Monday, May 19, 2008

The Halti Headcollar

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.


  1. Mindy Lu said...
    Hi Savage and Paula. We are glad to meet more BIG babies! Mommy is excited about all the other Dane owners we are meeting too.

    You look HUGE? How old and how big are you now? I am 8, and weight maybe about 125#'s. Mommy calls me "Big Butt" cause it seems to get wider, but I am still smaller than my new brother, dumb Max. You look even bigger than him!

    We are in S. California, and it is hot hot hot right now. Our tongues cant seem to stay in our mouth. I saw the picture of you walking across some water, and that looked REAL cool. Where are you?

    Bark! Sasha the Princess!
    Mindy Lu said...
    Hey Savage, Mom uses the same "halti" thing on me too, and even though it bugged me for a bit, the benefits of all the lovin I get now that I walk next to her, is SO WORTH IT!! Stick close to her and you will be able to go back to your regular collar like my sis has now. She told me she used to have that thing too, and once she became really good, Mom switched her back. PAW-- MAX!
    Paula said...
    Beautiful dogs! Glad to meet all of you, and I will be checking your blog soon. Savvy and I live in the woods of Northeastern Minnesota near Lake Superior. At 2 1/2 years old, he is now 36" at the shoulder, and 170lbs, but he really does need to lose a few pounds this summer. Hope you're enjoying the site.
    The PR Gang said...
    Hey Paula and Savage! Roxy had pretty much the same reaction to the Halti as Savage. I don't use it everyday but amazingly she still behaves the same with it. I think she still finds it a bit irritating and will still paw occasionally at it but it's been a big help in keeping her focused on me when other dogs are around.
    I'm glad you're having some success.
    Danyel said...
    I've been curious about these myself. I look forward to reading more about your use of the Halti.
    gogetter said...
    This helped so much! I'm definitely getting one for our walks on the boardwalk at the beach. I LOVE Savage. Keep posting pics on the Love Of Danes forum =)
    ~Katie (Brody's Slave)
    Anne said...
    Booker was a hunting dog before we rescued him (or he found his way into our lives!) so he has been trained to find a scent, take off and make a lot of noise -- heeling was not in his vocabulary. Instead of a halti, I bought a prong collar. I use the biggest prongs, and have it fit correctly. On an old-fashioned choke chain, Booker did exactly that - CHOKE - it was terrible ... with the prongs, he heels perfectly and almost always walks by my side with the leash slack. It looks forbidding, but gives just enough "pinch" of correction that it overrides Booker's innate urge to run ahead with his nose on the ground. I think it has been the most effective and gentle way to keep his attention on a proper "heel."

    A woman at the dog park with a giant black great dane puppy uses a prong collar too, and it works well for her. That big dog is a handful - actually a whole bodyful!
    Biggie-Z said...
    Biggie the kuvasz uses a Gentle Leader (basically the same thing as a halti). He fought it at first, then he looked depressed for a while, now he accepts it, though he still rubs his nose on my legs toward the end of a walk and usually manages to get it off by the time we get home.

    We use it to stop the pulling and prevent his "going cujo" episodes, when he decides that someone is enough of a threat to bark, snarl and lunge at them until they run away. I actually can't imagine using a choke or prong collar on him as this breed (and Biggie in particular) is pretty insensitive to pain. (They were bred to guard and to do so at almost any cost.) The halti has better control and now when we walk I usually attach the leash to his collar, not the halti, but just putting it on has a calming effect.

    Don't get me wrong, he HATES it, does NOT like wearing it, but since I had 2 shoulder surgeries in January and May I needed him to be 100% not pulling during the recovery, and he has pretty much resigned himself to it. I wouldn't worry about wrenching of the neck, Biggie's gone Cujo while wearing it and he ends up writhing from side to side. It's quite a sight. :(

    THe sadder part is that on a white dog, a red halti is very visible, and MANY people assume it's a muzzle. I've just given up trying to correct them. Then again, as you can see in my blog, we get a lot of oddballs in my neighborhood.

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