Head collars for dogs: how to stop pulling on lead
In this post, we’re going to explain what a head collar is and whether or not your dog needs one.
Having sold over a million head collars worldwide to dog owners just like you, we can explain exactly what a head collar is and if it is the right training aid for you and your dog.
Let's get started.
What is a head collar?
A head collar, sometimes called a head halter, a halti collar, an anti pull head collar or a dog nose lead, is an aid specially designed to help train your dog to stop pulling on the lead and walk nicely to heel.
Pulling on lead is the most common problem faced by dog owners.. If your dog pulls you on the lead while walking, you’ll know how stressful, frustrating and embarrassing it can be. Not to mention the potential for injury if you are pulled off your feet.
Whilst there are several brands on the market, the best dog head collar for you and your dog will be one which is simple to fit, easy to use and effective. It should be comfortable, kind and safe.
How does a head collar work?
- Most head collars work on the principle that if you can control your dog’s head, then the body will follow. A bridle on a horse works in the same way.
- Pressure is applied to the nose and released when the dog stops pulling. The release reinforces the desired behaviour of walking on a loose lead.
- A head collar can direct your dog’s pulling force and harness her energy to teach good walking habits.
The oppositional reflex
Pulling on lead is a two-way thing – your dog pulls you so you pull her back. But you will never walk a dog well on a tight lead.
Dogs respond to a tight lead with something known as an ‘oppositional reflex’, or thigmotaxis. This means that they pull back in the opposite direction to any pressure they feel on the lead.
To stop the pulling, we have to teach our dog what we want them to do when they feel this lead pressure.
Training, not restraining
If our lead is never allowed to go loose, all we are doing is restraining our dog from moving forwards. A good head collar will loosen around your dog’s face when the lead pressure is released.
When gentle backwards pressure on the lead is applied and immediately released, your dog pauses. Your momentum then allows you to catch her up, making the lead go slack. Your dog learns the position you would like her to be in when on your walk.
Do head collars work?
For most dogs, yes. A head collar is a training aid to help dogs learn good walking habits. This can be for young pups and older dogs whose training to date may have been been limited.
For persistent pullers and rescue dogs whose history is unknown, it can be an invaluable tool. It is sometimes the difference between a rescue dog being returned to the shelter or not.
Used responsibly, a head collar is an effective training aid which can speed up the time it takes to train your dog to walk to heel.
What is the best head collar for a dog?
When choosing a collar to stop your dog pulling on lead, every brand will claim to be the ‘best dog head collar’. There is no 'one fits all' solution.
The best head collar for you and your dog will be the one which is simplest to fit, easiest to use, comfortable, kind, safe & effective.
Your choice will depend on your dog’s size, breed & temperament plus how much training you wish to do. Do you want your head collar to be something you will always use or would you like to eventually train your dog to walk on a regular collar and lead?
Some brands encourage permanent use whilst others are designed so that you can slip the nose band on and off during training. These collars are best if you want to gradually wean your dog off using them.
Some breeds like Boxers have a short, wide snout which makes some brands of head collar unsuitable. If in doubt, invest in a body harness.
Are head collars safe for dogs?
Absolutely. It’s important to follow the fitting instructions and check that the collar cannot come off before beginning your walk. The fit around your dog's neck should be snug.
If you are concerned that your dog may slip out of the collar, a good idea is to use a double-ended training lead. Clip one end to the head collar and another to your dog’s regular collar for backup.
Never walk with too long a lead when using your head collar. If your dog moves quickly and reaches the end of a long lead, there is potential for injury to the neck or spine.
A lead of around 120cm is ideal. This allows for close control without the lead being too long.
Are head collars cruel?
Are head collars bad for dogs? Not at all. They are used by many respected organisations such as Irish Guide Dogs, ISPCA & Dogs Trust. Many trainers, training schools, veterinarians and rescue shelters sell and promote them.
Ultimately, they are only as good as the person on the other end of the lead. When walking your dog, only a gentle ‘pressure & release’ action should be required. If a head collar is pulled hard or yanked, there is a risk of injury to your dog.
Collars that fasten under the chin tend to close your dog’s mouth when pressure is applied to the lead. Others allow your dog to keep her mouth open so that she can breathe and pant. There is no real benefit in clamping the mouth shut when teaching a dog to walk to heel.
How do you fit a head collar?
How do you put on a head collar? Each brand of head collar will have its own unique fitting instructions and it's important that you follow these closely for the comfort and safety of your dog.
Once fitted, the lead is fastened underneath the chin on most brands whilst others prefer a behind-the-head fastening. This design means that there is no downward pressure from the weight of the clip and lead, so the difference between 'on' and 'off' is clearer for your dog.
Can a puppy wear a head collar?
According to the respected Canadian dog trainer Susan Garrett, providing that you condition your puppy to a collar at the beginning, starting your puppy training with a head collar from 8 weeks old is a great way to get off on the right foot.
We wouldn't expect a baby or toddler to adapt to a new experience immediately and it is the same with our dogs. A progressive approach will set your dog up with good training habits for life.
Head collars are not a quick fix
Whilst head collars can help, they are not a substitute for training your dog. This is something that all responsible dog owners should do. It is part of your toolkit to ensure that your dog becomes a responsible canine citizen that is welcomed by other dogs and owners.
A head collar is not a device that can help with aggression or other more serious behavioural issues encountered when walking your dog. If your dog is unsociable or aggressive to other dogs or people, look for a qualified dog trainer or behavioural therapist.
The Canny Collar
The Canny Collar is a simple dog head collar which trains your dog not to pull on lead. Walking your dog becomes a pleasure, not a stressful or embarrassing experience.
An innovative 'behind-the-head' design makes it easy to fit and simple to use. This means that it will also not ride up into your dog’s eyes nor yank her head to one side.
The Canny Collar was voted 'Best New Product' by the UK Pet Product Retail Association shortly after it was launched. It is now used by trainers, veterinarians and rescue shelters worldwide.
How it works
The Canny Collar works by using a 'pressure and release' system. If your dog pulls on the lead, she will feel pressure on the bridge of her nose. When she doesn't pull, there is no pressure.
If the pressure is released immediately, the lead slackens when your dog is walking at your side. With your arm relaxed, the Canny Collar automatically does any corrective work. You are free to praise or reward your dog for walking calmly by your side.
Your dog soon learns that by not pulling ahead, the walk is more comfortable for you both. You can positively reinforce the experience with vocal praise and/or her favourite treat.
Why is the Canny Collar different to other head collars?
- The Canny Collar fastens behind the head rather than under the chin. The immediate benefit of this is that there is no yanking your dog's head to one side nor riding up into her eyes.
- The Canny Collar does not bring your dog’s head to one side, instead it lowers it towards the floor.
- The full weight of your dog is harnessed to slow her down. There is no pressure on the neck area nor any twisting of the head, which can sometimes happen with a collar that fastens under the chin.
- A Canny Collar uses a single piece of material over your dog’s face which attaches to the lead at the back of the head. It expands to fit the wider snout of a Boxer or contracts for the slimmer snout of a Greyhound. This gives a perfect fit without affecting the functionality.
Canny Collar vs Halti, Dogmatic & Gentle Leader
- The main difference between the Canny Collar and other head collars is the rear fastening position.
- The Canny Collar can be quickly and easily switched into a regular dog collar. Simply flick the slip line (nose band) on and off your dog's nose when needed. By doing this you can eventually train your dog to walk on a conventional flat collar.
- The Canny Collar doesn’t have to be removed when your dog is off lead and can be safely left on while your dog runs free.
A kind head collar
The Canny Collar is generously padded for comfort. The single piece of material over your dog's nose allows her to breathe freely, open her mouth and enjoy her walk.
When the lead is loose, your dog feels no pressure at all on her face as she walks calmly by your side.
A million owners can’t be wrong
If you're looking to stop your dog pulling on lead, look no further than the Canny Collar. You'll be in good company. More than a million dog owners worldwide have now discovered the simple pleasure of walking their dogs on a loose lead.
If you have a giant breed and are looking for a head collar especially made for large dogs, the Canny Colossus is the larger version of the Canny Collar.
But don't just take our word for it, read some Canny Collar reviews here. Join these happy owners today and make walking your own dog easy and enjoyable.
Now that you've read our guide to head collars for dogs, we’d like to ask about your experiences. Please let us know below!