So often the halti rides up too close to the eyes for my liking. Something which does not tend to happen with a figure 8 lead. Although I must admit I use neither. I train heel before the pups ever go outside the gate. All I ever use is a simple gundog slip lead. Below is a little article I wrote some time ago about how I train my dogs.
First off, as in most things, there is more than one way to skin a cat. This is just my way.
Firstly, I never take a puppy for a walk. Every time we go out of the gate it’s training. But not too regimented, rather fun training. Think about this for a moment. You are going on the school run and take your pup with you, killing two birds with one stone. Kids to school and puppy walked! You are in a hurry as you always are at this time, trying to get the kids to school on time, and preferably with them not getting run over by a lorry on the way! You meet other mothers on the way and have a nice natter as you go. Once you have posted the kids in through the school gates you can relax and walk back home with the other mums. In all honesty pup did not get much of your attention for the whole of that time, you were too busy. Training the pup was the last thing on your mind! Yet your pup was learning. He was learning that there were exciting smells and sights just past the end of the lead, people to greet and to make a fuss of him, so he wanted to get there in a hurry. In other words, he was learning to pull you along!
Better to leave pup at home. A lesson learned by him that he cannot go everywhere you go! Take him out only when you can give him undivided attention. But I’m getting a bit in front of myself. Training starts the minute the pup arrives, well before it has had it’s vaccinations and able to go out.
The first part of training is to get the pup use to a collar, and this literally starts the day the pup arrives home. I always put the collar on immediately before feeding. That way the food takes the pup’s mind off the collar. I leave the collar on all the time unless pup is in her crate. (It has been known for collars to get caught up in the bars and strangle the pup, so don’t take chances!) I like the softest, lightest collar I can find.
My first actual heel training takes place off lead in the garden. Armed with a few treats I call the pup to my left side, waft the treat in front of his nose so that he is aware of it and with the command “Heel” walk forward 3 or 4 paces then stop, praise him and give him the treat, then give him my “End of training command.” In my case I use “OK” as the command. Basically it means “We’ve finished and you can do what you want now.” Talk to your pup while he’s walking at heel, tell him how wonderful he is, keep his attention on you.
After a few days of this, two or three times a day I’ll start using a lead. And for my first lead I use a piece of string! It’s lighter than any lead, which is ideal because I don’t want pup to really notice the “Lead.” We are starting to walk a little further now, so time to think about where to walk. Aim at 10 seconds of heelwork at first, keep it short and keep it fun. Walk pup on the left and If he tries to get in front turn in an anticlockwise direction across in front of him. If he lags behind turn clockwise away from him and encourage him up to heel. Never walk in a straight line for more than 5 paces, straight lines are boring! Squares, Triangles and circles are the order of the day. Add other exercises in to provide variation. Stays are so useful for when you need to clear something up on the floor, or even for taking photographs. Recalls are obviously useful. But don’t combine the exercises at this point. For example, if doing a sit stay then make sure you praise the sit stay before moving on to a recall. Make sure your pup KNOWS it’s finished it’s sit say!
There is a lot of talk about the relative merits of collars or harnesses. But in reality they only secure the dog from running off. Really they play very little part in the actual training. Because my pups are destine to be working gundogs I don’t want a collar on my dogs when working because of the risk of getting caught up and strangled. So I use a slip lead, so named because it is quick to slip on or off and does not need a collar! If you do your training right then you never have a tight lead so what you use is really unimportant.
So now the vaccinations have been given and your pup is able to go outside the gate. I slip my pup into my car and take her to the park where I can continue training along the route I’ve started. I don’t want to walk there because it’s too far to be able to keep my pup’s attention. Plenty of time for that when the habit of walking to heel is set. All the training in the park is the same as at home. Short pieces of work interspersed with games. Even sitting on a seat watching the world pass by is still training, it’s training patience! Work at your training and you will end up with a dog to be proud of. I don’t take my dogs for a walk. I go for a walk with my dogs, and thats a big difference.
Below is my Chloe learning heelwork in the garden with my old Amy joining in.
I would and do use a halti from time to time. Agree with John about them riding up, the same thing happened when I first used one 15 years ago. But I’ve recently bought one for my 40k boy and the design has changed and I haven’t found the same problem. Nothing will substitute training to walk nicely on a flat lead or slip lead but it’s handy to have another tool in the box, just in case.
I have a Halti for Ash but only use it for pavement pounding around the town where there might be the odd CAT lurking...and yes the new design is much, much better, for normal walks we use a slip lead.
Molly seems to accept the Gentle Leader better than the Halti. However I used the Halti very successfully with my previous dog for 12 years.
I always use a Halti link when using a head collar. If the head collar comes adrift while they are rolling around on the grass you still have control of them. very important if you are walking along a busy street.