Dear Deborah: I have a dog who pulls and pulls me around the block. I also have a bad shoulder so even though I’m a big guy. I can’t do the sharp tugs the trainer wanted me to do when I took obedience classes. Any suggestions? – Shoulder Pull
Dear Shoulder Pull: The face harness is the collar for you. It comes in a few different name brands, including Gentle Leader, the Haltie, and the Promise Collar. The Promise Collar and the Gentle Leader are both very strong products and do not break easily. The Haltie is less strong but is more affordable and comes in many colours, making it less of an issue with passersby. The drawback to the face harness is the look. Non-dog owners may mistake it for a muzzle and jump to incorrect conclusions about your dog. You will need to educate them.
The benefit of the face harness is that it leads your dog, rather than jerking and correcting him. It is designed to fit his face and head in a way that encourages him to follow your leadership.
Severe pulling, jerking, tugging and physical struggles are eliminated. The face collar is the great equalizer, allowing small people to walk very big dogs, hassle free.
Take your dog with you to purchase the equipment. Ask them to show you how to use the collar, and read the instructions. Adjust the the collar to fit your dog before you leave the store. When he tries to remove it with his paw or by scraping his face along the ground, grab the leash a few inches from his head, command heel and start walking. You can also make him sit or perform any other trick.
Praise him each time he stops fighting the collar and starts listening to you.
Once he associates the collar with walks, he will come to like it but, until then, the collar means less control for him and more control for you, and that makes him want to get rid of it
.To teach heel, command “heel” as you walk, holding the leash just inches from where it connects to his face collar. Place him in the correct heel position beside and behind your left leg. Praise him when he maintains the position. When he pulls or tugs ahead, remind him to “heel” then using the leash held close, gently move him into position and praise.
As one reader wrote in praise of Halties, ” The Haltie should NEVER be tugged or jerked but held on a fairly short and slack leash for complete and gentle control.”
If he insists on pulling toward other dogs, or park entrances, heel-walk him in a circle. march him around and around in a large circle until he heels, then reward him for his good heel with a trip to the park.