Biting or chewing on the leash, or just carrying the leash in its mouth are common dog behaviors. At first it is kind of cute, but after a while it can become annoying. If your dog learns that it can chew through the leash and free itself, you can find yourself in a situation that is dangerous to your dog. A dog biting the leash while walking can actually be a sign of underlying tension.
Why Your Dog Bites the Leash
The first step to correcting your dog’s behavior requires that you understand why your dog is biting the leash while walking. To your dog, the leash is a toy. What better way to express the thrill the dog feels when it’s time to walk? Dogs express their excitement by putting their mouth on the leash and chewing on it, shaking it, jumping or simply carrying the leash with them.
An anxious, over-aroused dog may be biting the leash while walking to release tension. This is common behavior in shelters, where many dogs grab and chew on the leash when first taken out. Dogs are more likely to do it when being led out of their environment to interact with other dogs. The more wound up a dog is, the more likely the dog will bite the leash.
Steps to Take to Prevent Leash Biting While Walking
When your dog gets excited and grabs at the leash each time you pick it up and try to attach it, your first instinct may be to react by yelling “NO!” and perhaps swatting the dog away. These reprimands will only make an anxious dog more anxious, an impatient dog more impatient, and an excited dog more excited. A better and more effective approach is to teach your dog to stay calm when you grab the leash.
Teach Your Dog to Relax at the Sight of the Leash
Begin the training at a time when the dog has already had some exercise and is a little less anxious to go for a walk. Have a handful of small treats in your pocket, ready to reward the dog for the right behavior.
First, simply let your dog observe you touching the leash while it’s hanging on its hook or laying on the table. Don’t pick it up. If your dog stays calm, that is, stands still or is lying down or sitting, give the dog a treat. Repeat touching the leash and rewarding your dog for staying relaxed a few times. If the dog gets excited, put the leash down and withhold treats. Repeat the process until your dog understands that it should stay calm whenever you touch the leash.
Next, touch the leash and move it a little, rewarding the dog for remaining calm and not rushing towards the leash. If the dog gets excited, put the leash down and go back to simply touching the leash and rewarding. Gradually begin to move it, rewarding the dog with a treat while it stays calm.
Once you are able to move the leash without the dog getting excited, begin moving the leash around your dog while rewarding relaxation. Speak to the dog in a calm voice, praising it for staying relaxed and giving treats.
Attach the Leash While Your Dog Remains Still or Seated
If your dog is standing, ask the dog to sit. Praise the dog softly and give a treat. Clip the leash onto the collar or harness while the dog remains sitting. If the dog does not move, praise and treat.
If the dog gets excited and tries to grab the leash or move ahead, unclip the leash and put the dog back in a sit. Once the dog is calmly back in a seated position, reward it with a treat, and try again.
Make this process part of your routine. Be consistent and insistent. Whenever you reach for the leash, reward your dog for remaining calm. If your dog gets excited, go back a step and repeat the process. Before long, this process will teach your dog to regard the leash as a cue for relaxation, rather than a reason to get excited and grab the leash in its mouth.
Reward Your Dog When it Behaves Calmly on the Leash
Now that your dog is able to remain calm when you clip the leash on, you need to teach your dog to walk calmly at your side in a heel position, whether on or off leash. Begin training with your dog off leash in a low-distraction area where your dog is comfortable, such as inside the house or a fenced yard. Use treats to keep the dog at your side.
When your dog understands the concept of heel, you can introduce the leash into the training. As before, reward the dog for staying calm when you attach the leash. Once the leash is clipped on, immediately cue the dog to heel. If your dog starts mouthing or tugging at the leash, stand still and ignore him. This deprives the dog of the walk and the reward of your interaction. As soon as your dog lets go of the leash, tell it to “heel” and reward the dog for complying.
Enjoy Your Dog Walking!
If you consistently ignore bad behavior and reward calm behavior every time you pick up the leash and take the dog for a walk, your dog will stop mouthing the leash. For more information or for professional dog walking services, contact the pet experts at Paw Pals.