is fussing. The puppy brains will match this behavior to this is how to get their way, right?
  5. On a similar topic, the pup may turn to that kind stranger in hopes they might remove the nose loop. Physical attempts by the pup may even stray to the unmentionable regions of said stranger as the pup sees an opportunity for leverage. This will happen. And it will embarrass you in ways yet unknown to you at this point in life. I say to you now – expect it. Anticipate and you may be able to head off the obligatory and strangled apology. I’ve taken this one for the team. You’re welcome.
  6. You’ll come across folk who are vehemently opposed to the use of a head halter. They are different than the muzzle people. They will recount some vague tale of something they heard about that happened to a friend of a second cousin to their neighbor’s college roommate. Merely smile politely and go on about your business with confidence. The GL, when fit and used properly, is a remarkable training tool. And safe, of course. Any training tool can be misused when in the hands of those who haven’t been bothered to learn how to use it.
  7. Do #1 again. Really. Puppies grow, of course.

Do you have a success story with using the Gentle Leader with your beloved four legger? A cautionary tale that trumps the maybe-the-release-button-is-in-this-hooman’s-crotch story?

Please share.

Especially if you’ve been more embarrassed than me.

Go for ride? I call shotgun!
Check out that hot pink GL on our girl.

_____________________________________________

The photos at top and bottom are from this weekend’s adventures. 
Top image is our shopping trip for Mother’s Day flowers at Knollwood Garden Center. We paused for a photo op with a fountain that is now on my OMG I Gotta Have This list, but sadly falls short of the Easily Affordable criteria with its suggested retail price of Higher Than a Cat’s Back.

The bottom image with the fancy pants car was taken at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. Euka wanted to stand on the running board with a haughty look on her face. Your Toyota, she says to me, is so … you. This is how I should be traveling about, you know. We compromised with a pretty sit on the floor and a wan smile.


Categories: Euka II

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4 replies

  1. We'e got GL's for both Vlad & Barkly. With Vlad, we lucked out and there was a (mainly) black deluxe one that we chose. It blends in with his black fur and I position it so that it's over his beard but under his heavy “fall” over his eyes and face. That way, no one sees it to freak out that I've got a vicious animal beside me. No such luck for hiding it on Barkly's Corgi-face though, so, yes, he gets some odd looks and questions. I consider the GL's magic. After an initial 5-minute freak-out over it being on them, V&B are fine with the GL's. You're right though. The proper fitting for them can't be stressed enough. I spent an hour with the enclosed DVD and both of them–with the remote beside me to stop it regularly. I must say it was completely worth it! Maybe, one day, the AKC will allow them for the CGC testing, and they'll become more common.

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  2. I was hesitant at first to get one for Scarlet because I knew we were going to get that muzzle reaction from people. However, it works so well that I don't even mind. We use it on all our walks. She doesn't even mind it anymore. I am glad we never had the crotch experience!

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  3. I'd forgotten about the CGC testing with flat collars. The pet therapy group that Micron and I volunteer with also put the ixnay on wearing GL's during visits. Well, any training collar. They only permit martingales and flat. Concerns with public perception and such.
    I'm glad to hear that you've had success with Vlad and Barkly. Thanks for dropping a note!

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  4. Do you find most people are ok once you explain it? I'd say we get the positive nods about 98% of the time.
    And lucky you for having a dog with manners. I can't even picture Scarlet doing such an impolite behavior. Labs, however, seem to have no idea of personal space, lol.

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