Should You Train With a Head Halter?

If your dog gets a bit overeager on walks, it might pull you along, making it hard for you to control it. That’s where a head halter comes in handy. These devices are also used by people who have service dogs, again for better control.

The Humane Society of the United States provides instructions on how to use head halters, which consist of a strap that fits around your dog’s nose, and a second strap that fits around your dog’s neck and behind its ears. You attach the leash under your dog’s chin. It’s also connected to the nose strap. While this might all seem a bit severe, the device is actually quite safe and is considered to be a “humane method of restraint,” according to The Humane Society.

Make sure the device fits properly, and give your dog some time to get used to it -- but not too much time. Dogs that are left with a head halter on while inside the home usually find a way to remove it. Once your pet learns how to do this, it can be difficult to keep the halter on.

The Humane Society advises that you should not:

  • Think of the halter like a muzzle; they are two entirely different things
  • Jerk the leash hard while your dog is wearing the halter
  • Use the head halter with a retractable lead
  • Allow your dog to run speedily to the lead’s end, because your dog could be jerked backward

Do, on the other hand, only use the head halter during on-leash walks when you are present for supervision. Additionally, take time to read the informational sheet that comes with your particular halter.

Photo: Amazon.com

Get Your Dog Comfortable With a New Name

It’s not too hard to figure out why changing a dog’s name would be confusing to the canine. Imagine if you moved into a new home and everyone started calling you something other than your actual name. If you did not understand that the new name referred to you, you would probably wonder what was going on.

The situation you describe is a common one, especially with pets that are adopted from shelters or from other owners. “Lovey” or “Precious” might sound great to one person, but to another, the dog looks more like a “Fido” or a “George.” Names often reflect our own taste and how we perceive our pets. Sometimes, new owners just keep the dog’s older name, but since you want to change it, you can do so over a relatively short period of time.

Dogs of any age, from puppies to seniors, can learn a new name in just a few days with proper training. Petfinder.com suggests following these four steps:

1. Choose a new name for your pet. Shorter, easier-to-say names are best. Even dogs with long pedigreed names usually have short nicknames too.

2. Make a point of carrying some of your dog’s favorite treats with you. These can be doggy biscuits broken into pieces.

3. When time allows and when you want to grab your dog’s attention, call out the new name. When your dog looks back at you, immediately provide verbal praise and pet your dog. As you do so, offer a small food treat.

4. Offer the above praise even if your dog does not respond to the new name. Petfinder.com says that soon your dog “will know that hearing that word means great things are coming, and he will respond as if that word is his own!”

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/skynesher

What Your Dog’s Eyes Reveal

All mammals communicate information with their eyes. In any given moment, we humans are just not that consciously aware of it, even though we are taking it in. For example, you might notice that someone looks angry or sad even though you haven’t really analyzed why. Looking into a person’s eyes helps reveal how that individual feels.

In their book Good Dog!: Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training, Evelyn Pang and Hilary Louie share how dogs can communicate with their eyes too. Here are some common emotions and how your dog shows them with its eyes:

Happy Your dog looks at you but does not stare. Your pal’s eyes will look relaxed yet not sleepy.

Scared A frightened dog will tend to look away, shielding its eyes from the person, the other dog or the object that is causing the fear.

Angry Just like a mad person, a mad dog will look at you right in the eyes and stare in a glaring manner.

Really Angry Pang and Louie warn against what they call “the half moon.” This is when the whites of your dog’s eyes take on a half-moon shape. If you see this, be prepared for trouble. Dogs often display this look when they are about to bite or attack someone, according to the authors.

Your dog’s tail, ears, mouth, nose, fur and more can also communicate how your dog is feeling. Pay attention to the visual details and you can better understand your pet’s mood.

The Harmful Effects Sugar Has on Dogs

As mammals, dogs process foods in a way that is somewhat similar to the way we do. Sugar, in the form of glucose, is carried to all of the body’s cells via blood. Your dog may not directly be ingesting sweets, but glucose can come from carbohydrates since carbs consist of long chains of glucose, which breaks down quickly in the body and can raise blood sugar levels.

Colleen Paige -- author of The Good Behavior Book for Dogs: The Most Annoying Dog Behaviors ... Solved! -- believes that dogs may get a sugar high that “can cause a dog to be hyper and unfocused.” She thinks that, in many cases in which dogs appear to be ill-mannered and uncooperative, the dog’s behavior could actually have been influenced by diet.

Similar to what we experience, dogs can suffer a sugar low after the high, causing dogs to become “sleepy, lethargic, moody and irritable,” says Paige. If your dog is not eating a high-quality food with good ingredients, your pet could experience a regular daily cycle of extreme highs and lows. Over time, problems like diabetes could result, given that the body has to work harder to process excess glucose.

Paige urges owners to steer clear of dog foods with excess sugar and carbs, not to mention preservatives, artificial coloring, artificial flavorings and other “no-no” ingredients, as she calls them.

What Your Dog’s Biting Means

“Bite inhibition” is somewhat of a misleading phrase. The word “inhibition” normally means something that restrains, blocks or suppresses. That is only partially true for a dog engaging in bite inhibition.

Dogs and cats have much more control over biting than you probably realize. They don’t just bite down on something with the same force each time. That is expected as the dog eats, needing to crunch down with force on a hard biscuit, for example, but with less energy for a tender morsel of dog chow. But dogs use this same adjustment when biting others -- including humans and different dogs.

Evelyn Pang and Hilary Louie, authors of the book Good Dog!: Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training, explain that bite inhibition is when your dog bites down on you, without pushing in with its teeth. Essentially, it is mouthing or nipping you. Puppies do this a lot, nipping at your heels and other places. In the case of puppies, the young dogs are often just exploring their environment in a playful way. Nipping is one way to test the waters in terms of using their teeth and mouth and seeing how others will react.

For older dogs that bite in this seemingly harmless way, the dog is giving you a warning. You might be brushing the dog in an uncomfortable way or doing something else that is painful or stressful. If you do not heed the bite inhibition warning, the next bite will not be so gentle. If your dog nips for seemingly no reason, however, you might schedule a veterinary visit, as cranky dogs may have an underlying health issue. Your dog could also need a training refresher course to prevent the painless bites from turning into something more serious.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/Tom-N