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A Head Harness You Won’t Hate

I don’t know about you guys but I have a real love/hate relationship with the Gentle Leader (GL). One one hand, as a dog walker, it has allowed me to walk countless Tasmanian devils challenging dogs. So big ups to the GL for helping me handle some tough dog walks.

On the other hand, I HATE that the leash attaches to the GL under the chin. When a dog switches sides, I have to pause to bring the leash around, underneath the dog’s chin. Otherwise the dog gets stuck with their head cocked way over to one side, pulled up from under their chin, with one eye smashed shut, because the leash is now going OVER their head, not under it. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s the Tilt-a-Smush.

Smushed-faces aside, some dogs just really hate wearing a head harness and never get acclimated to it. The second you put the GL over their snout, the light goes out of their eyes, their head hangs down, and the joy of going for a walk is g.o.n.e. Instead of having a calming effect, it shuts them down. For some dogs (not all), the GL just isn’t the right option.

One of those dogs is my guy Boogie. He thinks the GL is the plague, despite months of trying to make it super fab for him. To this day, years after we abandoned it, if I bust out the GL, Boogie sneaks out of the room and pretends he’s dying of the sniffles.  Kind of like this:

Woe is Boogie.

It’s a bummer, because the Gentle Leader, for all the stuff I don’t like about it, is a good training tool option for dogs that are strong pullers and/or reactive. Head halters are especially handy in tight spots and crowds because they offer a lot of control.

So when I was on the Bold Lead Designs website, checking out their new “give me space” patches, I noticed that they sell something called the Infinity Lead. It’s a head harness – but it had some neat details that told me it might be the smarter, kinder version of the Gentle Leader. I asked about it and (full disclosure) they sent me a freebie to try.

First, let’s go over what an Infinity Lead is:

From the website: The Infinity Lead forms a figure eight around the dog’s upper neck and muzzle, crisscrossing under the chin. There is no pressure on the throat. The lead attaches at top of the neck. All-in-one collar and leash design means there’s no leash snap to get in the way, and it’s easy to use!

It looks like this:

cora-profile-rt

The Infinity Lead is one piece, so you basically make a big loop around their head (like a slip lead) and then twist it to loop over their nose. It’s very easy to put on.

cross-under-chin-rt

Then you tighten it by adjusting the slip behind their ears. The leash is part of the deal. You can choose between 4 and 6 foot leash options. It’s all one piece, without any clips or rings:

bold lead design infinity

Here’s what happened with Boogie:

I was surprised by his lack of “woe is me” theatrics. The fabric is much softer and way lighter than that of the GL. That helped. Boogie totally shuts down with a GL, but was  a little looser with the Infinity Lead. Not exactly full of joy, but not walking like he’s 100 years old either. I was happy to see that the second time I brought it out, Boogie didn’t try to hide behind the cat.

To give it a good road test, I brought it dog walking with me for a few days. I tried it out with one of the more reactive dogs I walk who is approx. 50 lbs and wears a Gentle Leader regularly for city walks. On our walks the Infinity Lead did what all head harnesses do: it reduced pulling, gave me better control, and directed my dog’s attention to me for training purposes. So far so good.

I did worry that the Infinity Lead would be too loose and the leash too thin, for walking a really rambunctious dog. Would a dog slip loose of the snout loop, in a  full blown dance-off with another dog? Would I have enough control during a really dicey moment?

While we avoided any major meltdowns, my friend did get worked up at the sight of another dog and tried to kiss a few squirrels. I had the lead fitted very snugly behind my pal’s head and I was pleasantly surprised by how much control I had. When she began to lunge forward, the leash tightened like a regular slip lead, reducing her wiggle room, and I was able to re-focus her attention.

p.s. This slip feature is handy if you need to quickly shut your dog’s mouth for some reason (like when a screaming kid comes running out of nowhere and tries to grab your dog’s tongue out of their skull).

The dog I tested this on has some good training under her belt. If she has enough space, she can stay calm around other dogs. Would the Infinity Lead be the right tool for a large dog with no prior training? My bet is that for straight-up pullers who are non-reactive, the Infinity Lead will be a good option, no matter how big or clueless the dog may be. But if your dog is large and really reactive and/or you’re just starting to work with them, I’m guessing you might need other options in your toolbox, like a more sturdy head harness and leash or, for smaller reactive dogs, a body harness with a two ended leash  might work, for added safety and better control.

Ok, back to what I loved the most about the Infinity Lead: I was connected to my pal at the back of her head, not under her chin. No more Tilt-a-Smush when she switched from side to side to smell stuff. We were tangle-free. It was amazeballs. The sun shone brighter and little birds sat on my shoulder to sing us sweet, sweet songs. I swear.

To be fair, there is another option in the behind-the-head category: the Canny Collar. I’ve tried it, but didn’t like it any more than the GL. Other people think it’s great. So there’s that.

Another thing that ruled about the Infinity Lead: the safety-first cord. The Infinity Lead has a safety-first piece that connects to the flat collar as a back up, in case they slip out of the snout loop. The GL does not have this and that stinks. (yes, the Halti also has a safety-first cord, in case you’re keeping track, but like the GL, the leash attaches under the chin). With the Infinity Lead I loved knowing that no matter what happened, if the loop came off her snout, we’d still be connected because of the extra safety bit, seen here:

lead-on-hazel-rt

There are some other handy features too: it’s one size fits all (for dogs 20+ pounds), so if you have multiple dogs or your dog is still growing, you don’t need different sizes. I can keep one with me and use it on all of the dogs I walk. Yay for adjustable tools.

It also doesn’t have any difficult latches or tiny buckles. Bold Lead Designs makes products for service dogs and they were thoughtful about making this tool accessible to those with physical limitations.

There’s more and you can read all about it here for the complete details. Oh, it’s $19.99 by the way. Totally affordable.

So, if you’re looking for a new training tool to try, I would recommend giving the Infinity Lead a test run. And if your dog fakes his own death at the sight of a GL, well I can’t say for sure how they’ll react to the Infinity Lead, but it is soft and really lightweight. For Boogie, that’s was enough to live for.

Wishing you all Happy, Safe Walks!

** One last thought for shelters: If you’re familiar with the Weiss Walkie, consider the Infinity Lead as a head halter equivalent for your dog walkers. Easy to put on in a kennel, adjustable sizing, all one piece.

*** OK, one more thought. Based on all the comments, their are some strong feelings about head halters out there! So I just want to be clear: I don’t think that there is one item that is the perfect tool for ALL dogs. Every dog is different and I use a variety of head halters, body harnesses, and collars with the dogs I walk. It all depends on their individual needs and preferences. I also use a variety of tools with the same dog, changing them up depending on the environment we’re in. So I might use a body harness in a quiet area, but switch to a head halter in a crowded spot for more control. And the funny thing about ALL of these options is that what one person loves, another hates! So much of it depends on the individual dog and the style/skills of the person when using the tool. The halter in this blog is just one option – I encourage you to shop around until you find what works best for you and your dogs!

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57 Comments Post a comment
  1. Alex #

    Funny thing I just ordered it a few days ago, and unfortunately it was to small so I have to exchange it. I only got the collar, not the whole leash in one thing, since I’m phasing it out, and most of the time I don’t need to have the leash attached to it, so I thought it was a good idea without the dangling piece in the front. Will let you know how it goes.
    Another good option, although it hooks under the chin, is the “comfort trainer head halter” its as soft as the infinity, and it is harder for dogs to slip out of, plus, it doesn’t ride up to their eyes.

    December 3, 2012
    • Hey Alex! I hope you like the new one you get! Just so folks aren’t confused, I tried the Infinty Lead, which is one size fits all and includes the leash. I think you tried the Infinty Collar, right? Thanks for sharing the Comfort Trainer – I haven’t seen that one yet!

      December 3, 2012
  2. Awesome! I can’t wait to try it out. I’m currently using the Halti. Thanks for the info!

    December 3, 2012
    • Alex #

      The comfort trainer is in my opinion, better than the halti. My dog got out of the halti in two occasions. Luckily, I had the security piece attached to the collar. Didn’t do well on the GL, it was too hard on her so I had to cover the nose piece with moleskin, and it kept riding up to her eyes. I’ll share my experience with the Infinity collar. It should arrive in the next couple of days.

      December 3, 2012
  3. I’m so excited about the possibilities!! My 90 lb GSD can pull my arm out of socket at the sight of a squirrel…I finally resorted to one of those prong collars, and it works, but I don’t like it. Gonna give this a try :):)

    December 3, 2012
  4. Swykdosha #

    This sounds interesting! I’m curious, have you ever tried the New Trix? It’s typically what we recommend. With the New Trix all my friends can walk their nutty dogs with one pinky. The downside is it can be hard to get the hang of. Many people have trouble figuring out how to get it on, and if it doesn’t fit quite right the muzzle strap can slide up over the eyes. But it seems to do a much better job than other head collars of hitting the calming pressure points behind the ears, and I do like the soft padding on the muzzle strap. But if the Infinity Lead is a lot easier to use then I might consider trying one and recommending it instead.

    December 3, 2012
    • The New Trix is new to me – thanks for sharing! I looked at their website and I can see why you like it over other head halters. It looks like a good product. The Infinity Lead is very lightweight, with fewer straps on their face, so it might be a good option for dogs that are less enthused about head halters. It’s also way easier to put on, but may not offer the same level of control. Might be worth a test run!

      December 3, 2012
  5. Yeah! I’ve been waiting for this review! Murphy’s opinion of headcollars has been widely discussed in a public venue or two, but this is one I still wanted to try. If Boogie didn’t fake his own death, maybe Murphy won’t either. Now I really have to give it a whirl!

    December 3, 2012
    • Hey Kristel, I’d be really curious to hear your thoughts on this one, if you try it. I think Murphy and Boogie feel the same way about head halters! My guess for Murphy is that he won’t love it, but he might not mind it as much as the GL, because it’s lightweight and because of the way you put it on (it’s like putting a slip lead over their heads, rather than hanging a loop off their face). Let me know!!

      December 4, 2012
      • Alex #

        Probably you all did too, but when I introduced the hh on my pup, it took me a couple of weeks before I’d walk her with it. I first let her hold it on her snout while I gave her treats, if she dropped the hh, game was over. Then I’d clip it and treat, off again, then put it on, tug, off again, eventually out to walk just wearing it, with a double leash without putting any pressure on it, then eventually hold the side attached to the hh, then faded the double leash. Now we are on the double leash again, fading the hh to eventually just a harness.

        December 4, 2012
      • I took months introducing the GL with Murphy before I ever hooked a leash to it because his reaction to it was so over-the-top. He never stopped flopping around like a dying fish while wearing it, even while walking out on leash (and this is a 98 pound dog, so it was…weird. Yeah, that’s the word I’m going with…). I’ve heard this one is much, much more dog-friendly and Boogie’s reaction is encouraging. I’ll keep ya posted!

        December 4, 2012
  6. This is GREAT! I have used the GL and the Halti, but I had to stop with both because they were rubbing all the fur off Zoe’s head. It was awful. She’s gotten a lot better on the leash since, but it’s so good to know there’s another option out there. Thanks for sharing!

    December 3, 2012
  7. RavenandLuna #

    I’m trying to walk my two dogs together, and just tried a split leash for them. Pretty good results with two 60+ lb dogs. But one dog is significantly stronger on pulling than the other (it was a pull for one, and a drag for the other). I’ve wanted to use a head harness on Luna, the puller, but can I use it with the split leash? The problem with just using the collar is that Luna pulled it right over Raven’s head. Fortunately, Raven is good and would sit and wait to get her collar back on.

    December 4, 2012
    • No, I don’t think you can use any head halter with a split leash. If the one dog pulled forward it would cause pressure on the other dog’s face, which isn’t fair. Best to use training tools like this one-on-one and with their own leashes : )

      December 4, 2012
  8. barksNpurrs #

    Never liked the GL or any other over the mouth/snoot….just looks wrong. This one doesn’t look any better…..I always see sores on dogs’ faces, especially under their eyes from these things….there s/b proper training for most people on how to use & position these. Most often, I just cringe when I see these on dogs & need to look away…..

    December 4, 2012
  9. Peggy #

    Interesting! When my reactive dog goes bonkers, I have found it helpful to slip his martingale collar up to the base of his ears and I get instant control. The problem is that it won’t stay there without constant tension. This head harness looks like a better solution.

    December 4, 2012
  10. Diva dog ruler of her own furry universe and 87lb Pete. #

    Haha Amazeballs! Great Blog. I’ve been using gentle lead for my huge pit bull for quite some time and have never loved the facesmashlippinch feature of it but it’s been necessary since he’s a DINOS and similar to walking a horse except I’m above him. My little 15lb schipperke though who would also benefit totally goes into dragmynoseonthegrounduntilitbleeds mode and is the only dog I’ve used a bite collar with success because of her thick ruff around her neck and she responded to it immediately and stopped pulling (I hate them, don’t recommend them due to them being improperly used, but it’s been the only thing that’s worked). It sounds like these are only made for bigger digs but I’m going to have to check it out.

    December 4, 2012
  11. Oh Dear, this is the first time I have not been really impressed with your ideas and suggestions .I’m not a fan of head halters although I would recommend the soot loop if any but
    I don’t like the idea of this thin nylon cord tightening anywhere around the dog’s head and especially that delicate area behind the the ears at the top of the neck and would go for the Harness with 2 points of contact and double ended lead to correct pully dogs every time .

    December 4, 2012
  12. Yasmeen #

    I too had a terrible time with halti’s and gentle leader’s smushing my dogs face. The halti actually caused entropion which had to be surgically repaired.

    I picked up a Newtrix head harness a couple of years ago on sale and promptly forgot that I had it. After Zander developed his eye issue I remembered I had it and started using it.

    Wow, what a difference! I had so much more control and with a dog aggressive Great Dane it is imperative that I have full control of him at all times.

    The Newtrix is similar to the Infinity but as a previous poster stated it takes a while to get the hang of putting it on.

    http://www.newtrix.ca/index.cfm?page=ourProducts

    December 4, 2012
  13. how were you able to get a sample one? i am a dog walker and am trying to introduce something to my clients as most of them are rather difficult dogs :(

    December 4, 2012
    • Hi Alyona, The company offered me one to review. In the past, I just bring my own collections of harnesses and halters over to my clients and demo the tools for them, so they can see how they work. If the dogs are difficult for you to walk, they’re probably tough for the owners to walk too, so they’ll most likely appreciate the show and tell : )

      December 4, 2012
  14. Holly #

    I have a very stubborn DINO Boston Terrier. She is a rescue, so I am working with breaking bad adult dog habits- and she is a wonderful walker, loves walks, great leash skills until we come upon squirrels, mean mugging cats, and dogs. She doesn’t bark, or growl- just pulls and wants to chase/sniff. Trying everything, I am now thinking the head halter might be great to get her focused…thoughts on using it on a 27lb (I know, shes a bit “fluffy”) Boston with a smooshed face?

    December 4, 2012
    • Usually you can’t use head halters with smooshy faces ; ) Maybe a no-pull harness, like the Sporn, would be helpful?

      December 4, 2012
      • Holly #

        Thank you! I will give the Sporn halter a shot!

        December 4, 2012
        • Depending on how high she is off of the ground (some Bostons are leggy!), a front clip harness might be helpful too. If she’s really low, it might be awkward to attach to your dog up front. There’s the Easy Walk Harness as a basic model and the Freedom harness that has a clip on the front AND back (which is handy): http://wiggleswagswhiskers.com/No-Pull-Harness/

          If you can hit a local pet store to try a few on, that would be a good way to get a feel for the different styles. Good luck!

          December 4, 2012
          • Holly #

            She is built like a Frenchy, so she is very top heavy, and bulldog stance. She pulls like a 60lb dog, and although I have a harness on her- I still struggle when she see’s something interesting. Part of the trouble is majority of harness’ are not built for her body type…so they are huge around the neck and tight around the middle…I love the harness I have for her now but the pulling has to stop. Time to pull out the cheese and try a new harness… Thanks again!

            December 4, 2012
  15. Very helpful review! Will have to share with our fosters!

    December 4, 2012
  16. I purchased the Comfort Trainer from Ahimsa and quite liked it for my reactive Saint – nice, soft fabric and he immediately liked it better than he ever liked the GL, even after considerable training. He grew out of even the largest size relatively quickly. I now have a Holt head halter that I got at the Coastal booth at the APDT trade show – this one also does hook under the chin but is padded over the bridge of the nose and also has a safety clip which can attach to a collar or front clip harness. I didn’t love the Canny Collar (even less than I liked the GL), and I have a NewTrix which is really nicely made and padded with a connection at the back of the head, but unfortunately it is the most confusing halter on the planet and I can’t figure it out, so it looks pretty and goes unused.

    December 4, 2012
    • Hey Casey, Thanks for sharing what works for your big boy. There are so many head halter options out there. And despite all the features we can choose from, the most important one for all of these to have is that we’re able to put it ON the dog in under an hour. Psst, New Trix, we’re talking to you!

      December 5, 2012
  17. liz #

    FYI, since the GL is most widespread, wanted to share a tip for those who have a hard time with it rubbing hair off the nose… I work at a busy day care and training facility and we use the GL a LOT. For dogs who are more sensitive to the nose piece we wrap it in moleskin. This helps in the majority of cases.

    I am curious about this Infinity head collar. While I know exactly what you mean about having to be sure the leash is on the correct side of the dog’s head with the GL, I wonder if you have as much control with the point of contact being behind the dog’s head as opposed to under the chin. I work with some super-star pullers and very reactive dogs and I have to say that the control the GL offers is huge… For a dog that needs moderate control I would be okay with the contact point of the Infinity, but for very untrained or reactive dogs I think I’d stick with the GL.

    Do love the extra safety clip feature though, that is awesome and I have definitely wished that the GL had that as well. If I remember correctly the Halti does, but my experience with that product was less then good. Bad fit, less control. Also have tried to Snoot Loop… Great idea, but easy to get off and not as snug-fitting as the GL.

    December 5, 2012
    • Hey Liz, thanks for sharing the moleskin tip! And you’re right that, because of the point of contact behind the head, there is slightly less control. You can’t manually turn their head to look at you. It was a good fit for the reactive dog I walked all week with it, but I haven’t met a tool yet that I like for ALL dogs, so I’ll probably keep on using the GL, along with the Infinity Lead (and half a dozen other harnesses, halters, and collars) depending on the individual dog!

      December 5, 2012
  18. I am really curious to know what you think about using this for a snow breed. I have 2 Siberian Huskies and I am used to the pulling but I have a 2 year old that is completely off the chain to say the least, when we go to “special” places to hike.

    Harnesses are great for my female but she doesn’t jump around like a monkey to get to the front! Hiking is awesome if I have someone helping me with “the good dog” but I want to hike the both of them. A walk in the neighborhood for a few miles is easy but if we go somewhere new, forget about it.

    I have tried the halti, easy lead that attaches at the front, a pinch collar and a martingale (at the same time) and a back pack to try and “give him a job”. The Halti is awful and it was like trying to contain a wild horse. The easy lead worked for a few months and then I realized he had scabs from cuts from the rubbing of the leash part on his front legs. This was from hikes over 5 miles every weekend. Oh the guilt! The martingale worked when I added the pinch collar but I didn’t connect the pinch collar, it was a mental trick, but after a few weeks, that faded too.

    I want him to do what is his nature, pull. What I don’t want is the outrageous behavior like biting at the dogs face he is next to so as to get in the front or once he is in the front, he jumps around like a jumping bean teasing the dogs behind him and then trying to “play” with them. He has had enough experience to know the word, NO. STOP. ENOUGH. FORWARD. I could go on…I am not trained. I admit that.

    So would this training tool be good for my boy and I?

    December 5, 2012
    • It’s probably not enough control for your boy. I’m wondering if the Freedom Harness, which connects in the front and back might be helpful. Overall, the Halti isn’t a big hit with folks here, so I’m wondering if you should try a different head halter, like the Holt, New Trix, or even the good old Gentle Leader. In general head halters will give you the most control – especially if he’s biting at your girl’s face when he’s excited.

      I’m also wondering if he needs some help with impulse control/arousal levels. If you haven’t worked with a trainer yet, I’d do that – the tools aren’t going to be enough on their own. Also, is there’s any way to work off some of his energy BEFORE a walk in a new place? Maybe a treadmill, flirt pole, or another game?

      December 5, 2012
      • The Freedom Harness sounds like a good idea. Yes, we do a quick run in the school yard before we get in the truck and go somewhere fun to hike in the mountains. So, I do try to work off the energy before it’s time for serious leash time. I will work with a trainer. We need it. I will look into the Freedom harness too.

        Thank you! Feel free to delete that other post. I couldn’t figure out how to do it!

        December 5, 2012
  19. I would like to know how you feel about this training tool for a snow breed, a Siberian Husky, who is a DINO and almost 2 years old and throws temper tantrums when not in the front of the hiking pack. I have 2 Siberian huskies. My female is a typical puller but controllable. My male is a test of the patience!

    I have tried many training tools. This one “looks” like something that would work but I have tried a Halti, Easy Harness, Martingale collar and Pinch collar. I don’t mind that he pulls. I want him to do what he is supposed to do and bred to do. It’s the other bad behavior that is not wanted and makes it very difficult to hike, and impossible to hike them both on our special mountain walks.

    December 5, 2012
  20. I have been using a head halter that has the same all-in-one “figure 8″ design that you described, and it attaches behind the head. I friend who designs other type of leashes and collars made up this design and I have not gone back to the regular head halter. There is also enough to attach directly to the flat collar as a backup, which I high recommend. It is easy to put on and one of my dogs even reaches upwards to get this one faster to go for her walk.

    December 5, 2012
  21. Kirelia #

    You don’t need to buy a special head harness to get this effect! You can make a head halter from your own leash.
    1) Clip the leash to your dog’s regular collar at the front of the neck.
    2) Lay the leash over the bridge of your dog’s nose and cross the ends under the muzzle to make a figure eight. Leave some slack (about twice the length of your dog’s head from the base of the skull to the bridge of the nose) between the clipped end and the nose loop, or you won’t be able to close the halter at the back in the next step.
    3) Now pull both ends of the leash around to the back of the head, high up under the ears. Slip the handle end of the leash through the loop formed by the clipped end.
    4) Voila! A head harness that attaches at the back of the dog’s head instead of under the chin, and it didn’t cost you a penny. Since it’s connected directly to your dog’s regular collar, you don’t have to worry about the dog getting loose if they manage to slip loose of the nose loop.
    I like this version even better than the commercial versions I’ve encountered because it’s sort of self-adjusting. It tightens around the nose and top of the neck for more control when the dog pulls, but if the dog is walking nicely, it loosens up a bit, for extra comfort. My hound mix despises his halti, but doesn’t much mind this home-made version, because there’s no pressure at all on his muzzle, head or neck when he’s not pulling.
    I like to use a soft nylon-webbing leash when I’m using this halter method, the dogs seem to find it pretty comfortable.

    December 15, 2012
  22. This is worth a try, I’m a fan on GL’s but I really like that this attaches to the collar too, I call that safety insurance!

    April 22, 2013
  23. Just ordered it. I couldn’t hurt. I tried to use a Halti while attempting to desensitize my dog (APBT) to other dogs and it had the opposite effect. Despite the vast improvements, if I use the Halti on walks she immediately stats looking for the other dogs because she sees them as causing her to be uncomfortable. I struggle with getting her to focus on me rather than the other dogs I hope this will help.

    May 12, 2013
    • Have you tried a front clip, no pull body harness? My dog really hated wearing a head harness and it was making his reactivity worse, so the body harness was better for him.

      The new head harness wont necessarily improve her ability to focus on you. Is your dog able to take treats when you’re out walking or is she too stressed to eat? If she can eat, super high value treats, like stinky hot dogs or cheese, might help her to redirect her attention away from the triggers.

      There are some good resources here (look for the LAT articles, that technique might be a good one to practice with your dog): http://dogsinneedofspace.com/suggested-reading/

      May 12, 2013
      • She still pulls with a front clip, no pull harness. I even had it professionally fitted. She is not food motivated outdoors, she is too focused on the walk. Lately, she will tolerate other dogs who are rather far away, except 2 aggressive small dogs who live a few doors down. She walks on leash nicely, but I am never sure when flight will kick in and when it does she has almost pulled me off my feet a few times.

        May 18, 2013
        • Alexo #

          Does she pay attention to you on walks? My female is not food motivated. But when I hear that seen as a problem, it makes me think people are luring, and distracting their dogs with food, rather than using food to reward a behavior. I would try to make the walk more animated. If she sees the aggressive dogs and starts tensing up, try to walk a circle, or turn and walk the other way. Ask her to move to the other side of your body, or tap your hand with her nose. She needs to learn that walking next to you is rewarding. Talk to her to keep her connected. Ask her for random sits, and downs while on a walk. If she is not food motivated, reward her with a go sniff the tree, or a jump up on me, or anything that she likes to do. Change your mind, walk a few steps on one direction and then use a marker to quickly call them on the opposite direction. That is an old time favorite with my pups. We use the word “break!” For us it means run to rewarding zone by mom’s hip (heeling position). So 2 steps forward towards the scary thing, and oh, I changed my mind, break and let’s go the other way. Make it a game. Hope some of the ideas help.

          May 20, 2013
        • Alexo #


          Hi disillusionedbuteager, the link above shows a video I took yesterday. This is a dog that is highly reactive, about 50 pounds pit bull mix. His owner suffers from lupus and has been able to walk him only with the use of a prong. He has become very collar shy, and a previous trainer/dog walker they had apparently corrected the dog with a head halter, so that wasn’t an option. I tried my dog’s harness. It is a V harness custom made that uses the mechanics of a body wrap, a technique used in TTouch to calm excited or fearfull dogs.
          This harness is a little small on him, but I was surprised to see how well it worked. In the video, I’m walking him, and if he starts pulling, I just pulse on the leash so it cinches to his body. Later, I made his owner walk him, and although he was a little more excited, he responded beautifully.
          The key to this harness is to get the right measurements.
          It’s made by agilityq.com.
          I mentioned on one of my earlier posts, but since I have a video, I thought it could be useful to share with you.
          Just an FYI, this dog has had little to no training, and doesn’t give you attention outside the kitchen yet. (Working on it). He is reactive to dogs and cars, and goes after cats ans squirrels.

          May 25, 2013
    • Alexo #

      Here is an interesting article about the hh vs. a flat collar. I hope it’s helpfull: http://susangarrettdogagility.com/2010/09/head-halters-vs-a-flat-buckle-collar/

      I use a hh on my pups since they start going for walks in the street, at 12 or 14 weeks, and start desensitizing them to it as soon as I get the pup.
      If you are having trouble using it, or your dog is getting uncomfortable, my first impression is you are not using it correctly. You are using it to contain the dog, not to redirect its attention.
      The hh is great when used as a tool, not a crutch. About the infinity hh, if your dog is still focusing forward, and so getting reinforcement from the environment, it will not work.

      Only one of my dogs wears a hh on a daily basis, she is 3 now, and the leash is attached to a harness, the hh is there just for show. She is a very fearful dog, and having the hh on actually calms her down when we go to challenging environments.

      I really hope that you read the article. Susan garret is the one that has the most useful advise, and tips on how to use it correctly. In my opinion, even the DVD that come with the gentle leader is useless when it comes to its use.

      They got the right idea when creating the tool, but a totally wrong approach.
      I hope it helps. And if your dog is reactive, and stilling reinforcement from the environment, the front clip harness won’t help you much either.

      May 13, 2013
      • Thanks for the link to that article – it’s a good one! And I like your point that the tool alone isn’t enough. That goes for body harnesses, head halters, and collars. It’s the tool combined with training that works.

        But I have to disagree with you that if a dog doesn’t like a head harness, it’s because it’s not being used correctly. Some dogs really dislike them or shut down while wearing them, despite their owners using them just right. It’s not the right tool for every dog. This is a good read on the subject: http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/problem-head-halters

        May 13, 2013
        • Amen to that. It has been my experience, more often than not, that a head halter used on a dog can create more problems than it solves. LOVE the Suzanne Clothier post!

          May 13, 2013
        • alex #

          Yes, I know. I’m a Suzanne Clothier follower, and have had the chance of taking one of her seminars, have her videos, and read her posts, including the article you mention. One of the reasons dogs don’t like a hh is because people think they can put it on, distract the dog with a treat, and take him for a walk. Also, most of the people that starts using a hh have already tried other methods, and they didn’t help, or else, you wouldn’t be there, would you?
          I’m not saying that everybody should use a hh, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to someone who had used a prong, or other types of control. And if the dog is already revolting to its use, I’d try a different approach. What I’m saying is that if it is introduced and used correctly, it is and excellent tool. But as with any tool, something to be very careful with. We introduce the hh with games, so it is actually fun for the dog to wear it. It takes some time, it is not something you start using right away. Then, and only when the dog is totally comfortable wearing it, I attach a leash to it, and not the main leash, just one so that the dog feels it. The main leash is still attached to a front clip harness. When you graduate to using the hh leash, you walk in areas with very low to no distractions, so you set up your dog for success, then you increase distractions. The idea is that you never have to actually use it. Of course, this goes hand in hand with teaching the dog to pay attention to you, stay in his reward zone, that is right next to you, and check on you frequently.

          May 13, 2013
          • Got it! What do you recommend for someone that needs to walk their reactive dog/or dog that pulls hard while they do the slow, careful introduction to the head harness? Some folks have to take their dogs for walks in areas with distractions and need help right away (for instance, people who live in cities and don’t have yards for bathroom breaks or cars to drive their dogs to quiet spots).

            May 13, 2013
            • alex #

              I know, it’s really hard and challenging, but if you want to be successful, you need to avoid the rehearsal of inappropriate behaviors. It can be hard, but I would say walk your dog at odd hours when there is less traffic, people, etc. I’ve done it, and I’m sure you have as well. There are plenty of games you can play in a very limited space, such as a small apartment. Crate games, that increase “drive” but at the same time self control. You need to teach your dog choices, to ensure that the dog will do the right thing even when the hh comes off. Teach your dog tricks. It may sound silly for some people, but is teaches the dog to be attentive to you, and joyful to work with you. If you are not using shaping, I’d recommend that you read about shaping behaviors as opposed to luring behaviors. Create value for the choices you want from your dog, then transfer the value to other more challenging issues.
              Play, a lot, be the cookie on your dog’s life. Get your dog aroused. If you can teach your dog to tug, “correctly” by your rules, and releasing the tug to you, it’ll be a big help. A dog that is a little aroused will focus more on the target of the arousal than on the surroundings. (Example: my reactive girl is afraid of people in bicycles. If I try to keep her calm, and feed her treats when we sees one, she would start shaking, growling, barking, and lunging, but if I get her aroused, get the tug out and start tugging, she focuses on it, and not on the bike.)
              I’ve seen behaviorists, tried calming protocols, medication, etc, and actually what worked for us was taking an online class, Susan Garret’s Recallers, that is actually not aimed to reactive dogs. I highly recommend it.

              http://susangarrettdogagility.com/tag/recallers-4-0/

              May 13, 2013
              • alex #

                Adding to it:
                Teach your dog to eliminate on command, if you have to take him out when the conditions are adverse, the less exposure, the better. Do the best that you can with he conditions you have. If you have to get up at 4 in the morning for a while, or stay up late to help your dog, then do so. Remember that an exercised mind, is as good as a tired body you can do a lot of that indoors. Feed your dog the best you can afford. I’ve seen my share of trouble dogs that simply by changing their diets to something less processed, less sugary, and more natural have improved their behaviors in just a few days. On your days off, work with your dog, a lot of times doing something that is breed appropriate, such as herding, or nose work, agility, obedience, freestyle, etc will eliminate problem issues, plus you will be creating a relationship with your dog. Your free time, make it your dog’s time at least until you can imprint some good behaviors. Work with a positive trainer, hire a dog walker that has experience in such cases. Compromise!

                May 13, 2013
                • I have a 100 pound, raw-fed, obedience trained (to competition level. Never competed, but thought I might like to) Doberman who absolutely MUST have PHYSICAL exercise. For him, mental exercise is important, but without physical exercise he would be a complete nutball. I can’t substitute one for the other. Otherwise some pretty sound advice though:-)

                  May 13, 2013
                  • alex #

                    I’m not saying to substitute, what I’m saying is to do the best with what you have. And if your dog is trained to competition level, it shows you have done great, I appreciate and congratulate that, and so I’m sure you should be able to take him anywhere at any time without reactivity issues. That is everyones’s goal, but until you are able to safely expose your dog to more challenging situations, every bit of training helps.

                    May 13, 2013
  24. Alexo #

    I meant stealing reinforcement. Crazy spell checker.

    May 13, 2013
  25. alex #

    http://www.agilityq.com/shop/harness.html

    Here is another thing you may want to try. This harness is designed so that there is a point of comfortable pressure right on the chest, and a hugging sensation around the girth. Plus they are personalized, so you get the exact fit for your dog. This is the one I use and recommend to my friends and dog clients. When you order it you can tell the designer whether you want a ring in the front. I highly recommend that, plus a double clip leash, so you can help your dog balance to you when clipping the front and the back of the harness at the same time. It creates a calming sensation on the dog, plus you can get it any color you want and the appropriate size. The designer is an awesome dog trainer, and will be happy to give you tips on how to use it. I’ve been using these harnesses for a while, and can also help you if you have any questions.
    I really recommend that you read Susan Garrets training articles on her blog. She has a book called Ruff Love that is very helpful.

    May 13, 2013
    • Ang #

      Alexo! great tips! And yes I agree Susan Garrett is fabulous, she really knows her stuff!

      May 13, 2013
  26. ET #

    Aws, I’d never put that on my pup =(
    Funny though, my puppy looks JUST like the one in the pictures!!

    May 23, 2013

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