Head collar and Figure 8 collar How-To

Minding your P’s and Q’s

As a puppy raiser you are most likely familiar with this scenario: You are walking with your puppy to class and before you can even redirect their attention your pup has spotted another dog and reacts by jumping, pulling, and leaping towards the other dog. This reaction is fairly common because dogs are social animals and like to check out the other dogs in their environment. It might take you several seconds or even minutes to get your pup’s attention back on you and it have even warranted a leash correction. Pretty frustrating, isn’t it?

While the excitement and pulling might be acceptable for some pets it is not an acceptable reaction for a guide dog or service dogs. Our puppies have to be socialized properly and learn that ignoring other dogs, as well as other distractions, in their environment is an essential part of their job.

Now, picture this scenario: You are walking with your puppy to class, but after you busy them and start walking over, you slip a simple 8 collar around their face and continue walking. You immediately can gain your pup’s attention, they don’t have the capability to lunge or pull towards the other dogs, and you can easily redirect their attention and teach your puppy to focus on you even when the environment is distracting. Your pup continues to settle down after having their correct, calm behavior reinforced and eventually you can slide the 8 collar off and walk with your pup calmly at your side with just the flat collar.

Head collars aren’t a magic fix all, but they are a wonderful tool we have started to integrate into the puppy raising program so you will see them being used more frequently in our program. This tool prevents a dog from pulling forcefully because they cannot apply force on their flat collar (the one with their tags on it) to pull and their movement and direction can be more easily managed by the handler.

Because the head collar reduces the dog’s desire to pull, it gives the raiser more opportunity to praise the pup’s good behavior. The more praise the raiser offers the more the puppy understands the expectation. Then, as the dog matures, gains impulse control, and/or learns to walk calmly and politely on leash the head collar can be used less frequently.

The head collar comes in several varieties: the gentle leader, halti, and 8 collar. The 8 collar is the simplest tool, but can take some getting used to which is why we also have an instructional with pictures below.

Instructions for putting on an 8 collar in less than 8 steps!

  1. With the dog on your left side, make a P shape in front of the dog’s head to slip the collar over. Making a P shape ensures the leash relaxes and does not apply pressure when the dog isn’t pulling forward.


  2. Place the circle portion of the P over the dog’s head in a large, loose loop.


  3. Underneath the dog’s head, flip the loop to make a figure 8



  4. Flip the portion below the dog’s head onto their nose so it is comfortably in the middle.



  5. Attach the safety clip to the dog’s flat collar metal loop.



  6. Slide the stopper down to the safety clip. Leave about 2 finger’s width space between the clip and the stopper.



  7. Optional: to create a shorter leash to hold onto you place the loop meant for a handle into the dog’s collar to halve the length.


If you have any questions in regards to using an 8 collar or proper introduction to a head collar please contact your advisor or area coordinator.