Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reactivity help from Dr. Sophia Yin

Lamar's sideways look does not ease Fozzie's anxiety about the head halter!
Now that we're back from our travels, its time to resume working on getting these dogs to behave more like those calm little Oregon dogs on the leash.

Dr. Yin in this video demonstrates more on use of the head halter

She is using it as a negative reinforcer, but only so she can get enough control of Podee so that she can then use positive reinforcement and change Podee's associations with the other dog. 

Key points from this video:
  • Keep your dog's attention with action, movement, and games when you are around another dog. 
  • Take just a few steps at a time, backward, to keep dog's attention. Ask for frequent, happy sits. Especially useful if dog has already learned Sit as  default behavior!
  • Use the head collar only when necessary to get focus
  • Brief on-leash greeting is OK--while using the head collar and treats for control and focus
There is controversy about the use of the head halter within the positive dog training community--and my own personal belief is that there are excellent trainers with good points on both sides of the issue. 

My feeling is that the best use of the head halter is in the sense of a "calming elastic" as used in TTouch: a piece of fabric or elastic placed over the dog's nose, crossed under the nose, then tied behind the neck in a figure 8. Here is a discussion on head halters from the TTouch folks that provides perspective on this non-aversive use of head halters as guidance, rather than control.  

I do believe that:
  • The head halter's purpose is manipulating the head to redirect it from triggers. That is to say, don't use the head halter just to drag a dog along and say "let's go." For this, far better to just say "let's go!" 
  • Using the halter to move the head should be a last resort. When a dog is responsive to luring or verbal cues, use those. 


  1. That is an excellent video! I am so excited to see because I have been working with a friend who has a reactive dog. I cannot wait to show her.

    I hope Fozzie felt better after that picture was taken!

  2. whoa she moves hella fast!

    i too have conflicting thoughts on the head halters, but the TTouch tool makes a lot more sense to me.

    THANK YOU for this post!!!

  3. She does move fast, doesn't she? It is fascinating to me to watch others who are so coordinated :)

    Fozzie still hates his head halter :( I feel much better not using it, but he is much calmer on walks with it on. Which begs the question... is any learning really going on with the use of this aversive, if he just reverts to his old behavior without it?

    I am going to try walking the mutts separately tonight, and really emphasize the fast movements, backstepping, sitting, and treating rather than the head collar and see if we can make progress...


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