Below are a series of instructional videos, discussing how to train your dog using the Comfort Trainer Head Halter and Miriam's Gentle Dog Training System.
Introducing Your Dog to the Comfort Trainer and Freedom Harness
Begin by giving your dog positive associations with the Comfort Trainer. Allow your dog to sniff it. When she does so, click (or make another unique sound) and give her a treat. Repeat 3 times. Then, put your treat through the nose band of the Comfort Trainer. Your dog must now push her nose through in order to receive her reward marker and treat. Repeat 3 times. Next, rest the nose band on your dog's muzzle when she pushes her nose through. Mark and reward. Repeat 3 times.
If your dog has never worn a head halter it is important to begin working with her as soon as it is on. This will redirect her attention away from the novel object on her face, to performing for rewards. A basic chain of cues, such as come and sit, are a great way to begin.
Teaching the Sit/Stay Once your dog has a good understanding of how to come, sit and walk with you, you can begin teaching her to sit/stay. Do this exercise in 3 main steps - Time, Movement and Distance. Beginning with Time: When your dog performs a sit (either while heeling or after a recall), hesitate a few seconds, then mark (click) and reward. Each successive sit should be followed by ever increasing amounts of time, prior to click and reward. Then, add the stay cue. Gradually add time with each successful exercise. Movement: When your dog is comfortable remaining in a sit for a period of time, say 15 seconds, begin motion. First, step in front. When your dog is comfortable with this, begin motion.
When your dog is comfortable with your motion, all the way around her, gradually add distance with each successful rendition of the exercise. Do not move backward, or suddenly outward. It must be subtle. As you gain distance, you'll also reduce the use of the direct target and move toward using the reward marker (click), followed by the reward.
Using the Freedom Harness The Freedom Harness is a benign training tool that guides your dog. It is best used for redirection, as is the Comfort Trainer, but unlike the Comfort Trainer is not a temporary training tool. It is a device that can be used at any time, even with the best trained dogs.
Using Both Comfort Trainer and Freedom Harness Using both tools aids in training dogs who are highly reactive, easily distracted or have no focus. The two tools ease your dog into learning through facilitation. Combine them with positive reinforcement techniques and you have a great means of training your dog using gentle, positive methods.
Once your dog is comfortable with the Comfort Trainer resting on her head, buckle the strap behind her ears. The buckle tongue goes directly into the strap material. You may need to wiggle the strap a bit to get it in, but you must ensure that is in securely. The strap should be snug, but you should also be able to fit two fingers between the strap and your dog.
You will discover that teaching your dog to heel will be easier than with any other training tool; especially if your dog is reactive or easily distractible. Begin by baiting her very closely so that her full attention is on your hand - her target. Move forward a couple steps and stop. Click and reward. Repeat, gradually adding steps with each successive successful heel exercise. When your dog can move forward comfortably at least 10 steps, incorporate turns. Continue to bait closely. If your dog charges ahead of you, or to your left, turn right. As you turn right, gently apply a downward pressure to the Comfort Trainer. The moment you come out of the turn, release the pressure and maintain a loose lead.
Redirection While Heeling The Comfort Trainer is for redirection; not restraint. Each time your dog moves out of position (while heeling) turn in the opposite direction as you apply gentle downward pressure on the Comfort Trainer. The moment you complete your turn, release the pressure. If your dog is moving too far ahead of you, or off to the left, turn right. If she's behind you, or off to your right side (behind you), turn left.
Teaching the Down Begin with your dog in a sit in heel position. Have a treat in your left hand and allow your dog to target on it. As she targets, lower your hand downward toward your dog's feet. The moment she's all the way down, click and reward. If your dog is reticent about going all the way down, break it up to smaller increments, such as 1. head lowered, 2. head lowered with shoulders hunching a bit, 3. head and shoulders on the way down, 4. head and shoulders on the way down and a front paw comes out. Then all the way. Be sure to offer a jackpot of belly rubs the moment your dog reaches the full down position!
Teaching the Down Stay Once your dog easily goes down on cue, begin working on the down/stay. Begin with adding a little time between her going down and your click/reward. As you add time, move into an upright position. When your dog is comfortable with you upright, you can begin movement around your dog. Begin with along her side, then go behind her, and finally all the way around.
Reducing the use of Comfort Trainer The Comfort Trainer is a training tool. It is not something that you should need at all times throughout your dog's life. Once she's learned how to respond to cues, with distractions present, it is time to reduce your need for it. You can reduce your reliance on the Comfort Trainer through your normal training routines.