Introducing the Head Collar

Head collars are a piece of equipment for dogs that fit like a bridle on a horse. Common manufacturers of the head collar are Halti or Gentle Leader. Like a horse, if you just put the collar on without desensitizing the dog first, they will like buck and carry on. This doesn't make a pleasant experience for either you or your dog. Dog's learn by association, so let's make a positive association for your dog with his head collar!

Start by measuring out your dog's meal and getting yourself comfortable.

  1. Present the head collar to the dog. Give him a piece of his kibble for looking at it. When the dog is deliberately looking at the collar then move onto Step 2.
  2. Now just give the dog a piece of kibble every time he bumps the collar with his nose. When he is deliberately bumping the collar then move on to Step 3.
  3. Now hold the nose piece open and hold a piece of kibble on the other side of the collar where the dog will place his nose. You want the dog to choose to put his nose through the nose piece. Give him his kibble and immediately take the collar off. Slowly build the length of time that the collar will remain on his nose. Take your time with this step. If the dog starts to paw at the collar then you are leaving it on too long. Go back a step. Once the dog is comfortable with the collar on his nose for at least 10 seconds, then proceed to Step 4.
  4. Have the dog put his nose through the nose piece and gently bring the head piece around the back of his head. Do not do it up. Just bring it around behind his ears, feed him his kibble and then take it off. Again, build the amount of time the dog will happily tolerate the piece around his ears while generously feeding him his meal by hand. Proceed at the dog's pace. If he starts to paw at the head collar, you have progressed too quickly. Go back a step. Once the dog is comfortable with the collar around his ears for 20 seconds, then proceed to Step 5.
  5. Now do the head piece up. Feed the dog as you insert the clip. The clip is right by their ears and makes a loud noise (to them) and may startle the dog. So be sure to feed the dog as you do it up. Again, build the amount of time the dog will happily tolerate the head collar fastened. Then proceed to Step 6.
  6. Now it is time to properly fit the collar. You should be able to insert two of your fingers, one on top of the other under the nose piece and only one finger behind the ears. It is to be quite tight behind the ears. Again, build the amount of time the dog will happily tolerate the head collar being properly fitted. Then proceed to Step 7.
  7. Now fasten the dog's leash to the leash hook up. This will add extra weight to the dog's nose. Generously feed him his dinner while the leash is on and slowly build the amount of time the dog will happily tolerate the head collar and leash.
  8. With the leash attached to the properly fitted head collar, play ball or your dog's favourite game in the house. Once the dog is comfortable wearing the head collar, now you are ready to take the “show on the road”. Be sure to feed your dog his kibble while you are walking the dog. Feed him every time he is in the right walking spot. Do this for a couple of days and then vary when you give him his kibble. You want to quickly wean him off the food dependency and transfer him to “real life rewards” like sniffing.

Notes: Do not take the head collar off the dog if they are fussing over it. Wait until the dog is calm and then remove the collar.

It takes time to successfully introduce the head collar. Bank on this process taking at least 4 meals over a couple of days. Your patience will pay off!!