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Dog Behaviour >>INTRODUCTION TO HEAD COLLARS AND MUZZLES

HEAD COLLARS:

If you have a pet with behavioural issues or if you simply want a humane way to lead your dog the head collars have a lot of advantages. They allow great control of the pet, they can help you close the pet’s mouth if he/she is barking and they make it difficult to pull. The only safety concern with the head collars is that if a dog was to get loose or get a slack leash the dog could injure his/her neck when the leash tightens or jerks. Never jerk on a head collar and always use gently. Children should be taught this as well and supervised when leading the dog. There are several different brands available, the one pictured is a Halti brand. I like it as there is a strap from the nose piece to the strap behind the ears that helps secure it. It also has a fuzzy piece on the nose band that keeps it from rubbing. The loop under the chin allows for a quick release of tension that makes the pet understand that it has done something correct. It also allows better control of the nose so I feel I can get a better focus. Lastly it has a safety strap that can go to a well fitted flat collar in case the pet gets the Halti off. This is an important safety feature. Others favour the Gentle Leader or the Promise Halter or other brands. Feel free to experiment and decide for yourself

If you have a short nosed dog like a Pekinese, Pug, or Bulldog, it may be difficult to keep the halter on. I’ve seen some with a strap between the eyes that will work on these breeds.

You can purchase a Halti from me and, for local customers, I will come and fit the product and demonstrate how to desensitize to it. The following link will take you to the description. Then click on the email to email me a purchase request.

http://www.drlianamawer.ca/sample5.html

Note: a head collar can sometimes be used in aggressive dogs but they are not a muzzle and should not be relied on to prevent biting. If you are using this for a dog that bites a full consult is highly recommended.

So once you have a head halter you cannot just slap it on and expect the dog to love it. It just won’t happen! Dogs have very sensitive muzzles and it feels odd for them. Consider if you had some sort of thing around your face how annoying it might be at first. So you need to set it up so your dog loves the head halter. How you say? By pairing it with rewards and gradually building up to using it for leading. Here is a method I would recommend.

  • First, you will need a tiny, soft, chewy training treat (see article). Then place the head collar in your hand and present it to the dog and feed the dog about 5 treats. Then take a little break and put the head collar down somewhere but carry the treats. Do not give the dog any treats during the break. Then go back to the halter and pick it up and repeat with the halter over your hand this time so the dog is often touching or smelling it while getting the treat. Do this for 3 – 4 short sessions/day for 2 days. Also consider having the halter visible every time you do something the dog likes. Playing, going for walks, getting groomed, giving attention are all good examples. You want the halter to predict great things!
  • If after two days you have convinced your dog that the halter is the best thing ever, then place the halter over your hand in such a manner that you can easily place it over the dogs muzzle by just sliding it down. Have your treats in the fingers of this hand. Now start the treat process but this time use a little larger treat and don’t release it. Make the dog chew it while you hold it and slip the nose piece over the dog’s muzzle. As the dog is finishing the treat, take the halter off. Repeat 5 – 10 times 3 – 4 times/day. Continue having the halter out to predict any enjoyable activity for your pet. Do this for another day or two.
  • Then, hold the nose loop open and feed the treats through the loop progressing until the dog is placing his nose in the loop. Basically you are teaching the dog to put on the halter. Do this several times/day for a day.
  • Next day, do the same, but then fasten the head collar in place. Keep giving treats while the collar is on to keep the dog from trying to remove it. Then remove and stop treats. Repeat several times a day but each time make the dog wait a little longer for treats as follows: Treat, wait 1 second, treat, wait 3 seconds, treat, 1 second treat, 2 seconds, treat, 4 seconds treat… etc. Vary short and long and medium intervals. Do several times a day.
  • Now, you are ready to go for a walk. Have the dog put his/her nose in the halter, attach, do a few treats, take a few steps and treat every few steps. Do lots of treats for the first few days and then start decreasing the treats. Start first with short walks around the house, then progress to your normal walking routine.

At some point, your dog may try to paw off the muzzle or roll and rub it along the ground. Just use gentle pressure to pull the dog’s head up and if necessary use your other hand to get the paws off. Once the dog stops, release the pressure, wait a bit and say good dog and give a treat. Never leave the dog unattended with the halter or they will learn to remove it. Never let your dog run loose and drag the leash or jerk the leash or they can be injured.

If you have done any target training, this can also be used to teach the dog to enjoy the halter. The principle is the same. Have the dog target a hand with the halter in it. Then have them target their nose into the nose loop… etc.
To see how a head halter can be used with behavioural problems watch the video below. It will also show you how to calmly deal with a dog that is trying to pull. This is Dr. Sophia Yin, a really great behaviourist. Also, watch her timing of the treats which is spectacular.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUCl6ndLN7Q

Here is a great video that shows you how to make your dog love the head collar. You shouldn't walk your dog with it until they will push their nose in like the video shows:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wakterNyUg

 

INTRODUCTION TO MUZZLES

Muzzles can be very useful for aggressive dogs and the basket type muzzle pictured right will allow the pet to breathe, eat and drink with it on. There are several different types. If your dog is large and very rough a similar wire type muzzles might be a little more durable than the plastic ones. Personally, I like the Baskerville Ultra Muzzle and I sell this, plus the type above, on my website. Click on this link to view and then click on the picture and then the email link to purchase (for local orders I will come to your home to fit it):

http://www.drlianamawer.ca/index.html

Never trust a muzzle 100% though. Dogs can break them and get them off. Always consider safety first.

The desensitization process is very similar to the above. Instead of feeding through the muzzle you can place peanut butter or cheese whiz or honey inside the muzzle or large treats that won’t fall out. This will encourage your dog to put his/her nose in the muzzle.

Here is a great video that shows the desensitization process:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FABgZTFvHo&noredirect=1

Note, if your dog has a sensitive tummy ask your veterinarian what treats would be appropriate. Once you get to a stage where you are leaving the muzzle on you can feed treats through the muzzle. Some muzzles have a little piece at the end that slides out to allow you better access. Once your dog is comfortable with the muzzle allow the dog some supervised free time and interrupt the dog if he/she tries to get the muzzle off. Most dogs will have difficulty getting a well fitted muzzle off.

As the video suggests, use the muzzle for fun events as well as the intended use. We don't want it to predict bad or frightening things.

If your dog has had bad experiences with a muzzle, try buying a different style or brand. Hopefully, they won’t equate it with the experiences that occurred with the old muzzle.

Once your muzzle is fitted and accepted by your dog, you can now begin behaviour modification exercises to correct the behaviour. For more information, contact me at ldmawer@hotmail.com.

Thanks for your interest and wishing you the best.

Dr. Liana Mawer

Last updated July 2013