Dog Head Halter: Science-Backed Guide

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If you are looking for a dog head halter or a leash that goes around the nose, you are in the right place. 

Taking your dog for a walk is not only great exercise for both you and your pup but is also a great bonding experience and prevents boredom in your pet. However, dogs are not always appropriately trained on how to walk on a leash, pulling you all over the place, sniffing everything, and making the walk much less pleasurable. 

Teaching your dog how to walk correctly on the leash is a great training objective and one that will provide you with greater enjoyment on your walk. 

There are various dog walking devices out there, from a regular collar and leash to harnesses, choke or prong collars and even a dog leash that goes around the nose, also known as a dog head halter. It can be confusing and overwhelming to find the right fit for your dog

This article goes in-depth about head halters for dogs, discussing what they are, how they work, their pros and cons, and whether or not they are a right fit for your dog. 

Keep reading to learn all about dog head halters!

What is a Head Halter for Dogs?

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PetSafe Gentle Leader Headcollar, No-Pull Dog Collar, Large 60-130 Lb., Black
  • VET RECOMMENDED AND TRAINER DESIGNED: This headcollar instinctively redirects your dog’s tendency to pull by placing gentle pressure on...
  • TEACHES BETTER LEASH MANNERS: Gently and safely helps you control unwanted leash behaviors like pulling, lunging and jumping for even the most...
  • NO MORE COUGHING AND CHOKING: A padded neoprene nose loop puts pressure on the back of the neck instead of your dog’s throat, which prevents...

Head halters for dogs have been around since the 1980s and since then they have become popular tools for preventing pulling while walking dogs.

Head halters for dogs, with common brands such as Gentle Leader, Halti, or Snoop Loop, are walking devices that fit over a dog’s muzzle and around their head. They typically have two loops, one that goes around your dog’s nose and one that goes around your dog’s neck and clips behind their ears. 

The leash then attaches to a ring beneath their mouth. Gently pulling on this ring directs a dog’s head. Head halters help give a dog’s owner or walker better control throughout the walk and prevent or reduce pulling. 

Head halters are often mistaken for a muzzle but are actually very different. A dog muzzle prevents a dog from biting someone, whereas a head halter is a walking tool that prevents a dog from pulling. A dog can still drink, eat (and yes, even bite) with a head halter on. 

How Does a Head Halter Work?

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Halti Headcollar and Training Lead Combination Pack, Stop Dog Pulling on Walks with Halti, Includes Size 3 Head Collar and Double Ended Lead
  • Stop pulling: help train your dog to stop pulling on the leash with the world-famous Halti head collar. As the world's first no pull dog head...
  • Comfortable & secure: the lightweight Halti head collar is designed for dog comfort with a fully padded nose band & waterproof, Reflective...
  • Effective no pull training: The Halti head collar prevents Pulling on the leash by gently steering & guiding your dog's direction. The responsive...

The basic idea behind a head halter is that where a dog’s nose goes, his body will follow. 

Like a horse halter, dog head halters work by placing pressure on the nose when the leash pulls, turning the dog’s head to the side. This pressure and head movement will prevent the dog from moving forward, thus preventing pulling and giving the owner or walker directional control. 

Controlling a dog’s head is the best way to get them to move where you want them to go. Rather than fighting with your dog and pulling against their whole weight on a neck collar, slight pressure on the halter can change your dog’s movement. 

You need very little strength or pressure to turn your dog’s head when they start pulling on the leash. Simply giving a gentle pull on the leash, which connects to the ring underneath their chin, will direct your dog’s head in the direction you want them to go. Once their head goes, their body will follow. 

Are Head Halters Safe for Dogs?

GoodBoy Dog Head Halter with Safety Strap - Stops Heavy Pulling On The Leash - Padded Headcollar for Small Medium and Large Dog Sizes - Head Collar Training Guide Included (Size 2, Blue)
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GoodBoy Dog Head Halter with Safety Strap - Stops Heavy Pulling On The Leash - Padded Headcollar for Small Medium and Large Dog Sizes - Head Collar Training Guide Included (Size 2, Blue)
  • Prevents pulling – The GoodBoy Head Halter is a comfortable and humane way to prevent your dog from pulling on the leash during walks and other...
  • Comfortable and safe – Unlike other headcollars, the GoodBoy Head Halter is designed with soft neoprene and padded for maximum comfort for your...
  • Easily adjustable and secure fit – A quick release buckle and adjustable fit make this quality harness a secure solution to unwanted behavior...

Head halters are safe when used correctly. When used improperly, such as connecting a 30-foot reel line leash to the head halter, it could cause injury to your dog.  Sudden jerky movements on your part or too abrupt tugs on the leash may cause neck, spinal, or other injuries to your dog. 

Your pup needs to get used to this new piece of equipment over short training periods; they won’t pick it up right away. 

In addition, prolonged use of a head halter may cause injury to your puppy’s neck and spine. This type of injury is common if your dog starts making a habit of, instead of learning to give in to the pressure of the halter, pulling against the head halter constantly, walking with their head twisted at an angle. 

Head halters are a transitional tool, meaning that they are only temporary until your dog learns better behaviors, such as not pulling at the leash.

When used to correct pulling behavior, in conjunction with rewarding non-pulling, loose-leash walking, a head halter can teach a dog how to walk nicely. Once they learn that, they can upgrade to a standard collar and leash

Pros of a Head Halter

Dog Head Collar, No Pull Head Halter with Soft Padding, Durable Headcollar for Medium Large Dogs, Free Training Guide Included
  • Stop Pulling - This dog head collar is designed to gently guide the dog's head and then control the dog's direction of movement(similar to a...
  • Durable & Practical - This head collar for dogs is made of thick, durable nylon and heavy duty alloy steel hardware. It comes with an...
  • Comfortable & Secure - This dog head halter makes your dog feel more comfortable and prevent skin abrasions thanks to the soft neoprene padding...

A head halter, when used correctly, is an excellent tool for preventing pulling on the leash. It provides greater control over the dog’s head, making it a perfect tool to use for aggressive dogs, where controlling the head is vital in preventing injury. 

Head halters provide a positive method of control instead of a negative punishment. This is incredibly useful for modifying aggressive behavior in dogs

Inflicting pain and increasing a negative stimulus for an aggressive dog may reinforce his aggression. Instead, a head halter gently turns your dog away from a negative stimulus, say another dog or an unknown person, and then you can reward your pup for that good behavior. Head halters are very successful and effective for this use.

Head halters also help your dog to self-correct, rather than receive a jerk from you on their collar to correct them. Because you don’t need a lot of strength to use them, only gentle pressure can make your dog change direction, and it is an excellent tool for children or the elderly to use. 

Head halters still allow a dog to open their mouth comfortably. Thus, allowing them to eat and drink normally, as well as pant. 

For some dogs, they even have a calming effect! Head halters for dogs can also be lifesavers. As an unmanageable dog that becomes a lovely walker may have otherwise ended up at an animal shelter or worse. 

Head halters are also considered more humane than other dog training tools, such as choke collars, prong collars, or e-collars. 

Cons of a Head Halter 

Unfortunately, head halters for dogs are not perfect, and there are some cons to using them. 

One of the most significant disadvantages to a head halter is it may take time to get used to it. They may react violently at first to this strange contraption around their nose. This reaction could be traumatic for your dog. Or mean that you may have to spend more time acclimating them to the head halter. 

Like some other dog training tools, head halters do have the potential to cause injury when used improperly. The fit for a head halter is incredibly important. If too tight, the nose loop can rub, causing painful sores. If too loose, the head halter can come off, creating a freed pet. This freedom can be especially dangerous for a dog prone to aggression or running off. 

Speaking of fit, some dog breeds are hard to fit correctly. For dog breeds with flat faces, such as boxers, Boston terriers, pugs, and French bulldogs, it can be almost impossible to find a head halter that fits well without having the nose strap too close to their eyes. This rubbing against the eyes can be annoying for your dog as well as cause irritation. 

In addition, some trainers and dog owners have noted that dogs are excessively subdued when wearing a head halter. This unnatural change in behavior will be a negative for some dog owners.  

Signs a Head Halter Isn’t Right for Your Dog

Just like all dog training tools and methods, not every method is right or appropriate for every dog. A dog head halter is perfect for the correct use, that’s not to say it is good for every dog. 

Not every dog will like or accept the head halter. Some common reactions to head halters include: pawing at the nose, biting or pawing at the leash, rubbing the face, shaking the head, rearing up, refusing to walk, rushing forward, or rolling on the ground. 

It may take time and multiple training sessions for your dog to become used to the head halter. But, if it becomes dangerous for your dog to continue, you should use another harness or collar method instead

As mentioned previously, if your dog makes a habit of continuously walking with its head at a weird angle when the head halter is in use, you should stop using it. The prolonged use of this unnatural way of walking could cause injury to your pup’s neck. 

In addition, some dogs are sensitive around their head, and do not like the feeling in that area. If so, a head halter is not right for them. And their fears around their head will only increase, not decrease. If that becomes the case for your dog, don’t use it.

Talk to Your Vet

Before using any new training method, it is always wise to talk to your vet. Your pet may have health concerns that may prevent them from being a good candidate for a head halter. In addition, consulting with a professional will help you choose the right training tool for your dog’s specific needs. 

Wrap Up

Like any dog training tool, head halters work well for some dogs and are not suitable for others. 

If they are the right fit, head halters are great. They’re positive training tools that help prevent your dog from pulling on the leash. Soon you will be the star of the dog park, with your pup happily walking calmly by your side!

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