How to Train Your Dog to Use a Gentle Leader

Easy
1-5 Days
General

Introduction

Are you plagued by a pulling pooch?

Tugging on the lead and refusing to walk to heel are common problems that most pet parents are familiar with. The dog that lunges forward turns a pleasant stroll into a battle of wills and can ruin an otherwise relaxing walk. But worse than this, a strong dog can pull an owner over or become dangerously out of control.

What's to be done?

There is no shortage of training aids that are said to cure pulling. However, most of these rely on inflicting pain or discomfort on the dog, such as prong collars, choke chains, or electric collars. For those wanting a healthy, happy relationship with their pet pal then ruling through fear is not an acceptable option.

Defining Tasks

Enter Prof Robert Anderson and dog trainer Ruth Foster. They devised the Gentle Leader (™) as a humane way to guide and control strong dogs. It works in two ways: by utilizing pressure points on the neck and nose that have a calming effect, and by turning the dog's head up towards the owner.

The Gentle Leader is a headcollar that fit snugly around the neck and muzzle. It is equally suitable for pups and adults, although the dog does require to have a snout, so is not suitable for flat-faced breeds such as pugs.

Getting Started

When leash walking while wearing a Gentle Leader, the dog pulls and his head is turned up and backwards, discouraging him from surging further ahead. 

As with any new collar, some dogs may take a while to get used to wearing the leader. It's not usual to paw or rub at the halter in an attempt to remove it. Simply distract the dog, perhaps even walking briskly forward and encouraging the dog to follow, then give him treats for obeying.

Key to successful training with a Gentle Leader (™) is to use positive, reward-based training methods and only to use gentle pressure on the lead. Never tug, snatch, or pull hard on the lead as this will frighten and confuse the dog and possibly even injure him.

The Perfect Fit Method

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Most Recommended
2 Votes
Perfect Fit method for Use a Gentle Leader
Step
1
Size correctly
The Gentle Leader comes in small, medium, and large sizes. Select the most appropriate option for your dog.
Step
2
Adjust the headcollar to your dog's size
- To do this, fit the neck strap and alter the size so that it is a snug but not too tight. Aim to fit one finger between the strap and the neck. - Remove the neck strap by opening the clip. - Now slide the nose loop over the dog's muzzle and clip the neck strap into place. - Adjust the sliding clamp up under the dog's chin. When correctly placed, the nose and neck strap should come together in a 'V' rather than an 'L'.
Step
3
Celebrate!
The dog is now wearing the Gentle Leader. Give him lots of praise.
Step
4
Start walking
Clip the leash onto the control ring and away you go!
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The Stop Pulling Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
2 Votes
Stop Pulling method for Use a Gentle Leader
Step
1
Walk forward
Walk your dog on a leash with the slack taken up.
Step
2
Hold tension
When the dog pulls ahead, maintain tension on the lead. The dog's head now turns towards you, restricting the forward surge.
Step
3
Loosen tension
Once he slows his pace, slacken the tension on the lead. This helps him understand that the absence of pulling returns his head to a more natural position.
Step
4
Reward!
Once walking beside you, praise the dog and reward him.
Step
5
Be proactive
Learn to anticipate when the dog is about to surge ahead. For example, once his shoulder passes your leg, apply gentle tension on the leash to raise and turn his head.
Step
6
Reward!
As soon as he falls back into stride, release the tension and praise him.
Recommend training method?

The Walk-to-Heel Method

ribbon-method-3
Least Recommended
2 Votes
Walk-to-Heel method for Use a Gentle Leader
Step
1
Choose a side
Decide which side you want the dog to walk to heel, and stick with this side.
Step
2
Walk forward
Hold the leash with a small amount of slack in it. Walk forward and encourage the dog to follow. If he hangs back, encourage him with a treat.
Step
3
Lure as needed
If he still doesn't move forward, apply gentle pressure to the leash while luring him with the treat. As he moves off, release the tension on the leash and praise him.
Step
4
Introduce command and praise
Once by your ankle, give your cue command, e.g. "Heel" and praise him as he walks. If he surges ahead, follow the method to stop pulling.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 09/20/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Chase
German Shorthaired Pointer
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Chase
German Shorthaired Pointer
9 Months

Chase is strong and very strong willed. It is very hard to train him to walk without pulling me to the point I am leaning backwards to keep him from pulling me on my face. While trying to use the gentle leader, he is focused on getting his paw behind the leash and pulling the gentle leader off of his nose. Then he is off and straight back to pulling me. I praise him while he is walking without pulling on the lead. How can I get him to accept the lead around his nose?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tammy, I would start with working on the Leave It command. I would also keep pup moving, with head slightly upward, so pup can't rub on the gentle leader as easily while first using it. Whenever pup is walking nicely without bothering it, I would slip pup a treat too, holding that treat at your hip, slightly behind you to encourage pup to stay behind you instead of ahead. Check out the Turns method also. I would practice that method somewhere calm, like your yard or neighborhood cul-de-sac or open field (when it's free of cars and not likely to be traffic coming in or out). The changes in pace and turns often helps pup to focus on you more in order to keep up with you and earn rewards. Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel If pup continues to protest the gentle leader past a couple of weeks you may also have more success with using a front clip no-pull harness or a properly fitted prong. Whatever you use, I would practice the Turns method with that tool, because ultimately that will help teach pup focus best. Fitting a prong - if you end up switching - it's very important your tool is fitted properly and many tools are worn wrong and that makes them not effective and unsafe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23zEy-e6Khg Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Momo
White Shepherd
11 Months
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Question
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Momo
White Shepherd
11 Months

I watched a few youtube videos when fitting the gentle leader on my dog. It works amazingly with stopping the leash pulling and lunging at random direcrions. I've been using treats to reward calm behavior beside me but I notice after the gentle leader comes off at home, my pup snorts a lot and never did before. Is this a sign that the gentle leader is irritating her nose?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
241 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Yes, the Gentle Leader can sometimes cause discomfort. It's an odd sensation for dogs, and that is why it works so well. A double edged sword so to speak. As your dogs gets better on leash, you can slowly start to loosen it over time to wean her off of it. Keep in mind though, this will take a few months.

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Question
Henny
american terrier pitbull
1 Year
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Henny
american terrier pitbull
1 Year

Gets excited when see people and kids and dogs out he good with animals and love pet and kids ..He still get hyped up real hyper when my man get home from work he jumps up on him still...he Gets excited and nip air bites at times..Other than that he do well with training he still need help with that

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sonia, I would work on commands that build impulse control. It sounds like temperament wise he is doing well, just needs help learning self-control. Jumping: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Thank u for the advice 🙂

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Question
Shadow
Shiba Inu/American Eskimo
2 Years
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Question
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Shadow
Shiba Inu/American Eskimo
2 Years

When first training with a gentle leader should there be a limit to how far they walk when getting them accustomed to it

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
241 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Usually about 20 minutes is enough. But if your dog is really refusing, you can keep it as short as 5 minutes. Always try to end the walk on a positive note while getting them used to it. So if you can only go 5 minutes for a few days, that is totally ok.

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Question
Izzy
Golden Retriever
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Izzy
Golden Retriever
6 Months

Hi, when I put the Grntle leader on him, he just lies down! It can take 30 minutes to just walk down my hall to the elevator!
Help!!

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
241 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Have you tried carrying some super tasty treats with you on your walks? You can use the treats to not only distract him, but lure him to walk next to you. Try keeping a few treats in your hand, in front of his nose while you're walking. Every minute or so, give him a treat. It can take dogs a few weeks to become accustomed to the Gentle Leader.

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