Head Halter. Restricted. Uncomfortable.
Beautiful Golden Retriever, Monty, really is the perfect family pet despite having a sad start to life. He’s now five.
It was so uncharacteristic that, from hearing all the circumstances before and during the event, I come to the conclusion that it was due to a build up of arousal – including excitement.
Without going into the exact circumstances, things probably came to a head and a fairly minor thing was the last straw. This resulted in Monty attacking a dog and injuring his ear. They want to make sure this never happens again, so they contacted me.
Head halter. Restricted and uncomfortable.
Monty is absolutely fine with all other dogs when he is off lead, which is much of the time.
When he’s on lead however it can be a different matter. He wears a head halter which he hates but he’s a big dog and he pulls. The lead is held tight, especially when they approach another dog.
He feels uncomfortable, trapped and understandably on the defensive when another dog barks at him.
Off lead he’s fine, free to avoid anything that worries him.
Actually he’s fine with most dogs even when on lead. The dogs he reacts to with lunging and barking are those who themselves are reactive.
Many walks start with Monty having to run the gauntlet of two or three barking dogs behind gates. He is held tight and walked on, experiencing discomfort from the head halter.
His stress levels will already be rising.
Added to this, at home he can hear a couple of these same dogs from his garden and will bark at them.
This reactivity is undoubtedly due to fear or at least his feeling acutely uncomfortable and vulnerable with proximity to certain dogs.
From now on Monty should have no more opportunity to rehearse barking at dogs he hears, so garden access will be controlled while they work on it. Dogs he’s uncomfortable with will now be associated with good stuff at a distance he can cope with.
Walking comfortably on loose lead from a harness rather than head halter means that Monty will feel less restricted. Already he should feel a lot more confident when encountering those other dogs.
Starting at home where there are few distractions.
We all walked him around the garden on a Perfect Fit harness, loose lead hanging from the front. The idea is for him to learn to walk near them wherever they want to go, like there is no lead at all.
Loose lead walking work will start in the house and garden where there are few distractions.
Soon Monty will get back to walking down the road, but on a loose lead. There should be no more walking past the barking dogs behind gates until he is ready. A comfortable distance from them can always be achieved even if they have to turn around and go back the way they came.
It may be necessary to pop him in the car for now for the five minute walk to where he can be let off lead.
The problem seems fairly straightforward. They will give Monty the feeling of freedom and not force him out of his comfort threshold where proximity to other dogs is concerned.
At this distance they will work hard at getting him to feel differently about those reactive dogs that may be barking and upsetting him. They will teach him what to do, rather than what not to do.
I hate to see frustrated and uncomfortable dogs trying to rub a head halter off on the ground. Without the need for one anymore, I’m sure walks will be transformed for the otherwise perfect Monty, and for anyone walking him.