Broken clouds, light snow
Broken clouds, light snow
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December 13, 2017
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community living

Training your dog

By Joseph A. D’Abbraccio, D.V.M.

The goal of training your pets is to teach them a response that you want to see them continue. Achieving this good behavior is often accomplished with either a verbal command or hand signal. In this article, we will touch on only one small facet of good behavior, which uses a tool called a halter.

In order to successfully influence any desired behavior, you must first be able to get the pet to exhibit that behavior reliably before adding the command. Food, toys and targets can be used to help lure pets into the correct response. Using the head halter and leash can be one of the most efficient ways to reliably communicate and achieve the wanted response.

Introducing the halter

The most common head halter available today is called a Gentle Leader®. However, it is important not to rush out and purchase any halter for your dog without knowing how to use this tool properly. The first step is to condition your dog to seeing, touching and wearing the head halter. It is important to pick up the halter and show it to your pet. Allow them to sniff and investigate the halter. When they are doing this, reward them with food. This is the first step to habituating them to the halter. Your goal should be to reinforce that every time your pet sees the halter they receive treats and rewards. This way they learn that great things occur when they have the halter on. It is important to keep in mind that you should never take the halter off while your dog is fighting it; this will reinforce your dog’s efforts to remove the collar.

How do I teach my dog to sit?

Using the halter, stand next to your dog and say the command, “sit.” If your dog does not immediately sit, pull the leash upward and slightly toward the back of your dog. You can also place your hand under the dog’s chin to direct the sit. Immediately after your dog sits, release the leash and reward your dog for their response. The reward must occur within three seconds to reinforce the desired behavior effectively. If the reward is produced after three seconds, your dog will not fully appreciate what they are being rewarded for.

There are a number of ways to utilize a halter when training your dog, but it is essential to keep in mind that this is just a tool, and it is not the only thing needed to reinforce the desired response. It is always important to be positive and end all interactions on a good note.

Dealing with behavioral issues can be quite difficult and a truly exhausting process to undertake, but at no time is it appropriate to hit, yank, or handle your dog in an aggressive manner. If you are frustrated with your dog’s behavior you need to have a conversation with your family veterinarian so he/she point you in the right direction.

For additional resources on using a halter with your dog visit:

[Joseph A. D’Abbraccio, D.V.M. of Catskill Veterinary Services, PLLC can be contacted at]