How to Train Your Dog to Wear a Head Halter

Put the head halter on your dog. Once your dog is willingly putting his nose through the head halter, fit the collar portion of the equipment. Clip on the collar without the nose piece in place and reward your dog for remaining in place. The fit of the collar depends on the particular brand being used, but many fit comfortably snug and high on the dog’s neck.

Next, accustom the dog to having both the mouth piece and collar on together. Move your dog’s nose through the halter loop just as before. Once the nose piece is draped on, move your hands back to clip the collar — but don’t clip, just do the motion. If your dog stays in place, mark and reward. Help your dog stay focused by placing a stuffed Kong between your knees while you place the collar. Or work with a partner: Have one person fit the head halter while the other rewards the dog.

If your dog remains calm, then put the nose piece on and clip the collar. Keep your dog busy with tasks (trick training, playing, a walk) or distract him with treats and affection. Take off the device before the dog has time to become concerned or anxious.

Keep a loose leash. Once the head halter is on and the dog is relaxed, adjust the fit of the nose piece as needed for the specific head halter being used. Typically the fit is loose enough so the dog can still pant, eat and drink, but tight enough thatthe loop can’t be easily pulled off the nose. Be aware of how the leash is used, as only gentle pressure is necessary. Most of the time the leash should remain loose—not constantly tight.

If the dog attempts to paw off the nose piece or rub his nose on the ground to get it off, use very gentle upward leash pressure to keep the nose piece tight enough so that it doesn’t get pulled off. Once the dog relaxes or is redirected to something else, immediately release tension and give slack to reward calm behavior.

With time and patience, your dog should learn to tolerate a head harness. But keep in mind that the head halter is not the only alternative to the corrective collar. If your dog cannot adjust to a head halter, a front-clip harness is easily tolerated by most dogs and may be the next best option.

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