Walking your dog is supposed to be a relaxing experience for you and your pup. In theory, it does not get any easier; you just walk. Dogs, however, tend to make things more difficult than they need to be. An exercise as simple as walking down the street turns into pulling, wrestling, frustration, and eventually giving up. Fortunately, if this is your situation, there is a quick and easy solution to getting your dog walking like a pro! The Gentle Leader.
When we first started walking Maddie in her puppy stage, she was a typical puppy terror. She was excited, sniffing all over the place, and loved pulling. No matter how much or how little slack we gave her, she had to be at the end of the leash tugging. It even got to the point where she would choke herself and let out a nasty cough.
We were certainly new to dog training, but we also did our fair share of research. We had a pretty good understanding of how we were supposed to walk Maddie and what to do when she pulled. We watched videos, read articles, and talked to experienced walkers, so we knew that in order to walk Maddie successfully, she needed to be in a calm mental state. When she began to pull, we needed to do things such as quickly change directions and encourage her to follow.
As the next year or so progressed, so did Maddie’s ability to walk on leash. She had her days and moments where it felt like there was no leash at all and she was just cruising along with us. There were other days where she felt like she never walked on a leash before and we had doubts about our ability as pawrents.
Because of Maddie’s inconsistencies and the potential harm that could be caused from the leash pulling on her collar and neck, we decided to look at different harnesses to help Maddie be a better walker. We started with a regular back harness because it made the most sense. Instead of putting the leash on the collar that is around her neck, let’s put it on a harness that is around her back. The back is much more stable so if she starts pulling, it won’t hurt her.
This was accurate, but the harness was not effective. In fact, we soon learned that the back harness is one of the worst tools you can use for walking your dog because it pulls your dog backwards, which makes them want to go forwards. Think about it: if someone wrapped you up from behind and tried to pull you back, would you start walking normal or push forward to get the crazy person off your back?
Once the back harness was considered a fail, we started exploring other options. We came across something the Gentle Leader. At first glance, it looks a little invasive. It straps behind the dog’s head and over their snout. After doing a deep dive on it, it started to make logical sense. Just as the raw diet is the most species appropriate diet for canines, the gentle lead controls the dog’s head in a way that is shockingly gentle. It is actually the same concept behind a horse’s harness. If it is effective in controlling and taming giant animals like horses, why wouldn’t it work for my 50 pound pooch?
When we put the Gentle Leader on Maddie, she hated it right away. She pawed at it, rolled around on the ground, and did anything to get it off. We gave her time then decided to distract her by taking her on a walk. It was at that point that a major miracle happened.
We went walking down the street and Maddie started to get out ahead. As soon as she got to the end of the leash, her head started to pull a little to the side. Once that occurred, she slowed down and got right in line with us. We could not believe our eyes! How could something so simple be so effective? We weren’t going to sit there and overthink it; it was working and that was all that mattered.
To this day, Maddie is still not a fan of the Gentle Leader. She casually looks away when we try to put it on and when we come home and take it off, she rolls all over the floor and paws at her snout. It’s quite the dramatic scene. For the most part, though, she is fine with it when we are on the walk. Most importantly, she walks perfectly when it is on.
Our earliest concerns with the Gentle Leader were that it clips under her mouth. We were unsure if she would be able to open her mouth fully. Since the main mechanism for controlling body heat is panting, we thought this was a pretty important thing to pay attention to. If you set the Gentle Leader up properly, this is not a factor at all. In fact, we probably give her a little more slack than we should, but everyone has their preferences and as long as you’re not making it too tight, you’re ok.
After using the Gentle Leader for nearly two years, we experienced yet another small miracle. In the process of taking the Gentle Leader off when putting Maddie in the car, we managed to lose our Gentle Leader. The following day we took Maddie on a walk with just her regular collar and she was walking just as perfectly as when she had the Gentle Leader on! She was prancing around, following our lead, and was not pulling in the slightest.
We decided to push our luck and did not order a replacement Gentle Leader right away. Over the next few days, Maddie continued to do great. However, she started to catch on and realize that if she pushed her limits her head would not be pulled back. Within about a week or so, she started to become more inconsistent on her walks. She had good days and good parts of walks, but she also started to have bad days and bad moments. We did not want her to regress, so we placed the order for a replacement.
We now use the Gentle Leader most of the time. We want to continue using it simply because it works. We understand that is a sort of crutch for her walking, but we are ok with that. At some point we will start weaning her off of it by developing a training plan that uses it less and less, but we are not quite at that stage.
How you use the Gentle Leader for your dog is completely up to you. If your pup pulls on walks, chokes himself out, or makes your walks frustrating, we highly recommend using the Gentle Leader. It saved us and we don’t expect it to be any different for you. Best of all, it’s only $15.95! There aren’t too many dog-training tools you can get for that cheap!
Note: We have no affiliation with Gentle Leader nor do we profit off of any of their products. We are simply satisfied customers who have had a positive experience.
Have you ever used the Gentle Leader? How do you get your dog to stop pulling? We want to know! Leave a comment below!