Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tess makes a decision

Ever had your dog do something "naughty", but it can't REALLY be called naughty because in reality you had total control over the situation?  But you still have an uncontrollable urge to blame it on the dog?


Good thing she's cute.  

Tess HATES her head harness.  Or rather, hatED, as in PAST tense.

We started out with a gentle leader.  I know how to introduce the head collar, I know how to use it, and yes, I know that there is an "adjustment" period - but eventually they DO adjust.


Tess did not adjust.  She continued to do spectacular efforts to get it off no matter what.  If it hadn't been for the fact that she was going to have damage to her throat if I used a more traditional collar or slip lead, I would have given up.  Then she started bolting from me when she saw it in my hand, and NOTHING would entice her - not even hot dogs.

One of my classmates had a head collar that was made by a different company called a "Halti".  It looked like they fixed most of the design flaws in the Gentle Leader that I felt were bugging Tess.

We had more success with the Halti - for the most part she could concentrate on the task at hand, not flail around like a fish, and while no amount of treat association would make her HAPPY to see the halti, she at least did not actively try to get away - settling instead on sad puppy eyes.

I've seen gradual improvement over the past 2 months until.....this week.  She wouldn't stop flailing around in the kennel during a crate game, so I walked away. 

I don't normally leave harnesses or collars etc on a dog in a kennel - I don't want a chance that they might hang up on the kennel.  In this case, Tess's kennel is in the homeroom at school with lots of traffic and I felt comfortable leaving her with the halti and collar on as a training exercise.

I came back to a chewed halti.  That was still functional.

My evil little idea had worked!  Minus a small, almost insignificant part, the Halti was still on and she seemed resigned.

Of course, I couldn't be happy stopping there.  To see if I could get rid of the last remnants of the rubbing and flopping I decided she would wear the halti continuously during the day for a couple of days.

Today was day 1.

Today she chewed the halt off in a matter of 30 minutes of being unintended.

I can't really blame her.  I gave her the opportunity.  She did what seemed like the logical thing to her.

We went on a walk and I discovered that she is neither significantly better nor worse in a flat collar compared to the Halti.

So, I'm making Tess a deal.

Don't pull and I won't put a head collar on you.  Otherwise I still have that Gentle Leader somewhere....

Update - Since writing this post, Tess is now the (not so proud) owner of a blue Holt head harness.  It fits a little better than either of the other 2 brands.  So I'm making Tess a new deal - I promise to not use it unless I need it - I'll attach one end of my leash to the flat collar, the other to the Holt - she just needs to wear the Holt like a lady - not a flopping fish - and I'll use the flat collar.  I promise!!!!!!


  1. I've never used a head-halter on ANY of my dogs...the thing didn't exist when I started training dogs, and by the time it did exist, I'd figured out a way to teach "polite leash behavior" (not the same as heel, but similar) without the head thing. I don't even use a correction collar (formerly known as a choke-chain) on most dogs to teach this.

    Start: Human is standing still, dog is sitting politely near the left foot.

    Moving: Human looks at dog, and asks, "Ready?" When the dog returns the look, human jiggles the leash just a little and says "Let's go!" (happy voice!) Stride off briskly. Dog hastens to catch up.

    Pulling: when the dog races ahead of the human, s/he will stretch the leash tight.

    JUST BEFORE the leash gets tight, grab on with one or two hands, depending on the weight of the dog. When the leash is about an inch from tight:
    1. scuff your foot on the ground. Think of this as a halfhalt, signalling "more information to come immediately".
    2. half a second after the foot-scuff, YANK the dog off her feet!

    This move can be done more gently if you have a smaller, more timid dog, or more assertively if you have a larger, pushier dog. You can include a "bad buzzer noise" with the yank, if you are so inclined, but the important noise is the foot-scuff BEFORE the correction.

    Dogs playing will knock each other off their feet all the time. You won't hurt a dog doing this. If the dog is fragile, use a gentler version of the yank, which spins the front feet around but leaves the back feet on the ground, but DON'T FORGET THE FOOT SCUFF! The scuffing sound is the dog's cue that s/he is almost out of bounds, and gives her an opportunity to fix it before you yank. If you choose to use a chain correction collar, the "clicking sound" of the chain links as you prepare to yank will serve the same "warning" purpose as the foot scuff.

    After a few repetitions of scuff/yank, the dog will LOOK at you and/or halfhalt herself when she hears the scuff. PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE.

    Then speed up your walk for a few strides so she has to hustle to catch up. Your goal here isn't to have her walk on the leash, your goal is to have her PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU ARE DOING and match her behavior to yours.

    Make sense? It's just like training a horse, but you don't need a helmet.

  2. makes total sense and it's how I taught her not to pull (and added your suggestion about the foot scuff, which worked wonders). I'm not "nice" about it and she's light enough that she does fly. right now, I have one end of my leash connected to the head collar, and the other end looped around the collar. That way I can use the flat collar unless she fixates. 90% of the time she's walking on a loose lead off the flat collar.

    I went to the head collar because when we are around objects that she fixates on (birds) I was literally doing leash corrections non stop. Doesn't even register for her when she's in that state. I was doing so many leash corrections she started to gag etc. so I moved to the head collar for those situations like the beach, where there are a ton of fluttery things.

  3. My comment makes me sound like I was beating my poor puppy - I wasn't. It was more, "SIGNIFCANT leash correction every 2 or 3 steps" and the culmination of all of these would start to make her cough etc - while not producing any improvement - which is why I went to the head collar. Hope that makes more sense!

  4. Sorry - yet another clarification - I was also trying to get her in a more formal "heel" position, so I was correcting everytime she got in front of my leg. Now that I'm focusing on a more "let's go", the leash corrections are MUCH less frequent - perhaps 2-3 in a 45 minute walk? that's one reason I'm trying some new stuff for me heel - what I was doing wasn't working. It worked so she didn't pull - but it didn't work to keep her in position unless I held her there.

    Gosh - the brain is fuzzy. :(

  5. I forgot! the other tool I have for not pulling is 90 degree and 180 degree turns. If I have the time/space than these work as well as the leash corrections, or even better with tess.

    You just look like an idiot.

    But I'm finding out that if you don't look like an idiot while training, you aren't doing it right!