Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "It's Not a Muzzle!" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

It's Not a Muzzle!

By Charlotte Peltz

The standard chain collars that have been used for generations have caused handlers and dogs many problems and lots of pain. Often referred to as "choke chains" they have indeed choked dogs to death because of being left on when the dog was unsupervised. Even when supervised, dogs playing together often suffer serious injuries or death resulting from getting teeth caught in the chain. The dog whose teeth are caught fights for freedom and the other dog fights to be free of the dog hanging from his neck. One breaks a jaw while the other is strangled. Tracheas have been broken and, at the very least, necks have been badly bruised. People who do not receive training in their proper use don't even know how to put them on the dogs!

People with an aversion to such collars often resort to harnesses, which, more than likely, teaches a dog how to pull really well. After all -- that is what is put on sled dogs to enable them to comfortably pull heavy weights!

Now there are a number of alternatives that work almost like magic. These are called "head halters." The basic construction is composed of a strap that goes around the dog's nose and another that clasps around the neck just behind the ears -- there is no pressure on the throat. There is a ring below the dog's chin and the leash is attached there.

When the dog pulls, attempts to jump, or lunges at another dog, the head is turned as he does so. The handler makes no corrections whatsoever -- the head halter does it all. Since dogs are constructed to go in the direction that they point their noses, they quickly learn that the pulls, jumps or lunges simply do not work as they previously did.

The Halti brand head halter has been sold in stores for years. It comes in 6 sizes from 0 (Yorkshire Terrier) to Size 5 (St. Bernard). The major complaint is that dogs can remove the nose strap too easily.

The Gentle Leader brand has recently been made available to the public -- prior to that it could only be purchased from veterinarians. The construction is similar, but there is no tightening of the nose strap when pressure is put on the leash. This brand is definitely preferred by trainers using humane training methods. There are many size options and even various colors compared to only black for the Halti. (I have these available for clients.)

So -- if this is such a wonderful idea, why doesn't everyone have one? Well -- for starters, there is the idea that it is a muzzle, which it is not. Dogs can eat, drink and certainly bite while wearing the head halter. Almost without exception dogs object to the collar at first just as puppies objected to their first experience with a soft collar around their necks. Some owners feel the dog is suffering, but with a bit of praise and treats for proper behavior while wearing the head halter, dogs accept them just as they accept other collars.

There are a couple of problems. First is your learning how to put [on] the collar and properly adjust it. The next problem is for the handler to do nothing! That is probably the most difficult part since people are accustomed to giving corrections -- even when they don't work. The final problem is trying to convince those who know nothing about such training devices that the dog is not wearing a muzzle, and the dog is not being mistreated. For that problem, try the solution one person uses -- she wears a T-shirt that reads -- "It is NOT a muzzle!"

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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