Head collars such as the Halti and the Gentle Leader are designed to fit around the dog’s muzzle. This makes it easier for the handler to control the dog on walks, because the dog is not able to pull quite as hard. These types of collars are often referred to as “head collars.”

When it comes to head collars, some dog owners use Gentle Leaders and some use Haltis. There are other brands, but these seem to be the most popular, at least around here. I am sold on the Halti (top two photos).

There are two things about the Halti that make it slightly more effective than the Gentle Leader (bottom photo):

The Halti has an extra strap leading from the nose to the neck. This keeps the other strap from pulling to the side or up into the dog’s eyes, which happens all the time with Ace and his Gentle Leader.

The Halti also has another strap that clips onto the dog’s collar. This is a good safety for really strong dogs or dogs that manage to wiggle their nose out. The Gentle Leader only attaches to the leash, but certain models of the Halti attach to the leash and the collar. Ace has never gotten his Gentle Leader off, but I’ve known other dogs that have. It would be nice to have that added attachment to the collar.

Black great dane wearing a dog Halti

Chelsea models the Halti. See the extra strap?

To the right is Chelsea, modeling the Halti for us. Ace is reluctantly modeling the Gentle Leader below.

Besides the slight differences I mentioned, the Gentle Leader and the Halti are basically the same. I refer to both as head collars, and they serve the same purpose. They are tools to teach a dog not to pull, and they make it a lot easier to walk and control a dog if he does pull. Head collars fit over a dog’s muzzle like a halter on a horse and snap behind the ears.

Most dog owners could benefit from using a head collar with their dogs. People find them more humane than choke or pinch collars because they don’t tighten around a dog’s neck. If you’re not sure, you may be interested in my post on reasons not to buy a Halti.

I use all types of collars with Ace, but the head collars work well when I bike with my dog because he can’t pull me. Even with a pinch collar, he can easily pull if he tries. I also have him on a head collar when I take him to certain places where I have a harder time controlling him such as stores that allow dogs or public dog events.

The only problem with head collars is that untrained dogs will go right back to pulling when they’re on a normal collar. Of course, this is also true with choke collars. Many people have asked me if my dog can still open his mouth with a head collar on. Yes, he can. These are not muzzles. He can bite, pant, drink, eat, drool, you name it.

What kind of training collar do you use?

Black dog wearing a red Gentle Leader

Ace models the Gentle Leader

Sign up to receive additional content in my bi-weekly newsletter:

Pin It

70 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. Whit on December 17, 2012

    I use a Gentle Leader on a current puller of mine that nothing else has worked for – the pinch collar and the anti-pulling harnesses work great normally… except for when there is a cat or a squirrel in sight my dog goes nuts. The gentle leader has made our walks extremely enjoyable with only minimal training.

    I had a doberman for many years that I used the gentle leader as well. My only precaution to others is to be so very careful when using the head harnesses, as you can severely damage the dogs neck/back. My dobie ended up having a slipped disc, probably from either a pull that was too much for him, or from possibly jerking his head. There’s no way to know, and he ended up being okay, but I rushed him to the ER vet one night because I thought he had bloat. Turns out he was fine, but the next day at my regular vet it was discovered he had a slipped vertebrae. From then on out, my old dog wore a regular harness as he was getting up there and didn’t care to pull anymore.

    So while I don’t know if it came from the gentle leader, bad breeding or old age, its just something that should always be used properly.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on December 31, 2012

      Thank you for the input!

    • blueskies29 on April 16, 2014

      My dog was injured wearing a head halter, pulling his neck muscles and hurting his back which still causes problems but is less of an issue with chiropractic treatments. I used one on the advice of a behaviourist but wish I had researched more before following advice blindly.
      They ARE a great tool if you have a puller BUT I would clarify I mean a dog who consistantly pulls, not a dog who jerks or lunges suddenly. IMO for those issues I would avoid them, as the pressure on the neck when a dog lunges can cause injuries.

  2. Taly on December 29, 2012

    Great info, I was looking for an alternative to the gentle leader which is the only way I can control our rambunctious 18 month old 95 lb. boxer/mastiff mix when walking him. Although control is better than with a choke chain, he still does pull for squirrels and other dogs and sometimes for people, so yesterday I noticed an unusually deep ridge on his nose from the gentle leader digging in when he pulled. I am going to try the halti, as I had been about to jigger the gentle leader by adding some padding around the top loop so as not to let the loop cut into him. Our female boxer who is around the same age is only 55 lbs. and much easier to control, I use a harness on her with great success (although I clip the leash to the ring on her chest and she no longer pulls at all).

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 10, 2013

      I hope the Halti works well for your dog!

      • Taly on February 6, 2013

        Well I tried the halti but unfortunately it is not made for my mastiff/boxer’s big muzzle and drooping jowls and folds. I liked the padding for the bridge of the nose but the fit did not work as the side straps impede the folds off his jowls maki g it very uncomfortable for him. I tried rigging some padding for the gentle leader with gauze pads but that is really a short term band aid solution, so now we’re back to the gentle leader and I hope something else comes along for me to try.

  3. hannah on February 4, 2013

    I have a bichon / jack russel mix. He pulls on the leash ALL the time. there isnt 1 second that hes walking beside me. when ever he sees a dog hes gone. he starts barking, yelping and lunging. i got him a gentle leader, and well…….. ITS AMAZING!!! he walks by my side now (with the ocasional pull but if u give a little tug he will come right back). he still gives a little yelp when he sees a dog but not as bad as he used to. i love it. i would recomend it to anyone.

  4. monique on April 17, 2013

    I took the advice on here and went with the Halti…let me say….I LOVE IT! My dog has literally become a different dog almost instantly. She enjoys it as well…took her to a soccer game on Sunday with tons of kids and balls and she laid on a blanket in the sun getting a belly rub while I barely had to hold the leash….the last game she was at she saw the ball and broke the lead and disrupted all 4 games and took two grown men down in the process….she is a different dog and now becomes excited when she see’s me getting the Halti ready because she knows she is going for a walk….thanks to all for the advice and stories you shared! By the way she is a 17 month old Yellow Lab who weighs 65-70 lbs.

  5. Roberta on May 3, 2013

    Hey there, thanks for this post, I actually referenced you in my latest blog post.

  6. Whippet wonders on May 5, 2013

    If you can’t train a dog without using an aversive such as pinch, prong or choke chain then you shouldn’t be giving dog training advice.
    And it’s incredibly stupid to use a halti while riding a bike with a dog. An accident waiting to happen :(
    Also management tools suh as head collars, choke chains don’t teach the dogs anything. Put the effort in and actually train them.

  7. emz on June 5, 2013

    To be honest I have not tried either but have a slip lead with a nose slip which works well too. I would like to say to the choke chain lovers that even a normal collar and lead will cause tracheal problems in dogs, and choke chains etc make it worse. It sseems unlikely that pressure on the bone of the nose will cause breathing problems (unless it is fitted incorrectly over the cartalidge part of nose). I see these products just like the Monty Roberts dually halter for horses an effective way of gaining quick non damaging results And as with horses you exchange to normal lead once the desired behaviour is achieved, and if the change over is causing problems use both slowly reducing the use of the head halter.
    Like the equine dually halter too many people will use it in an inhumane way, fit it wrong, ans ultimately make issues worse. So it is important that people buying these training tools to research them fully to understand how to use them, and preferably find a trainer That knows to advise the dog owner.
    Surely if using training tools such as these are seen as bad so is any reward, eg treats a fuss or clicker etc, you should also view any collar or harness as a training tool and also bad, leaving you with a dog running loose and without being seen as a leader it will be gone to start a proper pack!
    I am actually working on a training method which uses no equipment other than food bowls and a dog, (obviously a collar fitted outside with I’d tag but no lead until I have the dog in control without forcing it near me)
    But as I say I’m working in it and I would recommend products such as this now as they are non harming helpful tools.

  8. Robert Smith on June 6, 2013

    I have used most kinds they sell at petsmart/co over the years. I think the halti works the best by far.

  9. lablovr09 on October 6, 2013

    My 90lb lab is 18 months old and has always pulled on his walks. I was using a harness where the leash attached on the front and it helped a little but he would still practically pull my arm off if he saw a dog friend or was startled by another dog. Well, let me tell you that the Halti lead is amazing!! He is a completely different dog and now we both enjoy the walk. It did take some getting use to on his part and at first he tried to remove it with his paws but he is much more comfortable with it now. I would strongly encourage anyone who has a puller to invest in the Halti and give it a try!!!

  10. Leonie on May 4, 2014

    I have had both a Halti and Gentle Leaders. I have two foxies and the Jack Russell is powerful and I am fairly disabled. I cannot walk my dogs at all without the nose control. I lost one Gentle Leader and had to use a Halti. My Jack Russell chewed thru it immediately because there is no way you can adjust the nose size. Next, the collar part slipped somehow and was totally loose and the nose part, I sewed it back making it smaller he still could chew it and it still fell off. I have nearly lost him every time I have used it in built up city area.
    Alternatively the Gentle Leader is simple and easy to fit and put on and is literally what it says it is, the webbing is stronger so the dog is safe and of course cannot chew it as I can adjust it to fit the nose perfectly, no way can he get it into his mouth because it sits further back on the head past his jaw . Doesn’t need a safety strap.
    One tiny dog, who can still pull and get out of things, and one powerful Jack Russell, we now have peaceful pleasant walks with no pulling because they simply can’t and I feel confident that my dogs are safe to walk around traffic and other dogs.
    Without the Gentle Leader which is very well made and simple, strong and easy to put on we would not be able to go for walks at all. The Halti, still expensive, is now totally ruined after 3 walks! Thank god for the safety lead as it is very much needed. The webbing is not strong enough and because the nose piece cannot be adjusted to fit the nose a clever dog can get his mouth in and chew it off! There is a warning that that can happen, how to prevent it, I am walking my dogs not checking the Halti to see if he is having fun eating it.
    I would say the Halti is only suitable for placid breeds who have no inclination to play with the thing. The Jack Russell is not a chewer in general he did it because he could!

  11. AuntSue on September 2, 2014

    I started using a head collar when my daughter’s pointer mix jerked me the wrong way and I had to have physical therapy for my shoulder. After a few months, she learned to walk nicely by our side. When I adopted a chi/Italian greyhound mix, I could not believe how he could pull. With a head collar on, he learned to behave. It took him about 6 months to learn how to heel, or walk gently with a martingal collar and a loose leash. My new rescue is a rat terrier. She is 7 years old and had never been walked because she pulled. Wow! What a difference. She does not like it, but she comes willingly to put it on so she can go for a walk. She seems much more secure when she is heeled and under my control. She is still a reactive dog (other dogs, cats, bicycles, motorcycles, etc) But quickly calms down. Sometimes she actually just walks by. She has been on a halti for a year, I hope to eventually not need to use it, but she is a terrier. We will see.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on September 3, 2014

      Oh I’m so glad to hear these tools have made a difference for all your dogs. That’s good to hear! My goal is always to wean the dog off of them as well, but it just depends on the dog.

HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY?