Introduction to the Head Collar

When you get your puppy, one of the pieces of equipment given to you is a head collar. The head collar can be a simple 8 collar, Gentle Leader, or Halti. The head collar is a tool all of our puppy raisers must use. It is not a fix all or a magic fix. The work still needs to go into walking on a loose leash with the flat collar, too.

The head collar provides the raiser the opportunity to offer more praise and teach the puppy the correct behavior. It can prevent unwanted behaviors like pulling, scavenging, and sniffing. You should use it when you don’t have time to focus on loose leash walking and collar pressure response.

In training, the dog will be expected to comfortably wear a head collar for physical exams, walking with volunteers and our canine care attendants, and out with their trainer. When our students are matched with a dog they’re taught how to use a head collar as well.

You can start introducing the head collar a few days after bringing the pup home. Please follow these instructions:

Day 1-3 of head collar introduction

  • Always introduce the head collar in a quiet environment with food readily available.
  • Briefly place the head collar over the pup's muzzle. 
    • As you slide it over the pup's nose offer them food reward.
  • Adjust the collar as needed for the pup's comfort and safety. 
    • Once adjusted offer the pup food and then slide the head collar off the pup's head.
  • Practice several times throughout the day.
    • Focus on reward, fit, and ease of taking it on and off
  • On and off practice should continue 1-3 more days with the puppy raiser so the pup can associate the head collar with positive reinforcement

Week 1

  • Start feeding meals with the head collar on.
    • Immediately take the head collar off the pup when the meal is done.
    • Feeding meals with the head collar on starts creating a positive association and will help the pup acclimate to wearing it without being focused on getting it off.
  • Continue practicing taking the head collar on and off with food reward.
    • Start extending the time the head collar is on to be about 30 seconds.
  • If the pup continues being distracted by the head collar by rubbing, pawing, or refusing to walk with the head collar continue with this step until they are acclimated to wearing the head collar for at least one minute.

Week 2

  • After 1 week of consistent positive reaction to the head collar the puppy raiser can take short walks with the head collar on.
    • The first walk should be in the home for about one minute and duration can be built from there.
    • Frequent food reward for walking on a loose leash. Reward every 2-3 steps and build from there. 
    • Running in and out of a grocery store, coming to class when the pup is dog distracted, etc. 

The First Time in Public

  • After the pup can successfully walk around your home with the head collar on without rubbing or becoming distracted by it, you can take the pup on a walk around your yard, neighborhood, or on a short outing.
    • This exposure should be about 10 minutes.
  • Use a high rate of reinforcement with your food reward and verbal praise.
  • If the pup starts pulling or becomes distracted, simply stop walking and wait for them to return their focus on you.
  • Continue extending the walks and taking the pup in public with the head collar on.

If the pup continues being distracted by the head collar by rubbing, pawing, or refusing to walk with the head collar please contact your advisor or area coordinator.