Boxers and head halters

A Head Halter could be the solution you are looking for if you are having problems with your Boxer's behavior on a leash. Head Halters are a humane training tool, will help your dog gain confidence, will not cause any pain, and allow you to open up communication with your dog so you and your dog are working together, not against each other. Stress felt by the human and / or the dog when you are out together makes training difficult, if not impossible, and a Head Halter will allow you both to bring down the level of stress which can only be a good thing for your relationship with your dog. Head Halters are only a training tool however, and like any training tool they need to be used correctly, and fitted properly, and you still need to be aware of your dog so you can work with him or her in a positive manner.

It is most important that the Head Halter you choose for your dog fits his head shape. There are many brands available now (Gentle Leader, Halti, Snoot Loop, K9 Comalong, and Black Dog to name a few - the Gentle Leader's for short nosed breeds and Black Dog brand halters seem to suit most Boxers), so shop around to find one that suits your dog best. Some halters also come in a variety of colors, so if you are concerned that someone might mistake your halter for a muzzle, choose a pretty color. These days, many people do recognize a head halter so the halter / muzzle confusion is rare, and if someone does ask why your dog is muzzled think of it as an opportunity to educate that person. In many cases you may be able to get your dog fitted with a halter when you make your purchase, in fact, most vets or trainers will fit the halter as part of the service to ensure your dog does well with the product. If you trust the people you purchase your halter from then by all means take advantage of getting it fitted on your dog correctly.

The collar strap of the halter should fit high up on the dogs neck, and you should be able to place on finger between your dog's neck and the collar. If the collar is too tight your dog will be uncomfortable, and if it is too loose it will alter the position of the nose strap. The nose strap should be a nice fit nicely across the top of the muzzle, without being too close to your dog's eyes - allow around 1cm from your dogs eyes to where the nose strap will sit.

At this point it is time to acclimate your Boxer to the halter. Equip yourself with patience, many tasty treats and a willingness to have fun with your Boxer and the new collar. Treats could be cheese, baked or dehydrated liver, roast chicken, hot dogs, or even raw meat. Make sure you use treats which are very special and you know your Boxer will adore. Some dogs enjoy the halter in a very short time, others take a little longer to adjust, it depends on your dog's disposition. Don't be in any hurry, if this takes 10 minutes or 10 days the results will all be well worthwhile. You are the person who best knows your dog so it is up to you to decide how soon you can progress through the below steps. Ensure that the training takes place somewhere clam and quiet with no distractions.


Show your Boxer the halter, allow him to sniff it, praise him and give him a treat. You might like to do this several times, it is you who knows your dog and his or her reactions to new things.


The neck collar of the halter should be high up on your Boxer's neck and fitted first

Fit the neck part of the collar on your Boxer. Tell her how clever she is and give some tasty treats. Again, you may like to do this several times over. If you Boxer is very excitable, or worried, then only do this step and call it a day. If you Boxer is calm then you may like to proceed.


Let your dog take treats from your palm a few times before slipping on the muzzle strap

Place some tasty treats in the palm of your hand, and open up the muzzle part of the halter (note that the neck collar of the halter is not on your dog when you are doing this). Allow you dog just to take the treats off your hand at this stage. You may like to repeat this a few times. Every time your dog gets close to the treat, and halter, tell them they are very clever.


When they are used to the muzzle strap you can slip it over thier nose as they are taking a treat

Leave the muzzle stap on your Boxer's nose and praise and treat

Slip the muzzle part only over your dog's nose, praise and treat. Do this a few times in a row. Let your dog think they are the most wonderful dog in the world for having the halter over their nose.


Bella wearing a head halter

Put the neck collar part of the halter back on your dog, and adjust the halter if a better fit is required. Make sure you treat and praise your dog frequently when you are making any adjustments to the halter.


Once you are happy with the fit give lots more treats and praise. Wearing a halter should be a happy time for your Boxer

If you are happy with the fit then treat and praise your Boxer some more.


Attach the lead, treat and praise your dog. Do this several times in a row.

You can now try walking him or her on the halter. Remember that when you are using a halter with your dog that all your actions should be nice and gentle. The lead should go from the ring under your dog's chin and up towards you, not over his back or under his leg, or behind his neck. Encourage your dog to move around with the lead on the halter using the treats and some encouraging words. As they move tell them how clever they are. Let you dog walk with his new halter around your home and yard with you before you attempt to go out in the world so you both become adjusted to it.

The lead is attached to the ring under your dog's chin. Do not have a very heavy clip on the lead

It is a good idea to keep your Boxer moving, with her head up, because if she stops she may try to get the halter off by rubbing her face on the ground, or using her paws. If this does happen, don't worry too much about it, just wave some super treats under her nose and distract her from doing this. If your dog lags move in front of him and call him to you for treats, but remember not to pull on the halter, let him come to you at his own pace. If he pulls on the halter, apply some very gentle pressure on the halter and as soon as he looks at you tell him good boy and treat. Remember that head halters can be likened to power steering and should be treated as such, do not use big leash 'corrections', or pull back on the lead, or jerk the lead. A small turn of your wrist is all that is required. Try not to have a lot of slack in the lead in case your dog decides to dash to the end of it, he might give himself a case of whiplash! With a halter you are controlling your dog's head so keep this in mind when you have the lead in your hands. All halters come with an information sheet so read this a few times before you try to use it with your dog.

When you first venture outside your home for a walk, also have your dog's regular collar on with a lead attached to it. Your dog would then be wearing his new halter and a lead, and his neck collar and a lead. This will help you as your dog becomes used to this new halter and gives you a back up if your dog slips his halter for any reason. If it seems as if you dog is going to get whiplash from the halter you can use the second neck collar and lead as brakes. The lead on the halter should not have a very heavy clip, good leads have lighter clips which are still very strong. Don't forget to take tasty treats with you for your walks outside home so you reward your Boxer for walking nicely. If you train with a clicker (recommended) you can break all the above steps down and click for the dog fitting himself into his halter :) Happy walking!

Many thanks to Bella for her patience!

Many thanks to Bella, our Boxer model. Bella is wearing a Black Dog brand head halter. At eight years of age she has never worn a head halter, and had to put up with being fitted with one by a one handed human who was trying to balance an older style digital camera which was none too light, resulting in many dropped treats and very clumsy actions. Bella did very well indeed considering the circumstances - what a wonderful girl to put up with us. Once the photo's were taken we went for a nice walk and she was good as gold with the halter on.

S. Steele