Sunday

How Harmful Are Head Halters For Dogs?

When I was a teenager, I worked for a professional horse show trainer. One of my favorite places to visit was Beatty Farms. I especially loved looking at the new born foals. Those foals had halters put on them by three days old. Wearing a halter was just a part of life at that young age. A few weeks later, they had a lead rope snapped on and someone would gently hold the rope while also leading the foals' dam. The foals willingly walked beside their momma and never knew they were being taught the basics of being led. It was gentle, natural, and non- traumatic.
..But slapping a head halter on an adult dog or even a puppy and then having them hit the end of the leash HARD when they try to go somewhere is not only psychologically traumatic, it is hard on the dogs' spine. I hate watching dogs writhe on the floor,trying to remove the halter while it tightens below the eyes,pressing on cartilage and sinus cavities,clearly causing agony.

The picture above is one I received from a Linda Tellington TTouch email. I am a big believer in the Tellington Touch and I understand the training basics layed out in the photo. The head halter IS a tool that can be effective in the right hands...the problem is, that it is mostly used in the wrong hands...
Two women I know rescued a Tennessee Treeing Walker Hound from a farm where she was badly neglected. At fourteen weeks, they had her spayed. A month later they informed me that she had demodectic mange and the vet had said it would require regular treatment at a cost of five hundred dollars a month for several months. These women were upset because they didn't have a couple thousand extra due to just being layed off and so they consulted me in hopes of a cheaper route to treat her mange.
They were willing to do the treatment at home and since the medication was over the counter we were able to work out a more cost effective plan. They assured me it was a very mild case but when I saw her I was surprised to see that she had been misdiagnosed. She didn't have demodectic mange at all....in reality her head halter had rubbed the hair off around her eyes and the inside of her legs were red and raw from the pup rubbing the head halter trying to remove it!
This was a big relief for the two women and a relief for Precious the pup, as they stopped using the head halter and in three weeks her hair had grown in nicely.

Halters were invented at least two thousand years ago for horses and cows to be easily caught in the fields that they graze in. But dogs don't graze in fields, and if the halter were truly a viable training tool and not just the trend of the moment, wouldn't dog owners have used them centuries before now?
I worry a great deal about the effect that they have on a dogs' body and his mental outlook. Teaching a dog to walk on a lead should be a positive experience and there is NOTHING POSITIVE ABOUT HEAD HALTERS FROM THE DOGS' POINT OF VIEW.
Many dogs, in response to the tightening action of the head halter on their delicate cartilage, often hackney gait when the owners walk too fast and the dogs cannot naturally trot. The hackney gait is unnatural for all breeds except Min Pins. I wince every time I see this.


The bottom line is this...I never met a dog who couldn't be taught to walk quietly on a lead and I never met an owner who couldn't be taught the skills to properly walk a dog...

My neighbors have a Dalmation who has worn a head halter for a number of years...the Dals' name is SMILEY COW..... enough said.