Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gentle Leader

Walking your dog seems like it should be an enjoyable experience doesn't it?

It's not.

Ever heard of the "Gentle Leader" harness or collar? Maybe you have if you have a dog that pulls your arm out of the socket when going for a stroll. I have been doing a little research on the old internet trying to find something humane that doesn't look like it could possibly impale your dogs neck or pinch his head flat off.

Now keep in mind that Astro is a big boy. He is about 70 pounds of excited, "thinks he should have been born an Alaskan sled dog" when it is time to walk.

For the first mile, he is an absolute disaster. Frantically sniffing, straining, pulling, peeing on anything that doesn't move, FREAK that makes his owner loathe the moment she strapped on his leash. He breathes and pants so loud that you can hear him coming before you see him. I constantly correct him until my arm just aches. To this day I think my left arm is a smidgen longer than my right arm because the constant stretching has most certainly lengthening my tendons.

Right about the time we hit mile two he gets a little winded from all the pulling and panting and starts to do a little better. Not much better, but a tad better. Either that or I am so tired from correcting him I just give up. Mile three he is amazing. Best dog to walk ever. Problem is that I hate mile one and two so bad that it is just not worth it to get to mile three.

Sad for poor Astro because he does love it so much. I have guilt when I leave him, but it just isn't fun or enjoyable for me and I don't want to do it.

As I mentioned I have been looking for a better solution. I did the research and kept coming up with the Gentle Leader as a very excellent option for controlling dogs that pull. I had seen several dogs around the neighborhood with this, or something very similar, and they were so well behaved. Walking beside their master with little or no resistance.

I decided I would give it a go for my sweet boy Astro. Here is what it looks like for those of you who may not know:

The idea is that the collar around their neck feels like their mother biting them or something and the strap around their nose is their father telling them to act right. That's not really it, but it is some Ceaser Milan dog jargon like that.

I watched a video of how to fit it on your dog. Not supposed to be too tight. High up on the neck behind the ears. A little leeway around the nose, don't want to cut off their air supply.

Or do you?

I had some left over chicken in the fridge so I put it in a little baggie and used it as bait and reward to introduce Astro to the new contraption.

I got it on. Gave him a piece of chicken. Smiles all around.

He noticed the nose strap wasn't coming off and went ape crazy.

I calmed him down with more chicken. When he was quiet and calm I removed the collar. Just put it on for a few minutes with lots of yummy chicken. He was cool with that.

Tried it about five more times in the house. Just putting it on and off. Lots of chicken bits. All is good.

Finally decided to try strapping the leash to the collar and taking a short walk around the house. He didn't love it, but the chicken was there and the hungry, hungry, God I love chicken side of his brain wouldn't let him think about the enormous strap that covered his nose. I considered it a success.

I decide to try a quick walk outside. Just around the cul-de-sac and back. NO GOOD!

He was like an alligator, dropping into the grass, rolling across the lawn, frantically pawing at his nose. The leash is completely wrapped around him, pulling harder on his nose than he can stand. I am sure in his head he is screaming....can't breathe, can't breathe, can't breathe....someone help me.

I was trying to help him, but he was so frantic that I couldn't get him untangled. I have chicken falling out of my pockets, trying to figure out what end is up, when finally he gets it off himself. Stands up, looks at me all proud and starts rooting around for the chicken I dropped during our wrestling match. I got him away from it so he wouldn't think he got a reward for acting like a retard.

I evaluated the situation and decided that if he could get it off, then I probably didn't have it fitted correctly.

Tried again.

The next time it was a little tighter and I was smart enough to anticipate the alligator roll, so I held the leash up where it wouldn't get tangled in his body. It worked, he couldn't get it off by rolling and pawing at his nose.

The chicken gets his mind off balance again and we successfully make it around the cul-de-sac. Yeah Astro!

About an hour later I decide to go around the block. Just incrementally increasing things till I think he is used to it and I can consider letting him join me when I do my early morning walks.

He is a little leery by this point. He slinks over. He knows he isn't going to like it. But there is chicken. Why is chicken so damn good?

We head out. About twenty feet from the house he tries the rolling trick. No dice. HA! I am feeling super confident that he will stop rolling every twenty feet and finally give up on trying to get it off his nose.

He doesn't agree.

He tries the new technique of stopping suddenly and backing up. Nose strap comes right off.

He smiles at me. No chicken for that maneuver you dumb dog.

I put the harness back on. Give him a tiny bit of chicken for sitting so nicely.

Start walking. He stops suddenly and starts backing up. Wasn't even on him for thirty seconds.

I am so patient. I try snugging it up a bit more so that it doesn't so easily come off.

Start walking. He stops suddenly and starts backing up. I think he did it in under 15 seconds. He smiles even bigger. He is proud of himself. I am not.

So now I have a dog that doesn't pull me, but guess what???? He's going BACKWARDS!! This is no use to me!!!

We tried it about eight more times. Fitting, refitting, tightening, loosening, adjusting everything that could be adjusted.

In the end, he could get it off in 3.2 seconds without even breaking a sweat.

It might be a record.

I went to PetSmart and got a choke collar.


  1. This was undoudebly the funniest thing I have read in years. Me and Mom were crying as we read it. People who haven't met Astro probably can't get the full understanding of this blog but will still come to tears as they read it.

  2. OMG! I am at work trying to not disturb my co-workers with my hysterical laughing bout reading this post! I actually think snot flew out of my nose!

  3. Harold's Mom, too funny. Just turn around when he walks backwards and follow his lead. LMLAO!
    BTW, what's your code name? I almost gave your true identity away and then I saw the edit button. Thank heaven! I just love Caesaer he makes us all look so stupid when it comes to dogs.

  4. I am laughing so hard at reading this and can only imagine your frustration. I wish you had pics of all of this. Sounds like you have a smart dog...or a very stubborn one.