How to Use a Halter Collar on a Dog

Halter Collars, sometimes called head collars, dog halters, or head halters, are fast becoming the go-to training aide to stop dogs from pulling on the leash because of their ease of use and their perceived immediate effects. Like any training aide, a halter collar must be used properly to have full effect and to prevent undue stress on the animal. This guide is designed to help dog owners with selecting, fitting, and using a halter collar.


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    Determine if your dog needs a halter collar. A good candidate for a halter collar is a dog that pulls on the leash, has a strong neck and chest area, lunges at others while on the leash, or has a dominant personality. Dogs that are already well-behaved on leashes, or that are fearful, are not good candidates because the strap sitting over the dog's nose can exacerbate submissive and fearful behaviors.
    • Additionally, short-nosed dogs such as bulldogs and pugs do not make good candidates for a halter collar simply because the collar can slide off too easily.
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    Select the proper size and fit for your dog. If possible, take your dog with you to the store and try on different sizes. There are several different manufacturers and styles of halter collars, but all have the same functional design, which is a strap over the muzzle and one strap behind the ears, (also called the poll.) Both straps can be adjusted independently to the size of your dog. Both should fit snugly to the dog's head and cinch at the throat, but should not interfere with the dog's ability to open or close its mouth, or to breathe.
    • Most styles of halter collars are designed to tighten when the dog pulls, so the collar should be loose when fitted to the dog. Otherwise, the corrective effect of the collar will be diminished.
    • Many styles of halter collars also have a safety strap that attaches from the leash to the dog's regular collar. This is important because it allows you to retain control of your dog even if it manages to slip out of the halter collar.
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    Train your dog to accept the halter collar readily. Not every dog likes to have a band over its nose, so owners should strive to give the new training aide a pleasant association. When first fitting the dog, use treats and lots of praise to encourage the dog to tolerate the halter collar. If the dog attempts to scratch it or shake it off, distract the dog by bringing its attention to something pleasant, such as treats, a toy, or any tricks the dog has already learned.
    • Never punish your dog for resisting the halter collar, as this could create a negative association that will result in the dog taking progressively more extreme measures to avoid the training aide.
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    Understand how the halter collar works. Halter collars take the pressure of the leash away from the dog's neck, but; unlike body harnesses which can make it easier for dogs to pull, halter collars take advantage of a dog's natural physical and psychological traits to make pulling more difficult for the animal. When the dog pulls, the halter collar places a downward pressure on the dog's muzzle, much like a mother dog or alpha wolf would do to discipline a puppy or a lower ranking pack member.
    • Additionally, the direction of the force applied pushes the dog's head down and back, which makes further pulling physically impossible. The dog is essentially driving its own nose into the ground every time it pulls.
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    Walk your dog with the halter collar and reinforce good behavior. Most dogs learn very quickly that pulling presents them with a negative outcome. In behavioral terms, this is called a negative reinforcement: The animal learns that by not pulling, it will not experience the unpleasant effect of having its head shoved backwards and towards the ground. As the dog stops pulling, you should praise the dog for good behavior. This creates what is called a positive reinforcement: by not pulling, the dog earns additional affection and attention from its owner. When starting out, you can use treats, toys, and verbal praises to let your dog know it is doing a good job, but you will want to wean the dog off of food and excessive celebration.
    • Eventually, just walking with you will become a reward, as dogs have a natural instinct to follow the pack leader. Combining both of these training methods yields strong and fast results to alter the behavior of the dog.
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    As your dog's behavior improves, you can begin to walk it with the leash attached to its regular collar while the dog is still wearing the halter collar, and eventually you will be able go for walks without the halter collar at all. Do not be discouraged if your dog relapses and starts pulling again. Typically this means the halter collar was removed too soon during the dog's training, or the dog has simply figured out that the collar itself causes the negative outcome rather than the pulling.
    • In either case, simply return to using the halter collar until the dog reliably minds its manners, and then begin to phase out the halter collar again.


  • The halter collar is meant for training purposes only, and does not replace your dog's actual buckle collar.
  • The collar can sometimes rub the hair off of a dog's nose. If this happens, check to make sure the fit is right, as it may be too tight, and focus more on positive reinforcement.
  • Enjoy the walk! Remember that walking your dog should be a rewarding and relaxing experience for the both of you, so do not rush through it or your dog may revert to using bad behavior to get what it wants.


  • Even the best-fitted halter collars can slip off the dog's nose under the right circumstances. For this reason, always use the secondary safety strap when starting training and when in situations where it is absolutely vital for you to remain in control of your dog.

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Categories: Working with Dogs | Dog Obedience