Acclimating your dog to a Gentle Leader (LONG)

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Kim Y

Super Boxer
First off, let me say that our new trainer refitted Oscar with a GL specifically made for short-nose breeds---the nose loop is much narrower and more comfortable for him. AND it only cost $15 versus almost $30 at the pet store.

Here's a GL training sheet she gave me to adapt a dog to a GL (which I did not do with Oscar the first time around)...I suggest all those considering GL to follow these instructions and also those who have already used GL and are having problems to try this. It'll make transition much smoother! Keep in mind this method is with clicker training---if you are not clicker training, substitute the word "Yes!"

(By Pat Miller, adapted from The Clicker Journal)

Day one: Acclimate to nose loop. 3-4 times during the day, 6-10 repetitions each time. Hold the top of the nose loop in one hand and a treat in the other. Place the loop so your dog has to stick his nose into the loop to get the treat. Click or say "Yes" and let him have the treat. You can use a verbal cue such as "halter" each time you do this to begin teaching him a word that means to put the halter on.

Day two: Acclimate to nose loop pressure. 3-4 times during the day, 5-6 repetitions each time. Follow the procedure for day one, except now, when his nose is in the loop, pull GENTLY on the strap under the chin to put a bit of pressure on the loop. Keep your hand away from his nose a bit so he must reach forward to take the treat. Wait a little longer each time he puts his nose in before you click (yes!) and reward. Keep using your verbal cue. Withhold the reward if he struggles or paws at the halter.

Day Three: Continue as in day two, but after you have done the nose in the loop 2-3 times, attach the neck strap behind the ears. Feed him treats for a few seconds to distract him from pawing at it. After a few seconds, if he is calm, unbuckle it. If he protests by shaking his head, pawing at it, or stretching his mouth, try to distract him into stillness again. Then, click (yes!), treat, and remove the halter. If he consents to the halter's presence and isn't fussing, let him walk around in it for a bit. Encourage him to follow you. Use your clicker (Yes!) and treats generously.

Day four: Attach the lead and walk. Put the halter on and let him walk around the room or a small, QUIET portion of the yard. Use your clicker (Yes!) and treats to reinforce a relaxed attitude. Attach the lead to the ring under the chin. Try walking him and remember to use GENTLE pressure only---NEVER jerk on the head halter. ALWAYS MAKE SURE THE LEAD GOES FROM UNDER HIS CHIN DIRECTLY TO YOU, NOT BEHIND HIS HEAD AND OVER HIS NECK. Click and reward lots of times when he is near you, BEFORE he has the chance to get ahead of you. You want to teach him that NOT pulling gets rewarded. If he does get ahead and pulls, apply GENTLE pressure on the lead and when he turns toward you, click (Yes!) and reward. After a short practice session, remove the halter when he is calm, NOT if he resists.

Day Five: If your dog is accepting the halter and lead indoors, go outdoors in a quite familiar environment. If you started outdoors, increase the size of the area as you walk around with him. As a safety measure, you can attach a second lead to his regular collar, so if he slips out of the halter or is going to hit the end of the lead hard, you can use the second lead as an emergency stop and then regain control with the halter. Continue to click (Yes) and treat when he yields to lead pressure, or whenhe chooses to stay near you without pulling on the lead.

Day Six: If all is going well, it is time to move away from your house and yard and walk up and down your front sidewalk. Be prepared for him to get excited whenyou leave the yard as the environment grows more interesting. Offer more frequent clicks (Yes!) and treats as long as he responds appropriately.

Day Seven: If you and your dog have progressed well through the first six days, you are ready to "take it on the road." When you take him walking in the real world, be prepared with your clicker (Yes!) and lots of treats and encouragement for walking nicely.

If your dog resists at any of the steps, slow down and spend a couple of days on previous steps instead of moving ahead to the next day's exercise. It is normal that he will occasionally rub his head halter on you, or on the ground, or begin to paw at the halter. If he does this, distract him by moving forward, talking to him, or luring him into paying attention to you with a treat. Reward him with the treat when he is NOT resisting.


Completely Boxer Crazy
Re: I'm a bit confused..

Originally posted by andwill
what is a gentle leader, a muzzle? And why do we need one?

No it is not a muzzle, it just stops him pulling and gives you total control over him.

Your puppy is too cute.:)


Reasonable Moderator
Staff member
It is like a halter that you put on a horse. It gives you control of your dogs head and can be very useful in training a dog not to pull. It can also be very useful if you dog tends to be agressive to other dogs.

It is similar to a Halti.


Completely Boxer Crazy
Originally posted by JazznChase
What EXACTLY is the difference between a Halti and Gentle Leader? Which is better?

They are quite similar. I have both. I think that the GL is probably the better of the two products. I didn't really know the difference initially and bought a halti-collar for my long-muzzled dog. The part where you attach the leash (under the dog's chin) is movable and can tighten as the dog pulls. On the Gentle Leader, you set the size EXACTLY and then close a little clip that holds it in place. Argh, it's hard to explain! I'm sure someone else can do a better job.

I'm glad someone mentioned the newer model of the Gentle Leader that has a narrow "snoot loop." It's made especially for short-muzzled breeds and works great. If you happen to visit the Gentle Leader website, that newer model isn't even mentioned there, but if you call customer service at Premier Pet products, they are very helpful. It's a bit difficult to find it commercially.


Boxer Insane
I prefer the Gentle Leader too :)

We are fortunate here as we have a wonderful make of head halter - 'Black Dog'. It suits a Boxer more than any other brand we have tried. This halter is very light and fine, easily adjusted and does not look in the least bit 'muzzle' like. I'm not sure if they are available outside Australia, but here is the URL or direct to the head halter page

More head halter resources:

Gentle Leader website

Halti information

Even John Wayne Used a Halter

Halti and Gentle Leader collars

A Better Way to Walk: Headcollars

The Head Halter for Dogs

Happy walking :)


Boxer Buddy
I talked to my Vet and she told me that they don't make a "short nose" gentle leader. Jagger has a regular gentle leader, and he hates it. If were not walking around he lays down on the ground in protest. :rolleyes: Any other collars that I can try with him?

Kim Y

Super Boxer
Originally posted by Jagger00
I talked to my Vet and she told me that they don't make a "short nose" gentle leader.

I beg to differ. I have one for Oscar that I purchased from our trainer. The nose strap is MUCH narrower than the regular GL we used previously for him. Not sure where you can purchase these---have you tried the website for GL?
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