I've got an odd issue with my dog that I've never had with any other dog I've had.

When it's time to take my dog for a walk, he's fairly calm. He walks with me to the front door (where I keep his leash). I tell him to sit, and he does. I pick up the leash, but as I go to slip the collar over his head, he turns his head away. If I try to 'chase' his head, he'll stand up and back away. This gets frustrating as it will often lead me to telling him to sit and trying to put it on over and over. Once he's got the collar on, he's perfectly fine and happy for the entirety of the walk. Once we return, when I go to take off the leash, he gets excitable though and will try to pull back once I try to slip the collar off. This makes the process more difficult, but not nearly as much a problem as trying to get the collar on.

The collar being used is a Martingale collar, which slips on (it can't be unbuckled or whatever).

I've tried holding the leash up as a loop, and offering a treat on the other side and, while this works to get him to stick his head through the leash fairly easily, if I don't offer the treat he wont go through with it despite much repetition. I would think the issue is him not liking your hands near his neck, but he's quite content to let you pet him around the neck at any other time.

Does anyone have any suggestions or advice on how to get him to be more comfortable with putting his collar on for a walk?


4 Answers 4


Pre-walk ritual

It is already good that you have him sit before going out. Sitting is a deferential behaviour helping him to gather information about what's going on. In addition sitting helps the dog relax.

Before going out for a walk you don't want to train for an "excited" or "obedience like" sit (I mean that the goal is not the "sit" in itself, like a trick). You want him to sit and look at you ("hey what's next?") while staying calm and relaxed. This last part prevents the brain from going in "crazy" mode (not very scientific...) which in turn prevents him from thinking and then learning (harness or collar fitting, loose leash walking, ...).

You seem to be doing quite well there, you can really enforce that in other situations (doors that you open, picking up a toy, etc.). Eventually you won't even have to ask him to sit, just wait until he does. If you do that consistently you also reduce his anxiety: he knows what will happen and he's in control of the situation (from his point of view) and understands that doing nothing is a good thing.

Collar fitting and 'manipulations'

This is to be trained separately: don't do that when you want to go for a walk. Do that when you're calm and relaxed.

The goal is to train the dog to have your hands close to his face, neck, etc. This is also valid for other 'manipulations' (you could practice with his paws, tail, eyes, ears, etc.). That can be very useful if you have to give him medications.

Take some treats, call the dog, ask him to sit. Approach your hands from his face, say "good boy" and give him a treat. Progress very slowly. The goal is to reinforce the "good" behaviour (not moving), so you need to create a situation in which that good behaviour happens.

When he's confortable with your hands then you can start doing the same with the collar. Progress slowly: that may means 3 sessions (1 session of 5 minutes a day?) without the collar with some dogs, or 10 sessions with other dogs. The progression is usually non linear.

You can give him a treat through the loop for the first few tries. However that's bribing not rewarding. Quickly fade out the treat and only reward after the good behaviour.

If he's moving too much or trying to snap your hands: don't say anything, stand up, turn away from him and/or move to another room. Wait 15 seconds and start again. In these situations you don't have to talk much: don't "command" anything (apart from the initial sit), don't yell at the dog, etc.

As he'll make progress you can also touch his neck in other circumstances, before feeding him, before petting him, etc. That will help him generalise and proof the behaviour (no reaction when your hands approach his face) with distractions.

Fitting the collar to go for a walk

That's the last step: the dog is calm and relaxed (part 1) and had some training about the collar, he's confortable with your hands being close to his face (part 2).

Don't talk and breathe calmly. You both know what to do. If he's getting nervous when you try to fit the collar, stand up, turn away from him and wait 10 seconds. He should sit down again by himself.


Long answer but that's not rocket science. The main point is the desensitisation and/using positive reinforcement of being manipulated near his head. The usual error is to try to progress too quickly. That's a problem I'm having now as I have to apply an ophthalmic ointment to my dog.

I'm talking about "saying good boy and treat", that can be adapted to clicker training (click and treat - see this video about clicks and calm markers) or any other positive reinforcement training method.


To get your dog walking comfortably on a leash, initially all you need to prefer a light flat collar and a light leash.

  • The first step is to get your dog familiar with the collar.
  • If you attach a collar to him only when you take your dog outside then start attaching even in the home when you interacting with him.
  • Just make sure while putting a collar just put it sung but no so tight otherwise that will be uncomfortable and irritating for your pooch; he should forget about it as you are getting his attention and interacting to take mind off the wearing of the collar.

For me it looks like the dog is head-shy. A possible solution is a step-by-step training:

  1. Can you touch your dog at the head? Can you stroke over his eyes? If he stands up and back away, train it. Be very calm and gently with him and train it, until he accept it. Don't train too much a day. Interrupt your training with petting him where he really likes it. If this is ok, go to step 2.

  2. Try to touch him with the leash at his head. If he accept, fine, if not, train it like above.

  3. Train your dog with the collar. Be very patient and calm with him. Don't train him before a walk, but in situations where you have much time and you are relaxed.


Come from behind. With the the dog sitting come from behind in a squat with your knees to each side. Link hands to collar at the chest of the dog. You now have the dog under control. He cannot go forward, back, or side to side. Slip the collar up and over his head.

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