Halters are an essential element of any CCI puppy’s life — as well as that of the puppy raiser. I get asked more questions about the halter than anything else — by folks mistaking it for a muzzle, or just curious to know why the puppy has “that thing” around its face. Like many puppy raisers, I’ve developed a stock response. I explain that that thing is just like a halter on a horse — it makes it much easier to control and direct the puppy — who will soon turn into a 60-80-pound dog — than it would be by trying to pull it around by its neck. I explain that the dog can do anything in the halter (which are often referred to by the most common brand names: the Gentle Leader or the Halti) that it can do without it — eat, drink, lick, bark, etc.
Usually I don’t explain that most dogs hate the halters. If they’re not trained to wear them, they usually will try to rub them off (and as often as not, they succeed). Eight-year-old Tucker still tries to rub off his Halti when we get back from a walk. When told to “Dress,” he stands patiently while the Halti is put on him, but he won’t turn his nose to accept it willingly, as some dogs do.
Several puppies ago, we learned that the best way to accustom the pups to the halters was to put the halter on at meal time — removing it as soon as the puppy is done eating. This way they associate the halter with something pleasant and wonderful — eating! We’ve been putting the halter on Dionne, at least for lunch and dinner. But we’d avoided using it on walks because of the staples in her lower eyelids.
They came out Thursday morning, but Dionne went to Susan and Frank’s for two days. They delivered her back to us last night, and this morning was a Sunday, when Steve and I normally begin the day with an hour-long walk. With a bit of trepidation, we put Dionne’s Gentle Leader on her and set off with Tucker (and the puppy stroller).
She typically takes a little while to settle into a walk. This morning was no different. She sat down and looked at us, unmoving. We would coax her with treats, and she’d bound along for a few seconds, then sit down again. Or she attacked poor Mr. Tucker. She particularly enjoys grabbing his Halti and trotting along with it in her little jaws (the Power.…) Several times she was being such a pain in the ass, we put her in the stroller, but there she squirmed and barked and tried to escape. What she did NOT do, however, was to try and rub her Gentle Leader off.
And after about 10 minutes, back on the ground, she settled down into lovely walking. It wasn’t always in the perfect textbook position — right at our side, just slightly behind our knee. But she wasn’t pulling on the leash. She was paying attention to us. And she never once stopped to try and claw the halter off her muzzle.
Last night Susan and Frank said they loved her and would be happy to care for her on another occasion. They particularly complimented how well she walked on a leash. This is a good sign.
Here she is, walking so nicely this morning with Steve: