One of the most common questions I’ve fielded over my years as a puppy raiser is, “Why does your dog have to wear a muzzle?” First, I reply that the straps around my puppy’s muzzle aren’t a muzzle, but rather a Gentle Leader “It’s like a halter for a horse,” I chirp. “She (or he) can eat, drink, lick, bark, and even bite with it on — not that one of our puppies would ever dream of biting anyone.” The second part of the answer is that the puppy is wearing it because CCI says all puppies should start wearing their Gentle Leader or Halti (another brand) as soon as possible. It gives the puppy raiser and (later) the professional trainers much more control than a leash attached to a collar.
What I usually don’t go on to say is that most puppies despise their halters. They claw at them as if their whiskers were on fire; they try to rip them off. Often they succeed, and we’ve had more than one puppy chew up and destroy a brand-new Gentle Leader, ensuring that it, at least, won’t torture any more innocent young animals.
To counteract this initial aversion, one of the trainers years ago suggested that we put on the halter every time we fed our puppy. Since eating brings most of these dogs delirious pleasure, this would help establish a halter=pleasure association, we were reassured. We’ve tried it with several dogs since then and have come to think it works.
With Kyndall we did not start with her first meals, however, as she appeared to be such a dainty eater. She’ll chomp through a half or two-thirds of the cup of puppy chow we give her three times a day, then abruptly turn away. She’s done.
This pattern has persisted. We think she’s just too little to be able to consume it all. But we nonetheless started the haltered feedings yesterday. This means we have to sit by and watch intently until the instant she appears to have finished, then whisk off the halter (or else the frantic nose-rubbing will start.)
It seems to be going okay so far, though we haven’t yet tried the next and much harder step: attaching the halter to both Kyndall’s nose and to a leash and trying to get her to walk with us with it on.
That event will come soon, but for the moment, she has her own regimen for training us. One of her first goals is to make Tucker tolerate her cuddling up to him on his bed. He hates this idea. He’s pretty sure (from sad experience) that any such cuddling is likely to quickly devolve into nipping and wrestling. But last night he was so sleepy he put up no resistance, and she enjoyed a few sweet moments (before being ushered into her sleeping kennel).