When used correctly, the head collar is a powerful training tool that can help the dog learn to manage its behavior. Once a leader or advisor fits the head collar, it is important that it be used consistently until further evaluation reveals the need for a different training tool. Guide Dogs uses the Halti Collar and Gentle Leader brands as training devices. A leader or the Puppy Raising Advisor can determine if a dog needs a head collar, fit it, and give you instruction on its proper use. Here are answers to frequently asked questions, from Puppy Raising Advisor.

dog wearing headcollar



 Q: Is it ever okay to remove a head collar when socializing or training?
A: If your leader or advisor fits the puppy with a head collar, it should be used anytime the lead is attached to the dog. We want the dog to manage his behavior–not his equipment.

Q: Is it okay to switch back and forth from head collar to flat collar when socializing or training?
A: No. Once a head collar is fitted it should be used every time the lead is attached to the dog. The dog should learn to manage his behavior, not his collar. Removing it once he is on “good behavior” only teaches him that the collar is uncomfortable, and is thought of more as a punishment, and can actually make the behavior worse in the long run. Please note that it is not a punishment, just another training tool.

Q: Should the dog wear the head collar 24 hours a day?
A: The head collar is only worn with a leash or in the introduction phase. When getting the dog used to it, the head collar can be worn during feeding and play to keep the pup’s mind off of it.

Q: Should the head collar be left on when the dog is relaxing at home, basically unsupervised?
A: Head collars should be removed if the dog is unsupervised. It can be easily hung up and cause injury.

Q: Is it safe to leave the head collar on the dog when the dog is left alone in its kennel for a period of time?
A: No. The head collar should be removed when the dog is in its kennel, again, for safety.

From Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.

A head collar is a piece of training equipment that fits on a dog's head and muzzle. 'Head collar' is a generic term for this type of equipment and there are two brand names of products that Guide Dogs for the Blind routinely uses–the Halti and the Gentle Leader. It is appropriate to call either of these pieces of equipment by the generic term, ‘head collar’ or, depending on the brand a puppy is fitted with, it may be called by the brand name. The idea is simple; where the head goes the body will follow. Head collars are used for gentle control of a puppy or dog, and should be looked upon as just another ‘tool’ available to raisers. Imagine leading a horse by a collar around its neck; the horse would simply drag you where it wanted you to go! By having control of the horses’ head, you control its body. The same thing applies for dogs. All Guide Dogs are introduced and worked in a head collar at some point prior to being placed as a working guide. Depending on the needs of the individual dog or handler, it may be the best equipment for a working guide to use. It is beneficial, but not a necessity, for puppies to be accustomed to the head collar before they return for formal training.

Who should use a head collar and at what age should the puppy be introduced to one?
Leaders and Advisors will help make the decision if a head collar would be an appropriate piece of equipment for an individual puppy. Puppies can be introduced to a head collar at any age. Even pups as young as 8 or 10 weeks may benefit from this type of equipment. Fitting a head collar properly can be challenging. Unless you have a proper fit, you will not get the best use out of the equipment and the puppy may be uncomfortable. The Halti and Gentle Leader fit and work slightly differently. This is one of the reasons why it is important for Leaders and Advisors to be the ones that place the equipment on the puppy.

Safety first!
Next to proper fit, the use of a “safety” collar is an important factor for using a head collar. A nylon slip collar is used as a backup safety collar with all head collars. Sometimes, a clever puppy will learn how to wiggle out of his head collar, or slip it off over his nose. The safety collar will enable you to hold onto the pup if this should occur. The slip collar is not used to correct the dog and the lead should never be attached only to it. The safety collar, like the head collar will never be left on an unattended dog.

"No, my puppy is not wearing a muzzle."
This will be a common phrase the handler of a puppy wearing a head collar will find himself or herself saying! While the collar does fit over the puppy's muzzle, the puppy can still open and close its mouth, pant, eat and drink. The general public is getting used to seeing this type of equipment. On dogs, but many people do think it is a muzzle and will question the handler about the equipment. Guide Dogs produces a card that explains this and raisers should have some on hand to provide education to the public.

Introducing the head collar.
After a Leader or Advisor fits a puppy with his new head collar, the first few days are spent getting used to the new equipment. Some puppies take to the new feel right away and others need a little more time. Let the puppy wear the head collar around the house when its mind is on something other than this new sensation. Feed the puppy, play with it or do puppy-handling exercises. Do not coddle the puppy or baby it; be matter-of-fact and upbeat and the pup will be more accepting. If the puppy rubs or paws at his face, give him a pop on his flat collar and distract him with some other activity. Increase the amount of time the puppy spends wearing the collar each day. It should not take more than a week, at the very most, for a puppy to adjust to the collar and be able to concentrate on his work again. At this time, you should meet with your Leader or Advisor to show you how to attach the lead and use the head collar correctly.

When should a puppy wear its head collar?

Once the raiser has been shown how to use the head collar the puppy should continue to wear it every time he is attached to the lead and a handler has hold of the lead. Raisers should not take the collar on and off or use the flat collar in low distractions and the head collar for more challenging ones. This gives the puppy the wrong idea! We want the puppy to learn to control his behavior, not his equipment. You will loose training ground if the puppy realizes that it will only be placed in the head collar if it misbehaves or becomes excited. Generally speaking, once a head collar is placed on a puppy, the puppy will use this equipment for at least 3 months before being evaluated and considered changing the primary equipment. The Leader or Advisor will discuss this with you when, and if, the time is appropriate.

The puppy should never be left unattended in a head collar or safety collar!
This includes, in its crate in a kennel run or fenced yard or on a tie down. The collars could get hung up on something and injure the puppy or the puppy may learn how to remove it or chew it. The head collar is a piece of training equipment and should be used for active training. You may remove the head collar if the puppy is in a situation where you are not able to see its face and the puppy may be quietly removing or chewing the equipment. An example of a situation such as this is under a dark table in a restaurant. If the puppy can behave in this situation and you cannot directly supervise it to prevent it from removing or chewing the collar, it would be appropriate to slip the lead onto the flat collar and remove the head collar. Remember to reattach your equipment before leaving the table and walking through the crowd! If the puppy cannot control its self without the head collar in this type of situation, then the puppy should not go to this type of outing.

Good control is essential for a Guide Dog puppy; by using the appropriate equipment, it will help make the puppy more successful and your job easier!