Dogs' personalities, quirks, and habits vary drastically, especially when walking on the leash — some are trained to walk alongside their humans, others dawdle slightly behind, and most commonly among larger breeds, some tend to pull ahead. As this can be uncomfortable and sometimes unsafe, there are many ways to curb your dog from pulling on the leash, and one of the techniques is to use a gentle leader leash. But what is a gentle leader leash, and how do you use it to train your pup?
What is a gentle leader?
If you've ever seen a pet parent walking their pup down the street, with a leash that connects to a thin strap that's wrapped around the dog's muzzle, you've probably seen a dog being trained with a gentle leader leash. Unlike muzzles, gentle leaders aren't used to prevent a dog from biting, or eating anything off the street. Instead, it prevents a dog from pulling their humans on the leash, teaching them to walk in a more orderly and calm fashion, teaching what's called "loose leash walking."
There's some pretty interesting behavioral science behind the gentle leader. According to Petsafe, whenever the leashed puppy pulls, the leash attachment effectively redirects their head and body toward their human. This brings their attention back to you, instead of what they had been pulling toward prior, reminding them to walk more in line with you. And don't worry about its placement — the dog can still breathe, pant, and bark, but they simply aren't able to pull on the leash.
How do I use a gentle leader?
If your dog might benefit from a gentle leader, find one in an appropriate size (they're often sized small, medium, large, XL, and XXL, depending on how big they are). Then, according to Crafty Canine Club, finagle it onto their snout, by getting your pup to sit still (this may require a few treats as an incentive), and clip the gentle leader in place. It may take a while for them to get used to the new leash, but they'll most likely get excited to see it if they start associating it with going on walks.
Once you're able to put the gentle leader on and take it off without too much trouble, you should try bringing your pup on a walk around the block. They may be discouraged if they aren't able to walk or sniff freely, and they may try to shake it off, whine, or bark — this is normal. You'll have to coach them through this tantrum, rewarding them frequently, and helping them walk without too many distractions. It might require some practice, but it will ultimately be worth it in the end.
Although it might not work for you and your pup, a gentle leader could ultimately pay off — embarking on a loose leash walk with your pup is far more comfortable than getting dragged the whole way. It's definitely worth a shot if you're looking to bring your puppy's training to the next level.