Healthy Winter Walking

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By Michelle Mullins, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP

If you're hoping to get your pet in better shape, the Gentle Leader Headcollar is a great place to start!

If you’re hoping to get your pet in better shape, the Gentle Leader Headcollar is a great place to start!

So yet again I have made a health related New Year’s resolution. Considering 80% of resolutions are history by January 31st, I decided to try a different approach this year. My resolution involves the health of my dog. I’d do anything for my dogs, and one of my furry friends is looking a bit chunky monkey. I’ve made excuses for him.  He’s old, has arthritis and the cold bothers him, but those really are excuses. He is still a fun loving boy, and it’s my job to take the best care of him, so my resolution is to get him healthy.  Despite the cold, we are going to put on our coats and his Gentle Leader® and hit the walking trails! He used to be the worst kind of pulling machine on walks until we found the Gentle Leader Headcollar. I’ve used it ever since, even though with it I trained him to walk politely, and was then able to fade it out and just use a regular collar or harness. I went back to the Gentle Leader for a couple of reasons. My dog is somewhat fearful of new people and dogs, and the Gentle Leader seems to have a calming effect on him. I’ve seen and heard of this effect on other dogs as well, and while every dog doesn’t react this way, it is great when it does help. The other reason is due to the gentle control it provides, when needed, like when he sees a SQUIRREL! We both enjoy walks more with the Gentle Leader, and I’m more willing to take him.

I’ve worked with many dogs, and for pulling machines, the Gentle Leader is a fantastic solution.

The most important thing for your pup is to love putting on the Gentle Leader and going for a walk. Taking time to acclimate your pup to wearing the Gentle Leader is the best advice I can give you. I mean, your dog has probably been pulling you down the street for quite some time, so will a few extra days really make a difference?

We appreciate making choices rather than being forced into something. I’m all about giving dogs choices as well. So get out your Gentle Leader and some very small yummy treats, like bits of romano cheese, hotdog or peanut butter on a spoon. Hold the nose loop open and invite your dog to place his snout through the loop. When your dog puts his nose even partially in the loop, say “yes,” and give him a treat. No pressure, just let him choose. If he doesn’t move toward the headcollar, just remove the Gentle Leader for a few seconds and try again. You may simply try getting the dog to just touch the Gentle Leader at first. Remember, you are not in a hurry.

Practice this once or twice a day just before dinner so your dog is hungry. To avoid adding extra calories to their daily intake, replace a portion of their regular meal with the treats you use for this training. Once he is happily putting his nose into the loop you can begin fastening the neck strap and letting him eat his dinner with the Gentle Leader on. Take it off at the end of the meal. This will help your dog associate the Gentle Leader with something they like – dinner! Repeat this until your dog acts happy and excited to put on the Gentle Leader for dinner, and then repeat it two more days.

In days you will be ready to begin transitioning to wearing the Gentle Leader during walks.

Ensure proper fit of the headcollar before using it on a walk.

Ensure proper fit of the headcollar before using it on a walk.

Let’s review the proper fit.

  • The neck strap should be high and snug on your dog, just behind the ears. It should be snug enough so it does not rotate. This will keep it from rubbing or chafing.
  • The nose loop should fit loose enough so the strap can slide down to the fleshy part of the dog’s nose but it won’t come off over the snout. The dog should be able to open its mouth normally.

Now that the fit is correct the next very important part of this equation is how you handle the leash.

Whenever you are walking your dog, think about the name of this product – Gentle Leader. You want to gently direct your dog to walk near you and reward him with a loose leash and a tasty treat when he does. Be very conscious about keeping a loose leash as much as possible. This will help the training equipment be part of the communication between you and the dog instead of an annoying, new thing on their face.

You can check out our Gentle Leader video showing all the steps here.

Of course each person and dog will have a different experience. I have three dogs, and each of them reacted differently to the Gentle Leader and with getting acclimated to wearing it.  If you ever need to talk with someone here at Petsafe give us a call, we are here to help.

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