Sunday, September 28, 2014

Product Review: Gentle Leader Head Collar

The Premier Gentle Leader is a head collar, or head halter, made by PetSafe. The basic nylon webbing version comes in five sizes and nine different colors to fit dogs of all sizes. The deluxe version features a fleece-lined nose loop with a ribbon overlay, it comes in three colors and includes a matching leash.
Photo by Erin Koski

The Gentle Leader is probably the easiest to find head collar, and might be the easiest to use. I find them at thrift stores on a regular basis, and currently own three or four. Many dogs really hate wearing a head collar, but for the dogs that don't mind, this can be a really excellent bandaid for pulling on the leash.

The Gentle Leader became popular and easy to find in stores in the late 1990's, but it had been around for at least a decade before that under a different name. The Promise Collar was touted as a "natural" training system designed to work with the dominance-based pack structure believed to be the key to dog training at the
time. As the science of behaviorism began to influence dog training, and reward-based positive training surged in popularity, the Promise Collar was rebranded as the Gentle Leader. The Authority Loop became the Leader Loop, and the training tool was no longer intended to dominate subordinate pack members.
Briz is not a fan/

I sort of love and hate this collar. I love that I haven't paid more than a dollar for any of the many I have owned and given away. I love that this collar is incredibly adjustable, one side of the neck strap is a fixed length and the other side as well as the nose loop can be adjusted all the way down to nothing, so Brisbane can wear a medium, a large, and possibly even an extra large Gentle Leader. I love that there are only two loops, so it is relatively simple to put on.

At the same time, I hate that most dogs fight this collar even when it has been carefully introduced. I hate seeing long leashes and even retractables attached to these. I hate seeing dogs back out of them at the worst possible time, and I hate how pretty much everyone has them sized wrong. The neck loop is supposed to be very tight, so tight even a single finger can't be slid under it. Most dogs hate this, and most of their owners do, too. The thing is, the neck strap needs to be super tight, sitting right up behind the ears, in order to keep the nose loop in place. If the neck strap is too loose, the nose loop can slip off, and most people respond by making the nose loop too tight.

A correctly-fitted Gentle Leader should fit tightly around the neck, but very loose around the nose. The plastic adjuster on the nose loop should be positioned so that it is barely not loose. Most dogs will not be able to back out of the collar when it is super tight, but I use a martingale or slip collar as a backup in case they do manage to escape the Gentle Leader.

Pros: Easy to find, easy to use, and each size fits a wide range of dogs. Definitely the least-confusing and most user-friendly head collar.

Cons: Most dogs hate it at first, many continue to hate it even when properly introduced. Difficult to adjust correctly, and may be uncomfortable for the dog when the neck strap is tight enough. No backup or safety feature in case dog backs out of collar. Unlined nose loop tends to rub marks on dogs who wear the Gentle Leader often.

Bottom Line: There are head collars I like better than the Gentle Leader. There are head collars that many dogs like better than the Gentle Leader. However, this is still my best bet for introducing people to the whole concept without overwhelming them with a tangle of straps.


  1. I went to the website and did not see a deluxe version that is fleece lined. Nor have I been able to find one on the web. Any suggestions?

  2. Here is a current link, it looks like it is lined with felt rather than fleece now. http://store.petsafe.net/gentle-leader-deluxe-headcollar-leash