“Why is that dog wearing a muzzle?” is a question I get at least once a week, to which I respond, “It’s not a muzzle, it’s a Gentle Leader.” A muzzle and a Gentle Leader are two very different types of equipment, this and other common misconceptions prompts me to write a little about dog equipment.
Gentle Leaders may be one of the best dog equipment inventions of the last decade. Similar to a horse bridal it goes over the nose and behind the ears but still allows a dog to open its mouth, pant, and breathe normally. When a dog pulls forward it puts pressure on the nose instead of the neck and, therefore decreases pulling an immense amount. I couldn’t do my job as a dog walker without them. These work great on big strong breeds like German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Burmese Mountain Dogs, etc. They take some getting used to by the dogs and they often try to pull them off with their paws initially but once they get used to them they usually forget about it and walk normally. I much prefer the Gentle Leader and teaching the Heel command to dogs that tend to pull than using Prong Collars or Choke Chains. If your dog’s nose is particularly sensitive you can wrap the nose portion with Moleskin found in the foot care aisle of the drug store.
This IS a muzzle:
And this is a ridiculous muzzle for short-nosed dogs (as if they didn’t have enough trouble breathing):
I only recommend muzzles when a dog has been known to bite and it should accompany some serious dog training to correct the behavior. But the majority of dogs don’t need a muzzle.
The other collar I like is a slip or training collar. This is what dogs in dog shows wear high up on the neck right behind the ears and under the jaw bone so its not pressing on the windpipe. Its very effective in guiding a dog without a lot of force.
I’ve walked about 20 dogs a day for the past 10 years and tried a lot of equipment and a gentle leader or slip lead and a simple flat 4 to 6 foot leash is my preference for making a walk enjoyable for both the dog and the walker.
Equipment I don’t like:
Easy walk harnesses and harnesses in general. Harnesses were invented by people to have animals pull things for us so if your dog pulls and you use a harness you’re shooting yourself in the foot. I understand in some cases like a collapsed windpipe these are the best option but I’ve just found that dogs pull more with harnesses unless you put in the time to train the Heel Command which most people don’t. Also younger dogs try to chew on the leash when wearing an Easy Walk harness since it is in front of their face.
I will say the Easy Walk is great for older, mellow dogs but that’s not what most people are using them for.
Lastly extendable leashes- oy vey! I actually tell my clients they need to provide a regular leash if they want me to walk their dog, I won’t walk them with an extendable for the following reasons:
1- This is the city and there are several people on the sidewalk that don’t need to get clothes lined by a long extendable leash.
2- It teaches a dog to pull as opposed to walking near the handler.
3- I walk up to 4 dogs at a time and a big plastic handled extendable leash is a nightmare to juggle with 3 other leashes.
Again there are some exceptions, like if you’re house training a dog and they won’t eliminate near you and you need the distance, or if you live in the country, I suppose.
Other than those two I really don’t have a problem with most equipment. All dogs are different and some equipment may work better on them than others. However, no equipment is a substitute to good old obedience training. So get a clicker and some treats and get to work, training is a great way to bond with your dog and challenge them. Most dogs crave a challenge or a job instead of just sitting around the house all day!