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:
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:
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.
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:
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 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 body harness with a two ended leash 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:
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!