Using the Gentle Leader

Charli Saltzman

Do you have an overactive, very hyper dog? Is your dog hard to control in public? If so, there is a solution to help calm that behavior. This tool is called the gentle leader. While I was at the Seeing Eye, instructors showed us how to appropriately use a gentle leader. For some guide dogs, the gentle leader can help the dog focus on its job rather than get distracted. It is often helpful for working a dog through a crowd of people. But you may be wondering, what is a gentle leader?

A gentle leader has the texture of a nail on collar. It has two pieces, a thin piece that goes over the nose, and a thicker piece that buckles on the back of the dog’s neck. The gentle leader can be adjusted to fit your dog perfectly. I personally do not use the gentle leader often because Joba is well-mannered and behaves in public. However, I will sometimes use the gentle leader when going into pet stores or a veterinary clinic because of the possibility of there being other dogs in the same area. Joba loves other dogs, and he is hard to control when he wants to go play. The gentle leader helps him calm down and gives me more control of his head. This is because I can hook the leash to the ring of the gentle leader which is located under Joba’s chin. It is important to realize the misconceptions of the gentle leader.

People think that, because the gentle leader goes over the nose and mouth and buckles on the back of the dog’s neck that the gentle leader is some sort of muzzle. Because they think they see a muzzle, they wonder if the dog is unsafe. This is not true. If a dog really wanted to, he could still open his mouth up enough to bite someone. We don’t use the gentle leader for safety reasons. Perhaps understanding the background of the gentle leader might help.howitworks

Even a domesticated dog has those natural wild dog instinct. Wild dogs are usually always living in packs with a pack leader. Suppose one of the dogs in the pack is acting up. It is the leader’s job to correct that misbehaving dog, and the way the leader corrects the dog is by gently shaking the dog’s muzzle in his mouth. Also, think of a mother dog and her puppies. Puppies have that extra fur on the top of their necks, and if the mother doesn’t like what one of her puppies is doing, she will grab that fur in her mouth. This lets the puppy know to stop doing whatever it was doing. In the same way, that thin part that goes over the dog’s muzzle represents the leader keeping that dog under control, same with the gentle leader on the top of the dog’s neck. Because of where the gentle leader is located, you must take precautions.

The nice thing about the gentle leader is that you do not have to hardly pull at all. You don’t want to give the leash a snap as you would if the leash was connected to a normal collar. Instead, you want to gently pull on the leash. This is very important to remember because that gentle leader is connected to the dog’s head. This gentle pull will gently pull on the dog’s muzzle, forcing him or her to stop the behavior in order to make that tighter feeling stop. One more thing to remember is that, if you choose to use a gentle leader, after using it a few times, you will not have to connect the leash to it. Instead, you can strap the gentle leader on and hook the leash to the collar. This is because the dog will start to understand that the gentle leader means he’d better be on his best behavior. There is one disadvantage of the gentle leader that I can think of.

I have yet to meet a dog that likes the gentle leader. Neither of my dogs have liked it. If I made Errol wear the gentle leader, he would be fine until he laid down under a chair. Then, he would start pawing at the gentle leader, and he would sometimes succeed in moving the thin piece off of his muzzle. He’d look up at me like, ha ha, I did it. Joba, on the otherhand, tolerates it a lot more but gets very sad eyes when he has to where it. But as I said before, I hardly put it on him. I always keep it with me just in case. I guess one way to prevent your dog from being unhappy with the gentle leader is to be gentle while putting it on, calmly praising your dog. The one thing you don’t want to do is put it on right after your dog has just done a bad behavior. Like the kennel, the gentle leader should never be a punishment. It should only reinforce good behavior. If you come into a situation where you think you may need to use it, slip it on before he or she has a chance to misbehave.

The gentle leader is just one more choice to use, however it will not make or break your dog. I’m just leaving it out there to use or not to use. It is totally up to you. It is simply something to consider if you take your dog into a lot of public places that allow dogs. A gentle leader comes in all different sizes, both for small and large breeds. A gentle leader is just one more option to encourage good behavior for your dog.


Gentle Leader

Training Guide



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