Halti vs. Gentle Leader: Which Head Collar Is Better?

When you want to blow off some steam and relax while also spending time with your dog, there’s no better way than to go for a nice, calm walk.

If that sentence made you laugh, then you probably have a puller on your hands. Some dogs get so excited by the prospect of getting out of the house that they drag you all over the neighborhood.

One of the best ways to get unwanted pulling under control is to trade in your regular leash and collar for a head collar. However, there are several different options on the market, and they’re not all equally effective.

Today, we’re comparing the Halti to the Gentle Leader, so you can have a better idea of each unit’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s possible that if you buy the right one, you may be able to enjoy taking your pooch for walks again.Divider 8

How Does a Head Collar Work?

When you walk your dog with just a leash attached to their collar, any pressure you put on the leash is distributed to the dog’s neck and shoulders. This doesn’t provide a disincentive to pull — and in many cases, actually encourages it.

Halti OptiFit Dog Headcollar
Photo credit: Halti OptiFit Dog Headcollar, Chewy

Head collars come in various designs, but the basic idea behind each is the same. By applying pressure to the dog’s head instead of its neck and shoulders, you can have better control over them while also using less pressure.

You’re not supposed to apply constant pressure, however. The idea is that gently pulling on the leash applies pressure to the neck and muzzle, which creates an undesirable amount of tension. Pulling against the leash just makes the tension worse, but if the dog relaxes, the tension is released. This creates natural positive and negative reinforcement.

While it’ll take time for your dog to adjust to a head collar, they should quickly forget that it’s even attached — and hopefully, you’ll both forget about that pulling issue.

A Quick Look at the Gentle Leader

PetSafe Gentle Leader

The Gentle Leader has long been one of the top head collars used by trainers and behaviorists, so much so that many people refer to any head collar as a “Gentle Leader.”

It’s clear to see why the Gentle Leader is so popular: It has a padded nose strap, which makes it more comfortable for most dogs, and it’s completely adjustable, which ensures that you’ll always have a perfect fit.

What’s more, it doesn’t look like a muzzle. That can be important if you own a dog that’s typically the victim of discrimination, like a Pit Bull or a Rottweiler. With a Gentle Leader, they’ll look like a good dog on a regular walk.

It clips to the leash under your dog’s throat, not the chin. This distributes pressure evenly and keeps the collar loose and comfortable when the dog isn’t pulling.

The Gentle Leader isn’t without its faults, however. You can’t attach your leash to both the Gentle Leader and the collar, which makes many owners nervous. Also, the fact that it’s loose and comfortable when your dog isn’t pulling means they could potentially slip out of it if they paw the noseband off.

Minor Conditions
  • Padded nose strap
  • Doesn’t look like a muzzle
  • Completely adjustable
  • Leash clips to throat instead of chin
  • Loose and comfortable when dog isn’t pulling
Serious Conditions
  • Can’t attach leash to both head collar and regular collar
  • Loose enough that dog could potentially slip out

A Quick Look at the Halti

Halti OptiFit

The Gentle Leader has recently been challenged by the upstart Halti, which is similar except for one key difference: It has a strap that attaches the Halti to your dog’s existing collar.

The leash is connected to the strap, not to either collar. This minimizes the amount of resting pressure that’s put on your dog’s head and neck. It also gives you incredible control over them when you issue a correction, making it a great choice for powerful dogs.

You’ll have more slack with the Halti, which is both good and bad. The good news is that it’s extremely comfortable for dogs and reduces the risk that you’ll correct your dog unintentionally. You’ll have to yank on the leash to get your dog’s attention.

Of course, that extra slack makes it easier for your dog to back out of it. Your dog shouldn’t be able to completely escape, though, as it will still be attached to the collar; you’ll just lose the ability to control their head.

The Halti looks more like a muzzle, so people will likely give your dog a wide berth, which may or may not be a good thing. Also, it’s frustrating to adjust.

Minor Conditions
  • Has strap connecting to leash
  • Applies little resting pressure
  • Provides incredible control over dog
  • Good for powerful animals
  • Reduces risk of accidental corrections
Serious Conditions
  • Easy for dogs to back out of
  • Looks like a muzzle
  • Hard to adjust

Divider 4What About Price and Durability?

The Gentle Leader tends to be a bit cheaper than the Halti. However, the difference is minimal — only a few bucks at most retailers.

They’re also fairly similar in terms of durability. As long as you don’t let your dog chew on these collars, there’s nothing about them that should get worn or frayed. You shouldn’t be putting enough pressure on them to damage them in any way.

Ultimately, they both offer similar value for the price, and since neither is particularly expensive, you can’t go wrong either way.Divider 5

Which One is Better?

The Halti and Gentle Leader are similar, and as such, it’s nearly impossible to objectively state that one is better than the other. However, one might be better for you than the other; it all depends on your dog and their behavior.

If your dog absolutely hates having anything on its face, then starting with the Halti might be the better option. It puts less pressure on the dog’s muzzle, so it should be more comfortable and less obtrusive than the Gentle Leader.

However, if you have a little hairy Houdini on your hands, then the Gentle Leader is likely the way to go. It’s harder for your dog to wriggle out of, and it’s much less frustrating to adjust.

The Halti will give you better control over a powerful or unruly dog, but once your pup learns some manners, it might be overkill. You may want to start with it and then switch to the Gentle Leader once you’re confident that your mutt will behave.

Both are excellent training devices and inexpensive enough that buying both may be your best bet. Otherwise, it’s simply a matter of personal preference.


Featured image credit: PetSafe Gentle Leader Quick Release Dog Headcollar, Chewy