Head collars for dogs such as the Halti and the Gentle Leader are designed to fit around the dog’s muzzle and close behind their ears.
Both the Halti and the Gentle Leader make it easier for the handler to manage the dog on walks by controlling the dog’s head. As a result, the dog is not able to pull quite as hard. They also prevent chocking and gagging.
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 in the US. I am sold on the Halti.
What is a Halti?
1. 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.
2. The Halti also has another strap that clips onto the dog’s collar.
Newer Haltis feature the additional strap/loop that connects the Halti and the regular dog collar. This is a good safety for really strong dogs or dogs that manage to wiggle their nose out.
With this strap, you don’t loose control of your dog if the Halti comes undone for whatever reason. Your leash will still be connected to the regular collar.
Pros & cons of the Halti
- Thick neoprene padded noseband adds comfort
- Safety loop for extra safe walks
- Looser fit than the Gentle Leader
- Harder to get dogs used to than the Gentle Leader
- Pricing depends on sizing
The Halti is generally available in a vast variety of sizes ranging from size 0 to size 5, which makes it a great option for tiny dogs as well as giant ones.
However, the price of the Halti depends on the size, and ranges from $6 for the smallest one to $20 for the largest.
What is a Gentle Leader?
Unlike certain newer models of the Halti, the Gentle Leader only attaches to the leash, but not to the leash AND the dog’s regular 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.
Pros & cons of the Gentle Leader
- Easier to put on than a Halti
- Either no or very thinly padded noseband that can cause chafing
- Feels more flimsy because it’s less complex than the Halti
- No safety strap
Gentle leaders are available in 5 different sizes, which make them great for tiny dogs under 5 lb all the way up to giant pups of 130+ lb. Unlike with the Halti, the price is always the same around $16 and does not depend on the different sizes.
Halti vs Gentle Leader – the main differences
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. They’re also a good fit for reactive dogs who lunge and they make it easy to walk several dogs together.
Head collars fit over a dog’s muzzle like a halter on a horse and snap behind the ears.
Most dog owners can 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.
General downsides of head collars
The main 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 other training collars such as choke collars.
Some dogs take longer to accept a head collar than others and will put up a real fight when you’re trying to put it on them. That’s why patience is key when you’re getting them used to it. Use smelly, high-value treats when you first introduce the collar!
Remember that it’s a brand-new sensation for them because they typically don’t wear anything around their nose. Yummy treats will make them more willing to work with you. And I mean YUMMY, not boring milk bone treats. Try something like cut up hot dog, cheese, anything fishy or with green tripe!
Be aware of the fact that head collars are not a good fit for brachycephalic dogs. Those are dogs with shortened nasal passages i.e. muzzles like Boxers, Pugs, Bulldogs, etc.
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, although many people mistake them for muzzles. He can bite, pant, drink, eat, drool, you name it.
If you don’t feel like repeatedly explaining what your dog is wearing around his head and that NO, it’s not a muzzle, a head collar may not be the right choice for you.
Other training collar options
Instead, you may be interested in using some of the following options when training your dog to stop pulling and/or lunging on the leash.
Tip: Please make sure that you understand how to properly use each of these collars as they can cause injuries to the dog’s throat area when not used correctly! You can ask a professional dog trainer, watch a good, instructional YouTube video, or ask me in the comment section below this article.
Martingale Collar aka No-Slip Collar
The Martingale collar consists of two loops. The larger one goes over the dog’s neck, and the smaller one is what the leash gets attached to. They fit loosely around the dog’s neck and tighten slightly when the dog pulls.
They’re great for escape artists because dogs can’t get out of them. However, they’re only a good option for moderate pullers.
Slip Collar aka Choke Collar
Slip collars slip over the dog’s head, just like the name suggests. They’re also known as choke collars because they cause the dog to choke when he pulls.
They come in a variety of materials such as rope, nylon, metal, and leather.
Just like the Martingale collars, they’re escape proof.
Prong Collar aka Pinch Collar
The prong collar is designed similarly to the martingale collar as it consists of two loops. The main difference is that the prong collar’s loops are made of metal, and the large loop consists of metal prongs.
The leash attaches to the smaller loop. When it’s pulled for correction purposes, the prongs tighten around the dog’s neck and cause an unpleasant sensation.
E-Collar aka Shock Collar
E-collars are wireless electric training collars with a wide range of training intensity. They consist of a collar with a wireless transmitter and a remote that controls the collar. They’re used to teach dogs negative associations with undesired behavior.
For example, if the dog doesn’t listen to a command or acts up, he gets a correction with the e-collar.
These types of collars are mostly used to teach polite off-leash skills.
What kind of training collar do you use?
Let us know in the comments!
Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.
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