Walking a dog should be a fun activity where you and your dog get to enjoy the benefits of exercising and getting in touch with the world. Things can get a tad bit frustrating though when you are walking a dog who is obsessed about biting the leash! If your dog’s idea of going on a walk is to repeatedly bounce up and hang on to the leash, you may likely want to do something about it, before things get starting too much out of hand.
A Game of Tug
Grabbing and biting on the leash is a common behavior that’s often seen in puppies and young dogs. It often stems from a strong desire to play. From these dogs’ perspective, the leash is perceived as a long, portable tug toy that’s worthy of grabbing, shaking and tugging on. The fact that you are holding the leash and trying to pull it away, further adds to the appeal making the game extra enticing. While normally a game of tug is not a problem, when it involves the leash, things get problematic for obvious reasons.
A Quest for Attention
Not only can leash biting be a fun game, especially when you create resistance by trying to pull it away, it’s also a prolific way for your dog to grab your attention, even if it’s negative. Here’s how it goes. You are walking your dog and your dog is getting bored. The light bulb goes on and your dog thinks about playing tug with the leash, so you pull back, and on top of that, you reprimand your dog by saying: “Stop it! This is so annoying, now stop it!” Then, you finally manage to pull the leash out of your dog’s mouth, but in another 10 steps your dog feels bored again. So he goes back to leash biting knowing for sure that, not only will you play tug with him, but you’ll also grant him some bonus attention by making eye contact and talking to him.
A Sign of Frustration
It’s often worthy to see in which exact context your dog starts biting at the leash. Is it when you stop walking to talk with a friend? Is it when your dog sees another dog? Is it just at the beginning of the walk? Some dogs may get easily aroused and frustrated at times either because they want to keep on walking, as they have too much energy, or they want to go meet other dogs.
Tips to Stop Leash Biting
So if pulling the leash away and reprimanding the dog isn’t likely to work with dogs who love to bite the leash, what is left to do? You can’t just ignore the behavior and let your dog play leash tug for the whole duration of the walk! Hold on tight, here are some options:
- Lower Arousal Levels
Dogs who are highly excitable, may benefit from learning how to exert more impulse control. Exercising before walking is helpful as it helps drain pent-up energy. Providing mental stimulation through interactive puzzle games is another great way to keep dogs busy during the day. Increasing obedience training can help the dog learn better coping skills. Dr. Sophia Yin’s Learn to Earn program is an easy way to introduce obedience training in everyday interactions with your dog.
- Teach an Alternate Behavior
A fun way to get attention away from the leash is teaching a fun game of “look at me and you get a treat.” You can give your pup a treat every time he makes eye contact with you. You can even put the behavior on cue by making a smooching sound with your mouth. If your dog tends to leap up at you to get the treat, make sure to deliver the treat low or toss it on ground.
- Provide a Toy
Some dogs don’t really want to tug with the leash, but simply like to carry things around in their mouth. If you have a fellow as such, you may find it helpful to bring a toy and let your dog proudly carry it on walks.
- Switch to a Harness
Young dogs and puppies are particularly interested in the leash because it’s readily dangling from their collars, so they’re often reminded of its presence. Switching to a harness can make the leash less evident as it clips to a ring on their back and it’s less likely to be in their way.
- Make It Unpleasant
Nylon and leather leashes may be appealing as these materials are appealing to chew. An option for persistent leash-biting cases is to invest in a metal chain leash. Not many dogs enjoy biting on cold, hard metal that has an unpleasant taste. If you do not have a metal leash, you can try to slip a piece of narrow, lightweight PVC pipe over the leash so that your dog won’t have anything soft to bite on, suggests dog trainer Pat Miller. If instead you wish to stick to your nylon or leather leash, you can try spraying it with a taste deterrent such as Bitter Apple Spray.
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