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Head halter recommendations

Having been humiliated at our dog obedience classes by Harley on two occasions now we've been told that it would be best for us to invest on a head halter for Harley. She gets so focused on the other dogs she completely forgets any training she's had! She won't be distracted by food nor toys and fails to listen to any commands *sigh*

Does anyone use a gentle leader with their dogs? I was just concerned the shape of their heads/snouts may make some versions unsuitable. I would like to show the other class patrons that a Bull Terrier can at least sit on command.
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  • philsergeantphilsergeant Palm City, Florida, USA
    That's a Bullie's nature... they love other dogs.... accept it and don't have a care about what the class thins... let Bullies be Bullies.She'll mellow eventually
    In the beginning God created English Bull Terriers, in the image of EBT's, God created all other breeds.
  • Yeah I know Phil , it's just that now that I'm pushing 50 I'm painfully aware that I'm getting older and don't want to risk a broken hip when she see's an attractive dog in the distance.
  • edited July 2016
    I agree with philsergeant regarding the advice to just not care about what other people think about you and your dog - as long as it does not involve aggression or bothering other dogs or people.

    I have never used a "Halti". Basically because I think the promised effects are not worth the risk of head and neck trauma.
    Of all aversive methods and tools a "Halti" is probably the most gentle solution, if applied correctly.

    Yet, I personally like to rely on training. And things such as a "Halti" do not really help with that, unless they are used to assist in the training process and not only to "manage" the dog. The latter sadly is far more often the reason for people to acquire use such "tools".

    IF used, as far as I know, professional introduction for use is advisable, because as mentioned these things on a strong dog with an inexperienced "Halti"-user can cause serious health problems.

    While I absolutely understand your efforts to remain unharmed while your dog is still young and wild, I still really believe in the power of training and patience.

    If we only take the time to show our dogs, even young dogs can learn A LOT regarding "social behavior" and obedience. It is a lot of work, it takes time, it takes patience and consistency - YES!
    But it is worth it!

    Because the things the dog really LEARNS, it knows for life!
    While on the other hand things such as a "Halti" only limit the dog's steam as long as they are wearing it.
    Nothing learned from that once the "Halti" is gone.

    My dog is now 3 years old and walking properly with me in calm environments. It was a lot of work to achieve that status of today. However, in more crowded, new areas where there is a lot to discover, she still easily gets carried away. And it's still a work in progress.
    Stimulus control works a lot faster the more often you get the chance to place the individual under that stimulus/ in that situation. We live in a very calm area. That's not so helpful, but we're doing ok.

    Every time I take her to places with a lot of different stimuli, I plan extra time to make it a lesson too and do things slowly with her, ask her to do obedience exercises to slow her down a bit. I use a harness as a help for me to securely hold her and for her to not choke herself or hurt her neck while pulling on a collar.

    Everything else has to work using patience, taking time, working with the dog ...
    Even though we are still far away from perfect, I am kind of proud of the progress we have made so far. And I am preparing every time for all of those situations that I know will probably send her "overboard" again.

    These are the efforts that are just necessary with a teenage dog of that breed and temperament.
    Restraining may be a short-term solution, but that is about it.
    And if my intention were to just manage (and not train) the dog, I would always at least choose tools that bear the least risk of injury for the dog (harness for example) - which in my opinion excludes a "Halti".
    But that's only my personal opinion.
  • I am still using a prong collar with 16 month old Birdie and it made an immediate difference. She really wanted to be a puller, but is slowing becoming much better behaved on the leash. I don't think we will have to use the prong collar forever, but if we do, walks are the only time she has to wear it. Even though she is a little girl, she is very strong and I had fallen more than once using other devices. I am over 50 with shoulder and hip problems and I just couldn't risk another fall. Plus, she can slip right out of her regular collar. I call it the tag holder and would never rely on it during walks. 

    Obedience class didn't work for us when she was a little pup because she was so into the other dogs. She loves dogs and loves to play with any size dog that is up for it. She has nearly daily play dates with her friend from down the street. I take her to daycare occasionally and we go to the dog park as often as possible. She still has quite a bit of puppy in her and gets excited over other dogs, but it's getting better. I think the more she gets to meet and hang out with other dogs the better she gets about meeting them. 

    I believe that her socialization may also be improving her immune system. There was a bad kennel cough going around here about a month ago. Many of her friends became ill, some were so sick that it was scary. It may be coincidence, but it seemed to me that the ones that became the sickest are "only dogs" that rarely leave their homes. Some had been given the bordetella vaccine, others had not. Birdie was quite possibly a carrier since some of her friends never see any dog besides her, but she never displayed any symptoms.
  • edited July 2016
    The articles linked below explain a lot better than I could ever do, why I do think that a dog should NEVER have to wear neither a

    - prong collar
    - choker nor a
    - shock collar

    These are ALL AVERSIVE TOOLS that only temporarily regulate the dog's effort to pull.
    Basically because they leave the dog only two choices: Either getting hurt/ choked or slow down.
    That has nothing to do with education or training.

    And all of those tools are even worse than the "Halti" the thread opener was asking about.
    All of them can cause serious immediate and long-term injury to a dog.

    The "Halti", although restraining (which I also consider aversive vs. positive reinforcement) as well, at least does not work relying on pain/ punishment.

    The only two major issues with it in my view are:
    1. Correct application is essential to avoid injury for the dog (but at least in this case there IS a pain free way of handling, that's not the case with the other tools above).
    2. Just as the other tools above, unless used as an additional aid to refocus the dog in a training context, a "Halti" has no training effect and is sadly often only used to restrain/ control the dog.

    I personally still think that training and communication are the best ways to treat those furry family members of ours. Why do they need to spend their lives under punishment every time they walk outside? I would never put a prong collar on any of my other family members either.
    Sorry for being so outspoken. But my heart really breaks thinking of all those dogs spending their lives that way. It's not that I am trying to make you feel bad about or reconsider your choices. Well ... maybe a little bit ... but for good reason :D

    Oh, and just one last thing:
    If a dog has trouble focussing in a puppy class that only tells one thing: Too many distractions to concentrate and learn. I'd bet that things would work entirely different in a one-on-one training session.
    Also many trainers in those puppy classes are not used to working with a Bull Terrier and can easily get overwhelmed by their temperament, just as the owners.
    I'd look at the puppy class as one part of the socializing process and try not to inadvertently promote BAD habits in that high-stimulus environment ... and in the meantime maybe look for a trustworthy personal trainer for a few 1:1 sessions or a good book on dog training to try it myself.
  • Harley is doing really well with 1:1 training but introduce another dog into the equation and she completely loses any obedience. She gets opportunities to run and play off lead with other dogs in designated areas. However she wants to play constantly and is starting to growl and bark at other dogs (and not in a playful way) when she meets other dogs on the lead if they don't respond to her overtures. I guess you could say she's lead reactive. I know she will mellow out but I was worried she was developing aggression towards other dogs hence joining a obedience class to desensitise her and work with her on the problem in a controlled environment. Any advice would be gratefully received. The dogmatic has been the head halter recommended by EBT forums in the UK it's an award winning design so was going to opt for that but any suggestions about how to distract her from other dogs when she's got her 'attention lock' on another dog when toys and food don't work would be gratefully received.
  • edited July 2016
    The biggest issue with all of those "everyday behavior problems" is that they usually occur when we neither have the time nor the nerve to deal with them.
    They occur fast and sometimes unexpected. All of this makes it VERY hard or just impossible for us to get our dog to behave the way we want it to right away.

    The largest hurdle in that situation regarding the dog is that usually a LOT of very strong stimuli are involved, releasing hormones, such as Adrenaline, triggering a very excited mental state in which the dog literally goes deaf and blind for commands and our wishes.
    The dog will then follow its own priorities and instincts which often leads to embarrassing or stressful situations for us.

    The true nature behind training and learning is that it needs time and focus.
    None of which is given in the situation above.

    So, everyday life is clearly NOT a proper environment to start training such a critical situation. This situation is the goal we want to achieve, the situation we want to master.
    If we try to do our training in this environment, it’s like trying to win a horse race without even knowing how to ride a horse.

    Therefore we have to first create a proper training environment for us, limit the stimuli and work on communication, before we can work further towards our goal.
    The dog needs to learn and understand what we want in a calm environment, giving it a chance to focus.

    And then comes the KEY component:
    We DO NOT throw the dog into cold water by taking it from the calm environment in which our training now works reliably right into the "goal situation" and expect our training to work there as well and our dog to act as we desire.
    We raise the bar bit by bit, take it to higher levels GRADUALLY - STEP BY STEP - using the positive effects of habituation to give the dog a chance to grow into situations with more stimuli around and get used to them, learning to still being able to focus.

    In the given situation, like I said before, a Halti may be a tool to refocus the dog’s attention back to us. But, honestly, I don’t see any need to use a tool for that, if the training process allows enough time to make it happen automatically.

    I would definitely keep socializing the dog, if it likes other dogs so much.
    For now I would only allow encounters with other dogs off leash.

    In my opinion every dog should learn to pass other dogs without contact anyways, because not every other dog owner actually likes his dog to greet others. Other dogs can also be aggressive on leash or have other issues … the list of reasons goes on.
    So, for now I would let the dog meet other dogs in the dog park off leash and switch street sides or even turn around if possible, if we pass other dogs on leash and my dog makes a fuss.
    This also brings some distance between the two dogs and may already help to lessen the urge to meet & greet the other dog.
    In any way for now I would never even once “reward” the pulling by allowing my dog to actually meet the other dog on leash.

    The most important lesson the dog needs to learn is: “Pulling doesn’t get me anywhere.”
    And part of that message is already sent, if the dog does not reach the other dog through pulling.

    I guess a well fitting harness maybe with a handle would be a good tool to make sure the dog does not choke itself when pulling and to gain better control when leaving the scene with the dog pulling.
    I would NOT use ANY commands so far in this situation, because the dg is CLEARLY not yet able to pay attention and understand what we want.

    In the meantime I would arrange for a controlled training scenario in a calm area with few distractions (and especially other dogs) around, which I can use over the next few weeks or months:
    This could be a neighbor, a trainer or a friend with ONE dog. And then I would gradually start to train the leash behavior under controlled circumstances.
    If my dog gets too used to this one dog, I may need to switch the setting, always keeping in mind that the stimuli need to be limited for now by enough distance or dogs my own dog is not that interested in etc….

    These sessions are training, meaning I should have enough time ready, be prepared for the need to be patient and have a lot of treats ready, if my dog takes those outside OR alternatively hugs and praise will do as well.
    Then we start with that one dog and a lot of distance, reward EVERY positive behavior with praise or treats and at the end of every training session end up with allowing the dogs to really meet off leash and play, maybe after a nice “sit”.
    I would ask my dog for obedience exercises, such as a sit or heeling to take the steam away.
    And gradually over several training sessions raise the bar by reducing distance etc.
    Until we get to the point where we are ready to try our practiced training in real life.

    That means we try to apply it in the actual situation. If we notice that it does not work so far, I’d still waive commands and just manage. Especially NOT reward by allowing to meet etc.
    But wildly praise and reward for passing another dog without a fuss. Even reward already when it’s just a little less fuss than last time.

    That is HOW training works.

    The dog needs the time to understand what we want and a chance to manage its own hormones and excitement, so it will be able to pay attention to us.

    It takes time and time and patience.
    And repetition and habituation ARE KEY in this process.

    The same thing that happens when we inadvertently reward unwanted behaviors by inconsistent reactions on our side, can actually work in our favor when we use positive reinforcement correctly and are willing to spend the time on the entire process.

    It is probably not possible to transfer my advice immediately to your situation. It’s hard to explain such a complex matter on the internet.
    That is why I suggested 1:1 training.
    It ensures a controlled situation, both the trainer and you can completely focus on the dog and you can adjust the parameters, if needed.

    And always keep in mind: As long as your dog does not really know how to handle the situation the way you want it to do, you can always manage and just avoid inadvertent reinforcement of the wrong behavior.
    You just have to be clear about your own intentions and be aware of the state of mind of your dog and allow your dog the time to learn. If you do not have a lot of time for training, all you have to do is to accept that you period of managing will be a little longer, because the training process will take longer.

    Fast forward one year - and you will be amazed what the two of you have achieved!

    In training it is never the case that our dogs are not willing or are too dumb to comply. In 99% of all cases when training “does not work”, actually it’s only our expectations that just do not allow the correct time frame for the success to happen.
  • I took lily to obedience class. I just laugh at her lack of focus shes so adorable!
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