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Gentle Leader® Headcollar
Troubleshooting and Common Questions


At what age can a puppy begin to use a Gentle Leader®?

  • As early as eight weeks.
How many hours a day can a dog wear the Gentle Leader®?
  • Up to 18 hours a day, removing it at night.
The dog keeps getting the Gentle Leader® off his nose - should the nose loop be tighter?
  • Do not immediately tighten the Nose Loop. In almost every case, when a dog gets the Nose Loop off, it is because the Neck Strap is too loose. Check the fit of the neck strap first - high on the neck, directly behind the base of the skull and snug so that you can BARELY get one finger underneath. If you're thinking, "this is too tight," you're probably there! Only after you have the Neck Strap adjusted correctly can you determine if the Nose Loop needs to be tightened or loosened. The Nose Loop rests just behind the corners of the mouth, in front of the eyes. You should be able to pull it forward to the beginning of the fleshy part of the nose, but not all of the way off.
What do I do if at first the dog resists?
  • The dog may resist the Gentle Leader® by pawing at it, flopping on the ground, etc. Remember that he is not in pain, he is simply resisting the new message telling him he is no longer in control. Don't try to "comfort" the dog with petting or soothing phrases like, "It's OK, it won't hurt you, I'm here..." If this is done while he is resisting, you are actually telling him that his resistance is what you want - you'll be reinforcing his attempt to control the situation. Save the praise and stroking for when he is no longer resisting and is calmly walking, sitting, standing or lying down, and keep a happy and upbeat voice.

  • For the dog who resists, we've found the easiest way to help him quickly adjust is to distract him from his attempts to fight or pout and to encourage a desired behavior - namely, walking and sitting. The closed hand target along with tasty treats and "happy talk" are great tools for getting him up and moving or calmly sitting. Reactionary behavior will fade as the dog acknowledges leadership.

  • Some people prefer to let the dog have a few minutes to adapt to the new feel of Gentle Leader® before making the final Nose Loop adjustment. If the final Nose Loop adjustment has not been made and the dog begins to paw, it's very important that the slack is taken up on the leash so that the dog cannot get the Nose Loop off. If he gets it off once, he'll fight ten times harder to get it off the next time! (People with less "hands on" experience in this type of situation may be better off making the final Nose Loop adjustment before attempting to walk/sit/walk/sit, etc.)
Caution: A dog needs to open his mouth to pant/breathe during physical activity or stress. Do not keep a constant pull on the leash for more than about 30 seconds. Your dog will be able to open his mouth as needed when there is no tension on the leash.

    What do I do when the dog continues to struggle with the Gentle Leader®?
    • First, check the fit. In many cases, it is because the Nose Loop is too tight. People often mistakenly make the Nose Loop too tight because they have made the Neck Strap too loose. If you loosen the Nose Loop, check the fit of the Neck Strap, which will probably be too loose now. Snug up the Neck Strap and readjust the Nose Loop.

    • Next, make sure there is not constant pressure on the leash. It is important to release the tension on the leash immediately whenever the dog is performing the right behavior. Remember that tension on the leash applies pressure on the muzzle telling the dog this is not the right behavior. A loose leash releases pressure and tells the dog, "Yes, this is what I want you to do!"
    The dog has developed a sore on the front of his neck!
    • A "hot spot" can develop if the headcollar is left on the dog for days without taking it off at night. The hot spot develops at the FRONT of the neck just above the Adam's Apple. This is a moist area that develops as three things coincide: the area under the front of the Neck Strap excludes light and ventilation and the normal bacteria of the skin develop in the presence of the increased temperature and lack of light.

    • Remove the Gentle Leader® immediately, and allow the hot spot to heal. Wash the Gentle Leader® before using it again (it is safe to machine wash and dry or drip dry). When reintroducing the Gentle Leader®, be sure to take it off each night. We recommend that the Gentle Leader® not be left on any longer than 18 hours per day.
    I've heard the Gentle Leader® can cause neck/spine injuries.
    • The co-developer of the Gentle Leader®, Dr. R.K. Anderson, has investigated rumors that wearing a Gentle Leader® can cause injury to the dog's neck or vertebra. None of the rumors could be substantiated - not one case of neck or vertebra injury could be documented as being caused by the Gentle Leader®. Dr. Anderson has investigated all of the injury reports that have come to his attention and continues to actively solicit any injury report for his personal investigation. Much of the early research used in developing the product was conducted in leading veterinary schools. During the past few years of use, behaviorists, veterinarians and trainers have come to recognize the inherent safety of the Gentle Leader® Headcollar when used according to instructions and increasingly recommend the Gentle Leader® as a safe and humane training aid.
    The Nose Loop has excessively rubbed the dog's nose hair or skin.
    • Excessive rubbing can occur when the Neck Strap is not properly fitted (too loose) allowing rotation of the Nose Loop. It will also occur if the handler jerks or yanks the leash to the side causing the Nose Loop to rotate.

    • Remove Gentle Leader® immediately and allow any skin abrasions to heal. Wash the headcollar before using again (it is safe to machine wash and dry or drip dry). When reintroducing the Gentle Leader®, make sure the Neck Strap is snug (one finger!) and the Nose Loop is behind the lips and can move freely to the end of the nose, but neither the handler nor the dog can pull the nose strap off. While the key is the proper snug fit of the neck strap and proper use to avoid rotation (no jerking or yanking to the side), a strip of Mole Skin can be used on the underside of the nose loop with the soft side of the Mole Skin against the dog.
    The dog won't move or play - he just "pouts" - when the Gentle Leader® is on.
    • Don't buy into it! Trying to soothe the dog with "it's okay," petting and eye contact inadvertently reinforces the "pout". Save the words, petting, treats and eye contact for when the dog is behaving the way you want him to.

    • When the dog is subdued and quiet, increase his activity level by using a high, happy voice, animated gestures (in other words, acting the fool) and encouraging him with toys, really tasty treats (freeze dried liver treats are often the "million dollar doggie reward") or encouraging him to stand up, walk or come using your target hand. Try creating a "treat trail" on the ground, and the dog is rewarded while walking from treat to treat. Work with him when he's hungry - right before his normal feeding time. Plan on a number of short (two-minute) practice sessions before an actual walk.

    • Completely withdraw all attention - no eye contact, no verbal cues, no touching - or better yet, walk away. He gets attention - eye contact, praise, petting and sometimes food - when he's not fussing with the headcollar or is displaying desired behavior. Make sure good things happen when the Gentle Leader is on - eating, playing, petting. Do things that are fun for him while he has the headcollar on - going to the park, lake, pet store, for a ride in the car.

    • If he refuses to budge, try "rocking" him like a stuck car with a pull and release, pull and release (no jerking) on the leash. Squat down and encourage him with your voice and target hand. Immediately release the tension when he starts to move, praise and treat.

    • Remember that the dog is not in pain, he is simply resisting the new message telling him he is no longer in control - the handler's patience and persistence will pay off!
    Should I recommend a Gentle Leader® for a shy dog?
    • Leading behaviorists and trainers report that Gentle Leader® is particularly effective in helping fearful and shy dogs feel more secure and calm in situations that previously produced anxiety. With Gentle Leader®, your dog instinctively senses and responds to your leadership, allowing him to relax and let you be responsible for his welfare. When fear and anxiety are reduced, your dog will learn faster and be a more rewarding companion.
    When can an owner go back to a traditional collar?
    • This is a common question, and the answer is as individual as the handler and the dog. One of the most unique features of Gentle Leader® is that it can convert to a traditional-style collar at anytime. (In fact, Gentle Leader® is the only headcollar that can be converted in this way.) The handler might choose to use Gentle Leader® as a headcollar for only a short period of time to deal with one specific behavior problem, then convert it to a traditional-style collar from that point on. After the initial training period, the handler might use it primarily as a traditional-style collar, converting it back to a headcollar in those certain situations when more control is needed. For many owners, Gentle Leader® provides such ease of control that the headcollar option is their permanent choice throughout the life of their dogs. (There are some who feel that because it never chokes, Gentle Leader® is more humane than collars of any style and, therefore, replaces a collar for daily wear, even without behavior problems.)

    • The owner is the one who must make the determination as to when and if a change is in the best interests of the dog and family. Chances are that an elderly couple with an energetic Great Dane will benefit from using Gentle Leader® forever! If the owner has a young Lab who loves to jump up on people, the Gentle Leader® might be used with the Indoor Drag Line for a couple of months up to a year to continue to reinforce "sitting to greet." Again, it all depends on each situation. A simple guideline is that Gentle Leader® should be used whenever the owner/and or family members want to have greater control of the dog.

    • When an owner is happy with the level of control and would like to see how his dog does with a standard collar, Gentle Leader® offers the convenience of convertibility. Simply use the Neck Strap of Gentle Leader® as you would a regular collar, without placing the Nose Loop around the dog's nose. Attach the leash to the Control Ring, and the Nose Loop becomes an extension of the leash to the collar. If you are out for a walk and find the need for more control, just slip the Nose Loop back over your dog's nose.
    Note: When using the Nose Loop as an extension of the leash, be sure to slide the snap clamp all the way up to the Center Bar Ring to prevent chewing.


     

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