Are Gentle Leaders Cruel? Not If Appropriately Used!

When appropriately used, gentle leaders are not cruel. Although they may look aggressive, they do not cause any pain or discomfort to your dog. Gentle leaders will “gently” guide the dog back to the owner when the dog pulls on the leash, making them an excellent leash training tool.

You just got your new dog. Two weeks of walking your dog at the park, you realize that your dog is the one walking you around the park. Whether it was a butterfly or another dog, your dog doesn’t seem to behave correctly on a leash. Your friend recommends a gentle leader, but you might be wondering, “isn’t that cruel?”

If you’re interested in using a gentle leader but aren’t sure what they are, how they work, or if they’re cruel, we will answer all your questions below. By the end of this article, you’ll have a great understanding of the many benefits gentle leaders have to offer.

Pulling On a Leash is Natural For Dogs

When dogs are exploring the great outdoors, they want to sniff, touch, and sense everything. It is sensory overload. Therefore, it is not surprising that they get excited when they get a chance to explore. If they have never been leashed trained before, they are naturally used to exploring places at their own pace and by their own rules.

When dogs pull on their leash, it is not entirely their fault because walking with a leash is not a natural behavior for them. Also, dogs naturally walk and lead faster than humans.

They feel restricted by the leash paired with any harness, collar, and gentle leader. We know that you may want to pull back instinctively when they pull you, but this is the worst thing you can do. Good thing you can train your dog on how to properly walk on a leash. That’s where gentle leaders come in.

What Are Gentle Leaders?

A gentle leader is a headcollar that is used as a training tool for your dog. They are generally used to train dogs who continuously pull on the leash. When your dog pulls on the leash, the collar is designed to move his head and body back towards you. This allows your dog to redirect his attention back to you instead of being distracted or overly excited.

Will a Gentle Leader Harm My Dog?

The gentle leader may look intimidating. It seems like your dog’s face is locked behind the binds of the fabric as their neck is being twisted back whenever they pull forward.

It will give the effect of your dog experiencing whiplash. This rough whipping action can look scary to anyone that does not know the physics behind the collar’s design.

If you know the physics of the design, you know there’s nothing to be worried about. This does not hurt them at all and has been a training tool that many vets and animal behaviorists swear by.

It was designed by veterinarians and has been used by many for years. Some studies even show that a gentle leader can cause less strain against a dog’s body when compared to a standard, traditional collar, or harness.

Gentle Leaders Are Safer Than Standard Collars

Not only are gentle leaders entirely safe for dogs, but they’re also safer than a standard collar and leash attachment. When you attach a leash to the dog’s collar, the collar will pull on the neck when the dog pulls on the leash. This can choke the dog, cause bruising and irritation, and even damage the throat.

Gentle leaders avoid the neck altogether, which means that you don’t have to worry about any damage to the neck, throat, or spine when the dog pulls.

Is a Gentle Leader The Same Thing as a Muzzle?

Gentle leaders are not muzzles. Muzzles are used to restrict a dog’s mouth shut. It looks very similar to a gentle collar, so it is not surprising that some people will believe that they are muzzles.

Most people will look at a gentle leader and believe that it restricts a dog from doing everyday activities. The gentle leader does not restrict the mouth of the dog. Therefore, your dog will be able to play, sleep, eat, drink, and sniff comfortably to their heart’s content.

Where To Buy a Gentle Leader?

Gentle leaders can be easily found online or at your local pet store in the leash department. They come in many different colors and styles. They are also available for every dog size and breed.

The gentle leader must be appropriately fitted to your dog’s face size and shape to work efficiently. You will also want it to be appropriately fitted to ensure that your dog is comfortable in it.

The Three Steps to Using a Gentle Leader

When you first purchase a gentle leader, there are three things you need to do.

  1. Get your dog used to it
  2. Get the proper fit
  3. Begin walking

Let’s take a deep dive into all three.

Getting Your Dog Used to The Gentle Leader

Your dog will likely be uncomfortable with the gentle leader at first. They have no idea what it is or what you’re going to use it for. Because of this, you need to get used to it and comfortable with it.

Start off by letting your dog sniff the gentle leader, so he knows there’s nothing to be scared of. Then open the loop and see if your dog will stick his nose through. If he does, reward him immediately with a treat and praises.

If your dog doesn’t put his nose through, never force it. Just let it down for a few seconds and try again.

Each time your dog puts his nose through, slowly begin fastening the neck strap while letting him eat treats.

Within a few days, your dog will begin to associate the gentle leader as something positive. He knows he will get rewarded each time he wears it.

Getting The Proper Fit

Luckily, getting the proper fit is simple. Make sure the neck strap is tight enough so it doesn’t rotate, but not too tight to where it’s uncomfortable for your dog.

The nose strap should be able to travel down to the fleshy part of the nose, but shouldn’t fall off the nose. Your dog should be able to comfortably open their mouth.

Begin Walking

To begin to walk, start by attaching the leash to the o-ring. When walking, make sure there’s some slack in the leash.

Once your dog pulls, the gentle leader should redirect him back to you. If it doesn’t, give the leash a slight pull toward you.

Once your dog is back by your side, give them a reward, praise them, and then continue walking.

Within a few days or weeks, your dog will learn to stay by your side during walks.

What if My Dog Looks Uncomfortable?

Like anything new and unnatural for your dog, a gentle leader can take some time to get used to. As stated previously, this does not hinder them from eating, drinking, sleeping, and doing their daily activities.

Your four-legged friend will most likely have an adjustment period. Therefore, it is crucial to introduce the gentle leader collar in phases and gradually. This can be a process, but your dog will be up and running in no time.

The Four Pressure Points

One of the main benefits that’s not commonly talked about when it comes to gentle leaders is the four pressure points that are known to calm dogs—two behind the ears, one below the neck, and one on top of the nose.

Many dog owners report that their dog seems much calmer when using a gentle leader. This could be the effect of the four pressure points.

When Can I Stop Using the Gentle Collar?

You can transition your dog out of the collar when you feel like they have completed their training and ready to be on a regular leash.

This would mean that your dog should have a better attention span to you and not become easily distracted. They should be more obedient to you when there are a lot of distractions around. They also should no longer pull on the leash or lunge at other dogs and humans when on a leash.

We highly recommend that you transition your dog out of the gentle collar gradually. You can practice doing one walk a day off the gentle leader for a week and work your four-legged friend off it. The gentle leader can then just be used for back up or if unwanted behaviors return.

Are Gentle Collars Cruel?

In the grand scheme of things, gentle leaders are not considered cruel. They are constantly compared to horse halters. The horse halter does not hurt the horse. It controls their head, which in turn safely controls their entire body. This is the same concept for dogs.

There is no mistreatment, pain, or abuse that your dog will experience if you put a gentle leader on them.

There may be some signs of your dog being uncomfortable and confused, but your dog will have time to adjust and be themselves again. With proper training and guidance, you will be on your way to the park with a leash behaved dog.

We Highly Recommend Gentle Leaders

If you are considering the purchase of a gentle collar to train your dog, we highly recommend it. We believe that this is a very humane solution to solve unwanted leash behaviors if you do not have the resources to enroll your four-legged friend into a training class or academy.

If you are unsure about gentle leaders in general, ask your vet if this would be the best solution for your dog. We hope that you will be able to walk your dog instead of your dog walking you.

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