Use head collars cautiously to avoid injury if you are walking a reactive dog
This head collar is also sometimes called a gentle leader

So, what are the options available to pet parents with a dog that is reactive on leash? A head collar is just one of them. But you need to use head collars cautiously.

Also known as a gentle leader, this tool needs to be introduced with a lot of care and patience so that Fido does not become fearful.

How To Use Head Collars/Gentle Leaders

It’s only fair for me to start off by saying that I have not yet met a dog that likes being fitted with one. My experience is that at the outset, dogs will usually show some degree of resistance. However, that uncertainty is soon short-lived because of the overwhelming desire to go walkies!

The loop fits over the snout and two straps snap together on the back of the neck. It needs to fit snugly but never too tight. A dog still needs to be able to open its mouth sufficiently to allow for panting. The ring for connecting the leash is located on the short strap that hangs down the center of the dog’s chest.

Watch Out For Rolling Antics 

A lot of dogs act out on the walk and will roll around on the ground trying to get the head collar off. As an extra precaution, I will also use a regular collar and leash just in case that happens. 

One of my dog clients is a GoldenDoodle, very sweet, very playful and very comical. He loves to roll on grass and he can run like the wind. So, here is an instance where I prefer to pre-empt an unfortunate situation and use both restraints simultaneously.

Gentle Correction With The Gentle Leader 

A dog’s nose is a very sensitive area so any correction must be done cautiously. Pulling hard on the leash and jerking must be avoided at all costs to prevent injury.

To Sum Up

As I said at the outset, be careful when using head collars (gentle leaders). They only work well if both the walker and the one at the end of the leash are in harmony. Give it a try. It’s well worth the effort! 

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!  


If you don’t know why retractable leashes aren’t safe, you might want to read this article
If you don’t know why retractable leashes aren’t safe, you might want to read this article

When I mention to a new client that I do not use them, they wonder why retractable leashes aren’t safe. So I tell the pet parent that they are misused, they can break and, in fact, they may cause serious injury. 

The bottom line is that, 99% of the time, handlers are clueless of the risks involved when they use these “flexi” leashes to go walkies. So, it’s hardly surprising that one of my major pet peeves is that too few pet guardians use leashes that are unretractable.

To learn more about this topic, please take a look at the examples and explanations below.


Any leash that has a reach of around 30 feet is not meant for regular dog walking. And it is especially inappropriate if used where there is traffic, no matter how light. The person involved just doesn’t have proper control and is allowing a potential safety incident to occur. So, in situations like these, yes, retractable leashes are harmful.

Nevertheless, on a positive note, this kind of leash can be a very good tool for obedience training in a wide open space. In fact, that was the only purpose for creating them in the first place. Most people don’t know that.


Anyone who has been using a retractable leash for a number of years will tell you that the spring mechanism can malfunction. When that happens, it will either not extend or not retract. Now think about this for a moment. If the thin cord or the flat nylon strip snaps, you have a dog on the loose. And, not only that, the leash can boomerang back to hit the person holding the plastic handle.


Another reason why retractable leashes aren’t safe is because of injury. If any part of the leash gets wrapped around the human’s leg, it can cause burns or cuts. Also, the dog on this particular leash, as well as other dogs, may be at risk of injury, too, if they become entangled.

Another harmful scenario is when the human suddenly prevents the leash from extending. Or when it is allowed to spool out totally and the moving canine suddenly stops in its tracks. This frequently results in neck wounds and throat injuries as well as damage to the spine.

The 99 Percent

In my experience, 99% of “flexi” leash dog walkers are clueless risk takers. When not used for their original intention, retractable leashes have harmful consequences. Here are some examples which, unfortunately, I have seen with my own eyes.

  • A dog that has not be trained to walk correctly will pull because it knows it will always be given more leeway.
  • The plastic case is bulky, you bend over to pick up his business, you fumble, and you drop the leash. It’s dragged along the ground and makes a noise which scares the dog as it runs faster to get away from the noise, totally traumatized.
  • You’re distracted and forget to click the spool tight. Your dog sees a squirrel and takes off…
  • Still distracted, you’re still talking on your phone. However, this time your dog is walking 12 feet behind you, and you have no idea what he’s up to.
  • Your dog is 6 feet ahead of you, turns the corner and comes face-to-face with an unfriendly canine. An altercation begins, and you’re unable to control your dog.

To Sum Up

By all means, go ahead and use a sturdy, well-constructed retractible leash when you are training your pup. Otherwise, stay away from them altogether and stick to the safer option, an unretractable leash. And, do make sure that it is appropriate for the breed and size of your four-legged companion.

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!