Friday, February 6, 2009

The wonderful, magical Halti

Sensi and I walked frequently when he was a puppy. I loved showing him off.
One time, a lady even opened her front door and hollered out at me, “Excuse me! Miss! What kind of dog is that? He is just beautiful!”
I yelled back, “Thank you! He’s a pit bull.”
She turned around and slammed the door behind her. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to own a pit bull, that pretty much sums it up.
Sensi grew big fast. He was 90 lbs. by the time he was 9 months.
That first winter, he spotted a squirrel run through a fence and decided he was going in for the chase. He took me right along with him — through a three-foot-tall snowbank and face first into a chain link face.
Later that winter, I thought I’d make light of situation by letting him pull me down the icy roads. He loved it. I locked my legs and he trotted merrily, pulling me along for the ride. Until he a saw a squirrel and I, again, face planted a snowbank.
When spring broke, I set about training him to walk properly on a leash. I had read that the best way to do this was to basically walk in circles. Whenever the dog pulls, you turn around and go the opposite direction. The dog is supposed to learn that he has to follow you.
It didn’t work. We walked circles for hours. One of Brent’s neighbor’s came out — probably concerned for my sanity — and asked what we were doing. She looked at me strangely as I tried to explain. I imagine she and her husband laughed heartily at my hours of circle walking.
I went to the pet store determined to buy a prong collar, which I didn’t really believe would work on Sensi, who doesn’t seem to feel any pain.
Next to the prong collars and choke collars was the Halti.
The Halti is just one of many brands of gentle leaders.
What’s a gentle leader? Think of a horse’s bridle and how it goes around the head. Now imagine that without the bit (the mouthpiece). That’s pretty much what they are.
The Halti is a little different from the rest because it hooks into the dog’s regular collar, meaning if the dog somehow wipes off the Halti, he’s still not free from you. It also has a loop around the mouth that tightens if they pull on it.
Gentle leaders work.
If the dog pulls, he’s pulling against himself, not you. Think about it. You’re leading the dog by his head. If he pulls, all it does is pull his head.
It’s so amazing that I can hold on to the leash with my little pinkie finger.
Sensi learned in one walk how far ahead, to the side and behind me he can go without pulling on himself. He now chooses to walk right beside me, and instead of trying to chase after squirrels, he zones in on the idea of traveling as a pack. That’s the type of mental exertion Cesar talks about.
He doesn’t hate the Halti either. Sensi associates the Halti with walks, which he loves, so he sits and waits eagerly for me to put the Halti on.
He’ll be thrilled to see the Halti this weekend.

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