The gentle leader I'm talking about is a head halter like a halti - when used correctly it gently turns the head towards you so you have the dog's attention. Often they are misused and dogs are put on them on flex or long leads and allowed to run to the end of the lead so it jerks their necks. That is how they get a bad rap. If someone just slaps it on without building value for it first the dog will probably object. A lot of people do that without making sure the dog is comfortable in it before using it. My trainer says you should never put one on without a plan for how you are going to get rid of it. They are meant to be temporary training tools to redirect their attention until your dog can work nicely even with distraction. If you have your dog's attention they aren't necessary.
I was watching a young (18 month) Golden in the class before ours this morning. He was fabulous - focused and attentive on his handler while doing short sequences off leash. Our trainer asked the handler to try taking the gentle leader off and the dog was totally different. He got the zooms, went visiting and pretty much ignored his handler.
While I've never felt it necessary with Rylie and only around wildlife with Max I have seen so many dogs show amazing results by wearing them for only a few months or weeks that I would never rule them out. I also think that they are far easier to use correctly with a bigger dog. I struggle with sliding my hand down the leash to redirect the head without putting my back out.
Mindy Tri - Feb/97
Max - Ruby - Sep/08
Rylie - B&T - June/09