Best Head Halter for Large Breed Dogs: A Real Review of No-Pull Dog Collars

  • Shane 
best head halter for large dogs
best dog head halters review title photo

A walk with your dog can be such an enjoyable experience when you are in control and your dog is comfortable. However, with some dogs and especially large breeds, a simple walk can be stressful, exasperating and even embarrassing without the right tools or training.

Best Dog Head Halters at a glance:

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What is a dog head halter?

A head halter (or no-pull collar) is a tool that gives you more control over your dog. Unlike a collar or harness, which connects at a point closer to the dogs center, a head halter connects to their head (similar to a horse halter), giving you a mechanical advantage that significantly reduces a dog’s pulling power.

woman leading horse with head halter
walking hansel with the canny collar dog head halter

What it isn't

A head halter is not a muzzle. A head collar does not train your dog to stop pulling. Instead, it reduces the pulling force of your dog. It does this by anchoring your leash to a point that your dog cannot produce much force from.

Are Head Halters (aka Gentle Leaders) Cruel?

No. The disadvantage of pulling from their head just means a dog cannot exert as much force onto the leash. They are not deterred through pain or discomfort of any kind (no coughing or gagging), like using a pronged (pinch) collarchoke collar, or martingale collar, which can injure your dog and are ultimately not very effective. 

pronged collar
Pronged Collar

Who needs a head halter?

Anyone can use a head halter, even someone with a small dog. If you want to gain more control over your dog, a head halter will accomplish that. In most cases, though, head halters are used for powerful dogs, strong pullers, aggressive dogs, or general dog correction. 

One issue with headcollars

A head halter will give you more control than you ever thought possible, but there is one problem with these products that we encounter over and over again — poor quality. The Gentle Leader or Halti Head Collar are unanimously rated as the best dog head halters, but in our experience these are total garbage! Most articles reviewing these products just regurgitate the same information without actually testing them. 

This guide will help you choose the best head halter for your dog with a thorough comparison based on our experience with four Bernese Mountain Dogs. Unlike other guides, we have personally used every single one of these products and put them through the stress test of the force of a dog that is bred to pull!

Our Experience

My wife and I can easily walk two Bernese Mountain Dogs each now that we use head halters. This is especially impressive for her since she is controlling more than double her weight in dog, something she could never safely do otherwise, and while I can man-handle them regardless, it would be at the cost of frustration and lower back strain. 

susie walking charlie, hansel and bernie wearing some of the best dog head halters

We have gone through more than a dozen of the “best” dog head halters in just the past few years (none lasting longer than a month). Most notably the Gentle Leader,  Halti and Halti Optifit, and Walk’n Train Head Halter (formerly Holt Head Collar) all have one thing in common: cheap materials. And ironically these are the most popular head halters on the market. I am surprised there are so many articles titled Halti vs Gentle Leader when neither are good options.

These head collars are rated 4+ stars on Amazon, but if you dig a little deeper and look at the large percentage of 1-star reviews, you get a better picture. A lot of the positive reviews were probably made before the product fell apart.

Reviews of the "best" dog head halters

gentle leader dog head halter diagram

The adjustable clamp on the Gentle Leader and Halti Optifit is made of cheap plastic that quickly breaks. Without the adjustable clamp, the point where the leash connects will move side to side on your dog’s snout instead of anchoring below, reducing your control and your dog’s comfort. I can’t believe how cheaply made this important piece is. Why can’t these companies invest another few more cents into something that will last? 

More importantly, these headcollars are made out of a cheap, thin nylon that doesn’t take long to rip. Literally. You would expect more from a product made for dogs that pull! This is a major safety issue, as you can see by the dozens of reviews I’ve included below.

Gentle Leader: Avoid

Halti: Avoid

Halti Optifit: Avoid

Walk'n Train Head Halter (formerly Holt Head Collar): Avoid

Walk'n Train Holt Head Halter Review

Good News

We did find some head collars that do the job well and we recently discovered one that is almost perfect

The Canny Collar

Canny Collar dog head halter
hansel wearing the canny collar dog head halter

The Canny Collar is actually the first head halter we ever purchased. It is very well made with all metal parts. We have had it for four years and it has been a champ! It connects behind the head, which is a different design than the Gentle Leader, Halti and Walk’n Train head halters. This design is more comfortable for your dog, as it doesn’t put pressure on the bridge of their nose or throat, but distributes it across the head.

One Complaint

Our only complaint is that the design could be better implemented because it is a bit cumbersome to put on your dog. The nose loop retracts in a way that can be a little difficult to pull out and secure on your dog’s snout.

The nose loop is also secured with two independent rings that connect to the leash (pictured). This adds to the difficulty of leashing your dog because you need to latch it on to both rings instead of a single ring.

Overall these are minor issues because this head collar is durable, secure and performs its function very well. It makes up for any shortcomings with its quality construction — we are just being nitpicky because any inconvenience is multiplied by four in our haus!

canny collar dog head halter diagram

Sporn Head Halter

sporn dog head halter
hansel wearing kurgo dog head halter

Sporn has taken the behind-the-head style halter that the Canny Collar uses and evolved the design to be a bit more simple. Instead of two independent rings to connect to your leash, the line connects at one ring. The nose loop is also easier to pull out. Overall, the quality is good, but the materials do not feel as robust as the Canny Collar. They do, however, have a lifetime guarantee on the product. For that reason, we recommend both equally because both products have their pros and cons. 

Kurgo Snout About Head Halter

This head halter has every attribute that we look for:

  • High quality materials
  • Smart design
  • Easy to put on
  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Lifetime Warranty

Smart Design

What we love the most about this collar is the design.  It literally takes one second to put on. The Snout About head halter has a different design than all the others. Instead of connecting at the snout or behind the head, this head collar connects at the throat. The design is really smart. The collar and the “nose loop” is one piece that distributes the force evenly and is incredibly simple to secure, making it our current favorite.

Some Drawbacks

But the Snout About doesn’t come without any drawbacks. If your dog manages to get out of the nose loop and you don’t realize before putting tension on the leash, the nose loop can retract and you will have to secure your dog and re-fit it.

This can happen with many of the best dog head halters, but because of the one-piece design of the Snout About, the collar will loosen if the nose loop retracts, which can potentially be a safety issue (see photo). So while there is an advantage to the simplicity of a one-piece design, there is also a disadvantage.

That being said, this potential issue is insignificant compared to the risk of the more popular headcollars snapping.

There are also some older reviews that complain about the rubber connection piece breaking, but we have not experienced that and it does appear to be well constructed, so it looks like that issue has been fixed. 

One other drawback is the size. The company claims that this head halter in size Large can fit all giant breed dogs, but it is too small for our biggest boy Hansel, so we use the Canny Collar or Sporn Head Halter for him. The Canny Company even has a head harness for really big boys called the Canny Colossus.

problem with kurgo dog head halter

Verdict

Through our experience, we weeded out the products that have durability issues so you can buy something that you know will last. The Canny Collar, Snout About and Sporn Head Halter are all great choices, but if safety is your utmost concern, you should choose the Canny Collar or Sporn Head Halter due to the secure collar design. Otherwise, we highly recommend the Snout About because it is so easy to use. 

Even more options...

The above list covers the best dog head halters that we have personal experience with, but there are still some others that may be worth your consideration. The Comfort Trainer head halter and Snoot Loop have a similar design to the standard Halti, but due to the limited number reviews and lack of availability on Amazon Prime (for easy returns), we have never tried them. 

Perfect Pace Halter (formerly the Infinity Lead)

The design of the Perfect Pace Halter is intriguing and unique. It also comes in Leather, in case you are specifically looking for a leather head halter for your dog. It appears to be well made and there are positive Infinity Lead reviews.   

leather head halter for dogs
Perfect Pace dog head halter fitting
infinity lead dog head halter

How to use a head halter

We recommend buying a head halter from a website with a good return policy like Amazon just in case there are any fit issues. The most important detail to consider once you choose a head halter is sizing. An incorrect fit can make a gentle leader cause nose irritation, neck injury or safety issues if it slips off. A proper fit allows your dog to have an open mouth for easy panting, eating and drinking.

Each product is different but generally you will need to measure the circumference of your dog’s neck and snout. You should refer to the documentation provided by the specific product you choose. I recommend using a soft measuring tape, but a typical construction tape measure is adequate if that’s all you have.

If your dog is still growing you may want to buy a larger size if the sizing chart indicates that your dog would fit into two different sizes. We would have been better off getting the next size up for our Canny Collar when Charlie was a (big) puppy. Now that he is fully grown, it is more difficult to put on because we use the very last hole in the collar.

How to fit a head halter

Remember the first time you leashed your dog? I bet he or she was not a fan. It is no different for a head halter. Your dog will most likely not appreciate the head collar the first time you put it on — in fact they will probably be quite opposed to it if you do not introduce it properly. It is new and different and they are especially not used to the sensation of the nose loop around their snout. Of course, some dogs will be more or less sensitive than others. 

Acclimating

You want to make your dog’s first experience with a head collar a positive one, so have treats handy! Help your dog form a positive association with the head collar by showing it to them and giving them treats when they interact with it. It won’t take long before they jump with excitement when they see it. Eventually, your dog will associate the head collar with a walk, which is even more exciting. 

Do not force the nose loop on your dog’s snout. Using treats, encourage your dog to put its snout through the loop to get a treat until it is comfortable with the nose loop around its snout. 

Make your dog’s first experience with the head collar fun. Do not go for a walk the first time you put it on them; rather, put it on them for a few minutes at a time and reward them with treats for positive behavior. When they can wear it for a few minutes at a time without frustration they are ready for a walk. Start out with a short walk and bring treats.

Be prepared for some tantrums. If your dog tries to remove the head halter, quickly stop and calm him or her down. Don’t let them get fixated on the fight! Try again and keep a good pace with as much freedom as possible and encourage their good behavior with treats. You want to avoid a negative experience. It is much more difficult to train a dog to like a head collar once it has a bad experience. 

How to stop your dog from pulling

Ultimately you want there to be minimal tension on the leash when you are walking. If your dog starts pulling, it should not take much effort for you to correct him or her with a little tension in the right direction that brings the slack back into the leash. 

What has been your experience with head halters? Tell us in the comments below!

We participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read our full disclosure here.

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