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Dog on headcollar

March 19, 2012

PetSafe® Expert

PetSafe® Guest

Training Tool Choices: The Harness or The Head Collar?

By Mandie Sweetnam

As a dog owner, deciding between which harness to use can be very confusing, especially with so many decisions. If you’re looking for something that is comfortable, an excellent fit and stylish, the Sure-Fit harness is the way to go. This harness is a back-hooking harness and will not, I repeat, not help you if your dog pulls on the leash. This is because it isn’t designed to discourage pulling like the front-hooking Easy Walk harness or the Gentle Leader head collar.

Dog in harnessDog in harness

The Sure-Fit is ideal for comfort but isn't helpful to discourage pulling

Not to worry – The Gentle Leader and Easy Walk are both training tools that have been designed specifically to discourage pulling (and even some other unwanted behaviors).

The Gentle Leader is hugely popular among trainers and veterinarians because of its ability to allow dog owners to walk their pet comfortably on a leash. What many people don’t realize, is that it also helps to train against other undesired behaviors such as excessive barking, lunging, jumping and in some cases anxiety and aggression. (Please consult a trainer or veterinarian if your dog is displaying anxiety or aggression)

Dog with headcollarDog with headcollar

Comfortable, yet efficient

As the old saying goes “Where the nose goes, the body follows”, the Gentle Leader can be used to give you more control of your dog’s attention. Lunging and jumping, for instance, are typically not a desired behavior in your dog, but when you can redirect the dog’s attention back to you, the jumping and lunging will begin to stop.

The Gentle Leader prevents these things the same way it prevents pulling, by applying gentle pressure on the nose that is released immediately after the dog stops pulling. For the owner, pulling and jerking on the leash is never necessary and is counterproductive to your training.

Dog in headcollarDog in headcollar

Gentle Leaders can be used on most dog breeds above the age of 6 weeks

The Gentle Leader shares traits, other than its no-pull benefits, with the Easy Walk Harness. Neither device is damaging to the trachea. They both prevent gagging, choking and coughing. Both can be used daily and both are approved for use on puppies of 6 weeks of age or older.

Dog with ballDog with ball

The Easy Walk harness has its own benefits as an alternative to the Gentle Leader. I will often ask people if their only concern is their dog pulling their arm on daily walks. If their answer is yes, I will suggest the Easy Walk Harness.

The acclimation process for the Easy Walk is generally shorter than the Gentle Leader and it’s as easy to fit, if not slightly easier because it goes on the body instead of the head. Like the Gentle Leader though, the proper fit is important.

Dog in harnessDog in harness

Great fit on Magoo!

The Easy Walk is also the preferred choice to use on brachycephalic breeds or short-nosed dogs. (Pugs, Boxers, etc) The recommended fit of the nose loop on the Gentle Leader is not always appropriate for these breeds because of the shape of their noses. Luckily, the Easy Walk has a size that fits them - with 8 different sizes available.

Easy Walk sizing chartEasy Walk sizing chart

Many dog owners actually find that they have a need for each harness at different times. For example, I use the Gentle Leader if I’m taking Tombie to the vet because we’re in close quarters in the lobby and she wants to visit with everyone. The Gentle Leader helps me keep her safe and keep the situation under control.

Since it’s her head (nose) that is the issue, the Gentle Leader is the best fit. When we go to the park, I use the Easy Walk because we have a little more space and she’s more relaxed. Many dogs may only need one or the other for all situations.

Harness vs. headcollarHarness vs. headcollar

While both of these training tools are a huge help, they are still only tools. To really train your dog not to pull on the leash, you’ll need to be consistent with your harness training and top it off with rewarding them when they’re not pulling. A training tool will only work if used properly.

To maximize your training experience with the Gentle Leader head collar or the Easy Walk harness, you’ll need to remember these few things:

  • Pick the harness/tool you need to train with based on your training goals
  • Size and fit the harness properly - measure the girth for the Easy Walk
  • Use the harness consistently and reward the behaviors you like

For extra help in deciding between the Easy Walk and The Gentle Leader, our customer service line is always open. 1-800-933-5595. We have informative brochures available also!

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