Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quote I

Monday, May 19, 2008

This morning Savage and I took a quick 15 minute bike ride in order to get rid of some excess energy, and then attempted a walk with the Halti. The Halti Headcollar by Coastal is looks similar to a horse halter, and is designed to discourage dogs from pulling or lunging ahead by transferring the forward motion into turning the head sideways. The idea is that where the dog's head goes his body will follow. I spent about $20.00 at PetCo on Savvy's black Halti. According to the advertisements, the Halti calms boisterous dogs, simplifies training, restrains biters, reduces fears, reforms fighters, assists with restraining dog during veterinarian or grooming visits, and calms hysterical car travelers. I simply want Savvy to walk nicely and respond to "heel".
After the first introduction to the headcollar, he seemed very apathetic about it. The instruction booklet it came with made it clear that the fit was important, so I tightened the adjustable collar around his upper neck and silently thanked Randy for making me buy the largest size (5 - designed for bloodhounds, large danes, mastiffs, St. Bernards, and similarly sized dogs). Today I put it on him and quickly took off for a walk up the hill behind our house. About 6 steps into it, Savage started pawing at his nose, so I said his name and when he lifted his head I offered a small piece of cheese. This went on for about 8 times before he got resigned to the collar. It obviously bothered him, but after about 10 minutes he started sniffing the ground, looking around, and getting involved in his surroundings, instead of being focused on the Halti
The strange thing is that during the whole walk he stuck like glue to my side, even though I intentionally left the leash slack to minimize his anxiety. I think what bothered him most was the band over his nose because he kept his head lowered. Maybe his confusion over this different sensation was what actually kept him right next to me. Whenever he is scared or uncomfortable he wants to be as near as possible to his mama. I kept offering him treats during this time but he wasn't extremely interested in them. They seemed almost an afterthought, and I ended up actually placing them in his mouth while walking. It was very, very weird to see my boisterous, energetic puppy walking slowly next to me with his head hanging down. While this is what I wanted to accomplish with the Halti, I would ultimately like him to be more comfortable and content with it.
I've read some online reviews on the Halti and most are overwhelmingly positive. There are a few concerns I have based on the more negative reviews, including my dog wrenching his neck if he got too excited and started jumping ahead, and the nose strap cutting into his nose (though I think this is a matter of incorrect sizing). According to some of those reviews, the Halti headcollar appears to not be suitable for some dogs. Overly energetic dogs seem to go crazy over it, pawing and scratching at the collar, and it is possible to slip it by backing out if the fit isn't perfect. (The newer design has a safety strap that connects the headcollar to the dog's regular collar so the leash will still be attached in that situation). Some owners of short- or pug-nosed breeds say the fit doesn't work at all for their dogs, making the Halti unusable. On a side note, I've personally noticed when I'm around other dogs wearing headcollars that strangers tend to assume it's a muzzle and get frightened. Especially with a huge dog this reaction could be a small disadvantage of the Halti, but the avantages no doubt outweigh it. Just one more question we dane owners will have to answer.
Savage and I will keep training with it, and I'm very interested to know how the Halti is working for other great danes and giant breeds.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Busy Week

Last weekend was fishing opener, and of course I brought Sav's bed along in the boat and his fleece jacket in case it got a little too chilly. Just as he has the last two summers, he enjoyed boating immensely, and loved eating the minnows we used as bait. Afterwards he got a meal of rainbow trout and mashed sweet potatos.
During the week we have all been working to get things done in the new house, and I brought an old twin mattress up to the property so Savage has a comfy place to relax in the yard.
Yesterday we drove 140 miles to the nearest big city to buy more construction materials and I also finally got my dog a Halti headcollar. I've been considering the benefits of one for awhile, and this morning I put it on briefly and he didn't seem to mind after a couple minutes. I'll be working with him on his acceptance of the Halti, and also the heel command using it as a training tool. When I get some more time I will be posting more about the Halti, it's specifications, uses, and how my great dane is doing with his. I've heard good things from other dog owners and I'm really optimistic about this.