Free Day!
Free Night!

Pet Resources - Dog Behavior and Training

Back to Article Index

Are Dog Head Halters Humane?

One of the more popular new tools in dog training is the head halter. Endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States, head halters are not only highly effective in teaching dogs how to walk properly, but are useful in obedience training as well.

How does it work?
A head halter is a collar with two straps: one goes around the dog’s nose, and the other goes around his neck, just behind his ears. A small ring is attached to the nose strap under the chin. The leash attaches to this ring. When the dog begins to pull you, the head halter causes the dog’s nose to be turned back toward you. He can no longer continue pulling. Professional trainers confidently state that head halters are a humane method of training, because they do not cause any pain to the dog, and cease unwanted behaviors immediately.

Contrary to popular opinion a head halter is not a muzzle, nor does it restrict mouth movement as a muzzle does. A dog in a head halter can still eat, drink, pant and bark (and even bite). While a muzzle is designed to stop certain behaviors by restricting all mouth movements, a head halter restricts the dog for only an instant, then releases. It is a correction tool that helps teach the dog what is not acceptable at the exact time the behavior is happening.

Putting it on
Have plenty of treats on hand during the introduction and break-in phase.

  • Show the dog the halter, and allow him to sniff it and explore. Praise him and give treats.
  • Place the neck part of the collar on the dog. Praise and treat. If the dog reacts negatively, don’t push him on any further for the day.
  • Put treats in the palm of your hand and open the nosepiece of the halter. After a while, slip the nosepiece over the dog’s nose. Praise and treat.
  • Place the neck collar part of the halter back on the dog, and adjust to fit. Treat and praise.
  • Attach a short lead (not a retractable one), treat and praise your dog. Do this several times in a row.

The neck strap should be just behind the dog’s ears, as high as it can be. You should be able to place one finger between it and the dog’s neck. The nose strap should be just below the dog’s eyes and not loose enough to slide off. The metal ring must be directly under the dog’s chin. Halters are only effective when fitted properly, so be sure to read all directions and information in the head halter package

Getting used to the halter
Most dogs do not like the halter at first and make many attempts to get it off. Keep his head up, keep him moving and use plenty of praise. Have him wear the halter around the house and yard for short periods of adjustment before venturing out.

Anyone who is going to walk the dog needs to learn how to use the halter as well. When correcting the dog, pull the lead sideways, never with a rough tug. Used properly, the dog will learn to associate the halter with enjoyable walks and positive experiences.