What the Heck is a Gentle Leader?

Frequently at Wags, we will recommend a secret weapon to our clients to help them better manage or work with their dogs. Our “secrets” may involve unique treats, a walking tool, or another piece of equipment that we have had great experience with.

Unfortunately, sometimes for our clients, we may be speaking a different language! We thought it would be nice to explain some of our most frequently recommended items in one place for our clients to peruse.

Even if you don’t need any extras for your dog, you can be the “canine fountain of knowledge” at your next cocktail party or family gathering!

Gentle Leader – An Essential Tool

The Gentle Leader is a specific brand of “head halter”. That is exactly what it sounds like–a horse halter-like piece of nylon that is fitted to the dog’s head.

It has two loops, one behind the ears and one over the snout, along with a ring under the chin where the leash is attached.

Functions of a Gentle Leader

The Gentle Leader (or “GL”) has two main functions. The first is that it gives the handler much better control over the dog. Just as in leading a 1000lb horse, where the head goes, the body must follow.

This is great for walking powerful pullers – when they pull ahead, they don’t get far. The head turns and the body follows, quickly giving the message that the only way to go forward is politely!

The secondary use for the GL is that it can serve as a calming tool for many dogs as well. A properly fitted GL works on pressure points behind the ears and over the snout and can help settle barking or rambunctious dogs.

A Tool – Not a Solution

A few notes on the Gentle Leader – the GL is a tool, not a solution. Proper walking etiquette should still be trained with the goal of graduating to a flat martingale or buckle collar.

The GL should never, ever be used with a leash correction. The head and neck are very sensitive parts of your dog’s anatomy and improper use could cause injuries. Lastly, the GL should never be left on an unsupervised dog.

The Thundershirt

ThundershirtThe Thundershirt is an ingenious piece of canine gear that was developed for sensitive, anxious dogs.

Based on theories about touch and pressure by leading animal experts such as Temple Grandin and Linda Tellington-Jones, this “shirt-meets-body-wrap” exerts a gentle, constant pressure which works to calm a dog.

Using pressure to relieve anxiety has been a common practice for years.

While it is not a magic bullet and should be used in conjunction with other training methods, we have seen firsthand how the Thundershirt can help anxious dogs settle down, relieve car sickness, assist with noise phobias and more.

Tie Down and Martingale Collar

Tie DownA Tie Down is a 3-4′ leash or cable that is affixed to a stationary point that your dog cannot move. We use Tie Downs to keep our dogs out of trouble, but still involved in general activities.

Tie Downs are indispensable tools for puppies and young dogs who are learning the rules of the house. They can be used to keep a puppy confined to a small area during house breaking, or for a 5 minute time out with a rambunctious teenage dog.

They can be used when visitors come over to the house–keeping Rex on the tie down allows him to see Grandma as she comes in, but prevents him from rushing over and knocking her over in his excitement.

Or, if you just need to make dinner without tripping over your dog, she can be lying on her bed, secured by a tie down. She is still included in the family happenings but kept out from underfoot.

Martingale Collar

The martingale collar mimics the action of a choke collar, yet in a more gentle and humane manner. The collar is very similar to a traditional flat collar but has an additional loop with a leash attachment in place of a buckle or clasp.

When the leash is pulled, the small loop tightens while also allowing a stop mechanism so that the choking action is halted. A properly fit martingale collar does not have the ability to contract to a size smaller than that of the dog’s neck, and the dog should not be able to pull out of the collar.

Tools to Keep Them Busy!

Bone Marrow

Marrow Bones

Frozen Marrow Bones (usually beef) but also bison or another variety, can be found at your local upscale pet stores in the freezer section.

These are delicious and healthy treats for your dogs that can keep them occupied for hours.

If you have more than one dog and plan to feed them extremely high-value items such as marrow bones, be sure that you crate the dogs individually or otherwise confine them separately so no one is tempted to steal the spoils from each other!


They may not look all that exciting, but for some dogs, Nylabones are at the top of the list.

These are durable nylon bones that keep aggressive chewers busy for hours.

They come in different flavors and sizes.


Food Dispensing Toys

Food Dispensing Dog ToysThere are a wide variety of food dispensing toys currently available on the market.

Most everyone is familiar with the old standby–the Kong. But there are also other options for the dogs that need a new challenge!

Some of our favorites are the Tug-a-Jug, the Twist-n-Treat, the Everlasting Fun Ball, the Kong Wobbler, and the Buster Cube.

These toys can be loaded with your dog’s meals and left around your home. They will keep your dog mentally and physically occupied, which is great for both of you!

Tips for Using the Kong

One great tip for Kongs is to fill them with something such as peanut butter or your dog’s favorite canned dog food flavor and freeze them. This slows down the time in which it takes your dog to get out all the goods!

If you are worried about the extra calories, you can always mix peanut butter with non-fat plain yogurt, or if you’re really cutting calories, you could even fill it with chicken broth (plug the small hole with a dab of something gooey and placing it large hole side up in a cup in the freezer to prevent frozen chicken broth catastrophe!).

As always if you have any questions on these items or any other dog products, please let us know! Our primary goal is always to help you and your dog co-exist happily.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *