By Jody Frederick
Ed note: Halti leads are controversial in some quarters. The thinking is that when a very willful dog wears a Halti or similar gear and he turns his head too fast or too hard, the Halti may cause cervical damage. That said, many dogs have worn these with no injuries and have been well-served by them. Use due diligence when using a head collar and know your dog.
Duffy is not trustworthy around small animals. One evening a small off-lead and unattended dog approached while we were out on a walk. In a flash, Duffy lunged forward, grabbed the dog, and shook it in his jaws fully intending to kill it. Luckily, the dog escaped and a tragedy was averted.
This incident gave me great pause for thought about Duffy’s prey-drive and how best to handle it. Although I am new to this breed, after living with Duffy, I am convinced that a hound of this nature (extremely high prey-drive) cannot be completely trained out of this behaviour. Although some amount of training might come in handy (i.e, commands such as “Drop it” or “Easy”), one has to accept that a small number of such high prey hounds do exist. Hence, I do everything in my power to ensure that a situation like the above would not recur. Sadly, off-lead dogs are common in my neighbourhood; in a perfect world, all dogs would be under human control.
When I took Duffy to introductory obedience classes, my instructor suggested that I try a device called a Halti-lead simply because Duffy is such a large, head-strong male. A Halti-lead (also called a head collar) closely resembles and works on the same premise as a horse halter. The instructor explained that if a person has control of an animal’s head, then the person has control of the animal. The Halti-lead fastens behind the dog’s ears and has a strap that crosses the bridge of the nose. The lead snaps into a loop that hangs below the dog’s chin. The Halti-lead works because when the dog pulls, pressure is exerted across the nose, making it uncomfortable for the dog. Dogs that continually pull on the lead are completely controllable when wearing a Halti-lead. The Halti-lead is often more effective than a metal choker-collar because some dogs pull hard even when wearing a choke collar This device is endorsed by veterinarians and obedience instructors as humane and effective even though it can damage a dog’s larynx over time.
Preventing “the lunge”
For many months after the obedience class ended, Duffy wore the Halti-lead. Recently, I returned to the safety-collar and on that fateful evening, that is what Duffy was wearing. With the safety collar, he was easily able to lunge forward and grab the dog; the pressure exerted on his neck was not a deterrent and the collar did nothing to break his forward momentum. However, I wholeheartedly believe that the Halti-lead would have prevented Duffy from being able to lunge. My reasoning is twofold; First: Duffy is more sensitive to the pressure exerted on his nose and he stops immediately when the pressure builds; with a conventional collar, he is able to pull longer and harder! Second: When Duffy lunged forward, the Halti-lead would have turned his head 180 degrees because it pulls on his head, not on his neck like a conventional collar. This means that any time that he pulls suddenly, his head gets swiveled around, breaking his focus and his momentum. After all, it’s hard to chase something when you’re suddenly facing the other direction!
Adjustment period and a good fit
As a precaution, Duffy will wear the Halti-lead from this day forward. Like the safety collar, there is very little chance that a hound can back out of the Halti-lead. However, an initial proper fit is essential. Be sure to check the adjustment of the straps periodically. There is an adjustment period when your dog first wears a Halti-lead. Most dogs resist at first, but they quickly learn that they are the ones that control the pressure!
In a short time, a pleasant walk with a loose lead is guaranteed. If your hound wears one, be prepared to explain what it is and how it works to the general public because many people mistake it for a muzzle.
The Halti-lead is available in pet supply stores and catalogues. It retails for about $14 (Canadian) and $12 U.S.
The return to the safety collar
Duffy occasionally wears the Halti-lead but he more frequently wears a safety collar. I use the Halti-lead if someone else is going to walk him because it gives them much greater control over him. Duffy still wears the Halti-lead if we are going to a place (pet food store, for instance) where it’s possible we’ll run into small animals.
Duffy does not mind wearing the Halti-lead at all; I believe he associates it with his obedience class, which he dearly loved, or with going for a W-A-L-K, the highlight of his day.
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