The Gentle Leader Head Collar®
 by Ross Becker


I recently stayed with my friends Bob and Cheryl at their home in Atlanta.
Bob is an immigration lawyer, Cheryl a bank executive. Rimsky Konakov is their dog.

Rimsky was the perfect candidate for the GOOD DOG! test of the Gentle Leader Head Collar®. It is a unique tool for "natural behavior management".

Rimsky is a small mixed breed, with the soft fur of a Shetland Sheepdog and the feistiness of a terrier. When I visited, he was six months old and King of the House.

Rimsky wouldn't listen to anyone. Attempts at training failed. He would come when called only if he felt like it and only after repeated commands. He would tear around the house at top speed, totally rebellious. He would jump on the furniture and people, sometimes with a vengeance. He was pampered and he knew it. Rimsky was top dog in the family and didn't care what anyone else had to say about it. His owners were frustrated.

The dog was housebroken, so we knew he was trainable. But somewhere along the way the people lost control and leadership over Rimsky. Rimsky was the leader.

In families where the dog is the leader, it's only a matter of time before a challenge to the dog results in a disaster like a dog bite. Behavior problems don't just go away, either. So millions of people park the dog in a far corner of the back yard, tied to a chain or casually drop off their dog in the country where they think "some farmer" will take in the poor animal. Some others take the dog to  the shelter. A large percentage of the animals in most shelters are euthanized within days.

Bob and Cheryl needed help in regaining their leadership over Rimsky. The solution was offered by Dr. Robert K. Anderson. Dr. Anderson is a DVM, a Professor, and Director Emeritus of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the University of Minnesota. He is the co-inventor of the Gentle L:leader Head Collar®, along with Ruth E Foster, Past President of the National Association of Dog Obedience instructors.

The Gentle Leader Collar®
The Gentle Leader Collar® is a double collar with one loop around the neck, and another around the snout., It looks like and works like a halter used to train a house. The Gentle Leader® is made of nylon webbing, like many collars, with a plastic snap buckle for fast on and for action. The main collar firs high around the neck just behind the ears and just above the adams apple. It should fit like a shoe - you should barely be able to get a finger under the collar.

At the bottom of the neck collar is a double D-ring through which is threaded the second loop of webbing. This is called the Leader Dog loop, and it fits over the dog's muzzle just below the eyes.

The leader Dog Loop, fits somewhat loosely over the snout, just tight enough so it cannot be pawed off the end of the nose. The dog is free to pen his mouth for barking, playing, eating, drinking, and chewing. Both loops are adjustable for proper fit.

Hanging from he leader Dog Loop is a brass Control Ring. You can connect a leash here, or the 10 Indoor Control Lead, a simple braided cord with a slide bolt on one end.

Pull the lead attached to the control ring, and you have complete control over the dog's head. If you control the head you control the body.

The Test
We put the Gentle Leader® halter on Rimsky and Dr. Anderson adjusted it to the right fit. Rimsky's reaction to the the Gentle Leader System was typical of most dogs who have a dominance problem: he didn't like it, and wasted no time in fighting to get it off.

Dr. Anderson said, "The dog who is obedient doesn't mind the Gentle Leader halter, and continues to be obedient The dog who is used to manipulating the owner and being in control will resist. The more the dog needs to be controlled, the more it resists".

We proceeded to work with Rimsky. Dr. Anderson took the lead, gave a very quiet heel command, and stated to walk. Rimsky shook his head and bucked like a wild horse. He was dragged the first step and then he began to follow, still shaking his head. Within three minutes,, Dr. Anderson had Rimsky sitting quietly on command.

Cheryl nest took the lead and after 1 minute instruction, took off with Rimsky. The dog's first reaction was resistance, not wanting to cede any power to his mistress. But he heeled perfectly, as soon as Cheryl had mastered the basics of using the halter. That took about two minutes. I took the next turn and wild Rimsky performed magnificently for me, too.

Bob was less sure of himself, and less sure of the halter's effect on Rimsky. He was concerned about breaking the dogs spirit - of humiliating the dog by making him wear this, well, this thing.

Rimsky knew he had a sucker and played it for all he was worth. He bucked like a little bronco, shook his head, and pawed the halter. We encouraged Bob to be a leader and assert himself. He finally did, dragging Rimsky the first three steps. Rimsky quickly realized that he had lost his dominance, and that he would have to obey. He heeled and sat for Bob.

That night, Rimsky continued to wear his halter. He had calmed down instantly to a normal, easy dog's life. He had a sad look o his face, as if he were being subjected to some major indignation. He behaved like a gentleman, unlike the night before. But Rimsky had it in his mind that he might still be able to fight this thing.

Follow-up telephone reports from Bob and Cheryl showed that the Gentle Leader must be used consistently. When it was used regularly, Rimsky behaved, and followed orders. When his owners gave into his whining and unhappiness at having lost his stature in the household Rimsky quickly reverted to his old habits.

The difference seen in Rimsky - in minutes with the Gentle Leader Head Collar® - was astonishing. Next we would test the Gentle Leader on Chops, our top test dog. Chops s an 82 pound Golden Retriever/Bernese Mountain dog mix. She is intelligent, with a happy personality. Although a graduate of Puppy Kindergarten, she has been allowed to get away with plenty.

Chops likes to jump up and greet visitors with a kiss. She's big enough to put both paws on the visitor's shoulders, and lick them on the face. This is not appreciated by most visitors and it was always a struggle between us and the dog. Jumping was the main habit we wanted to control with the Gentle Leader although we also wanted to see if we c could get her to stop forging ahead when heeling. We received a large Gentle Leader Head Collar and I immediately fitted it for Chops. She patiently allowed me to put it on her and make the adjustments. I gave her a few minutes to get used to the halter. Like Rimsky, she tried to paw it off. When she succeeded in removing the loop from her snout, I putt it back on her and tightened the neck strap, as the instruction manual suggests. Then then we went outside to try it.

One the Command Heel she tried to pull away. I gave a very light tug on the control line, and Chops turned her head toward me and slowed down. We walked, we stopped and she sat. She did everything perfectly, with easy control. Chops knew she couldn't ignore the commands like she usually does. Corrections were instant, commands enforced.

The Gentle Leader is much more humane than any other training system. It gently guides the dog to follow instructions. There is no choice in the matter for the dog, so the dog obeys. Reinforcement is positive, without yelling, tugging, or choking.

Preventing jumping has been a success, too. When Chops wears the Gentle Leader she knows she is under control of the Boss. She has quickly learned that misbehavior leads to a correction - even when she cannot see me pulling on the ten-foot Indoor Control Lead. This helps her to mind her lessons, including the "Don't Jump" lesson.
  

How it Works
One of the benefits of the Gentle Leader Collar is that when you make a correction it is with very gentle pull on the lead. This pull automatically turns the dog's head toward you, giving you the dog's attention. With many dogs, including Chops, maintaining attention is one way in maintaining control.

The Gentle Leader works quickly because it controls the head, which controls the dog. The Gentle Leader nose loop works with very little pressure on the nose is just 10 to 15% of the pressure on the neck. The dog is not harmed, but guided.

When walking the halter lets you "drive" your dog like a car. Subtle corrections let you steer the dog left or right, forward or reverse.

The halter also works with the dog's instincts. Dogs tend to pull against pressure. If your dog is wearing a regular collar or leash, or even a choke style training collar he will pull forward as you pull back, leading him to gag and choke. You are not in control, and your dog is coughing and sputtering. Attention is lost, and the lesson is a failure.

Put on the Gentle Leader Head Collar and your dog slows down when his head is turned. To make his sit, move the control cord under the chin and lift at the same time. The dog automatically sits.

The Gentle Leader Head Collar can be used to teach your dog all of the basic commands: Sit, Stay, Come, Heel and Down. It can also be used to control unwanted habits such as digging, jumping, barking, begging, chewing, stealing and general unruliness at home, on the street, and at the veterinarian's office. Techniques for working on all of these behaviors are in the comprehensive manual included with the Gentle Leader.

One you have used the Gentle Leader you will appreciate how simple and perfect an idea it is. You'll also appreciate the instant automatic control you have over your dog.

Minor Problems
There are only two problems with the Gentle Leader Head Collar an they can both be easily overcome. The first is that your dog won't like the collar at first. If you are persistent, however, your dog will get used to it and not give it a second thought - just like his first collar. Give in to your dog on this, and your lose the battle. (That same lack of will power and perseverance on your part may explain why your dog had poor behavior in the first place.) Make your dog wear the halter and don't give in to his emotional pleadings. Your dog will live very well, thank you, with this halter.

The second problem with the Gentle Leader is that many people who see your dog wearing it will thing your dog is vicious and wearing a muzzle. Yet people are intrigued by the halter and even more curious when you explain that it is the best training device ever invented for dogs - and not a muzzle.

The Gentle Leader System consists of the halter (in small, medium or large), the 10 foot Indoor Control Lead and a comprehensive training manual. A video tape describing the system may be borrowed from your veterinarian. For preventing problems or solving current ones, get the Gentle Leader Head Collar.

The Nose Loop
Dogs are naturally "pack" animals with a highly structured social order. One of the ways the "pack leader" will demonstrate his position is to gently, but firmly, grasp a subordinate's muzzle in his mouth. This is a non-aggressive but very clear signal regarding who's the boss! The nose loop exercises your dog's muzzle in this same manner, "letting him know in his own language that your are his leader." Dogs feel more secure when they know who the leader is.

The Neck Strap
Have you noticed how puppies seem to melt in relaxation when their mother picks them up at the back of the neck? Gentle Leader applies pressure to the "back of the neck" rather than the front of the throat, working with your dog's natural relaxation instinct with an amazing calming effect. Also, dogs tend to pull "against" pressure so the gentle pressure a the back of the neck causes the dog to pull backward, not forward. This means an end to leash-pulling forever!

It offers a fast, gentle, and effective way to control "unwanted behavior" -- without harsh methods or devices! Because it's scientifically designed to work "with" your dog's natural instincts, "behavior changes in minutes -- not weeks!

Teaches "Sit"
Encourages controlled sitting -- raise your dog's nose skyward and he lowers his hindquarters -- no pushing or shoving.

Stops Pulling and Lunging
No more tug-of-wars, jerking, or being dragged down the street -- even children and the elderly can walk large or difficult dogs.

Prevents Jumping
Easily stop jumping and other unwanted behavior as the headcollar helps you control your dog in a "stand," "sit," or "down" position.

Controls Barking
Stop unwanted barking with a simple pull of the lead to close your dog's mouth -- no need to shout or scold.

Stops Begging
Eliminate annoying behavior at meal time (and help the kids hang on to their snacks!)

Won't Choke
Gives you control with humane restraint -- pressure as applied at the back of the neck instead of the front of the throat.

Not a Muzzle
When fitted properly, your dog may open his mouth to eat, drink, pant, fetch and bark -- except when you pull on the leash to close his mouth.

Aggression Problems
Under the supervision of a professional trainer, veterinarian or behavior consultant, and when used appropriately, Gentle Leader can be very effective for aggression problems.

When to wear the head collar? Gentle Leader is designed to deal with specific behavior problems and should be worn whenever those behaviors are likely to occur. For leash pulling and lunging, it should be worn whenever you walk your dog. For various household problems like jumping on guests, barking, etc (or general attitude adjustment!), it should be worn during all waking hours (remove at night) NEVER leave your dog home alone with the head collar on.