Using a Head Halter, Front-Connect Harness or Clicker to Train Your Dog
There are numerous ways to train a dog with simple voice commands among the most common. While voice commands are effective, there are several training tools that can help make the process easier.
Coastal Pet Products offers a few such products, including a head halter, no-pull chest harness, and a clicker.
Head halters look a bit like a cross between a collar, a muzzle and a horse bridle. They fit over the head without constricting your dog's mouth, but the band across the nose works to correct unwanted behavior. It’s perfect for leash training.
“The head collar allows you to steer the dog more easily, which can make training simpler and more fun,” says Steven Appelbaum, President of Animal Behavior College.
By using the halter to move your dog’s head in the direction you want him to go, the rest of his body follows. The behavior can then be positively reinforced with a treat or praise.
Head halters, or head collars as Appelbaum calls them, can be used for more than leash training.
“You can teach most cues using the head collar,” he says. “Stay and recall and laying down on cue being the most common.”
“The trick,” Appelbaum adds, “is to teach the dog to get used to wearing the head collar but that’s not that tough to do.”
Appelbaum recommends getting your dog comfortable with the head halter before you start training with it.
“Also remember to make training positive as this will teach the dog to associate good things with wearing the head collar,” he says.
No-Pull Chest Harness
Another leash training tool is a front-connect harness, like the Walk Right! No-Pull Padded option from Coastal Pet. The main objective of this tool is to prevent your dog from pulling you during walks. Because the leash connection is in the front of the harness, your dog quickly learns she needs to stay next to you or behind you in order to keep moving straight forward. If she gets ahead of you, ie starts pulling, the leash (we recommend the Train Right! Cotton Web Training Leash when working on recall) ends up pulling her backwards towards you. In a sense, with the help of the front-connection, your dog corrects herself.
Again, as with the head halter, you should use positive reinforcement to reward her when she comes back to walking by your side.
A third training tool, which can be used in conjunction with both a head halter or a front-connect harness is a clicker.
“Clickers are great because when used properly, they teach the dog to associate positive things with the sound of the click,” says Appelbaum.
Clicker training can be used for just about any type of training you want to do, from basic commands to fun tricks.
It’s particularly great if you struggle to get your dog’s attention when there are lots of distractions around.
“Stop and think about it,” Appelbaum says. “How many of us have tried to get our dogs to pay attention and listen to us when they are completely distracted by other people or animals? Imagine how much easier it would be, if when you clicked the clicker, you got immediate positive focus from your dog regardless of what else was going on?"
Training with a clicker takes a little bit of time and must be done precisely.
“Clickers are fabulous tools, but they aren’t magic. You can’t just start clicking them and expect the dog to listen.”
Your dog must learn to associate both a reward and an action with the sound of the clicker.
The first is easy, click and give your dog a treat. He’ll quickly learn the sound of the clicker means he’s getting something he likes.
The key to the second piece is timing, Appelbaum says.
For instance, if you’re training your dog using a head halter to lay down, you’d only click the clicker in the moment he lays down – and only click once! Not before and not after. Then you’d need to reward him immediately after the clicking.
You can also use the clicker during leash training. For instance, with a no-pull, front-connection harness, you’d only click in the moment when your dog is next to or behind you and the leash is slack. And, again, reward your dog immediately after clicking.
Do not use the clicker for training more than a handful of times (three to four) in a single day.
As with most training techniques, Appelbaum recommends working with a professional trainer to learn how to use a clicker properly.