Puppies will bite and tug on the leash because they’re silly and immature and trying to figure out the whole leash-walking concept.
When older puppies or adult dogs do this, it’s obnoxious and sometimes escalates to aggressive leash shaking. Some dogs will even jump up and nip the owner’s clothes or worse.
This can be dangerous and scary.
I’ve received several emails about this problem lately. So I have a favor …
Please leave your suggestions or questions in the comments because these discussions are really helpful for others.
What to do when your dog bites the leash
The following is my list of ideas on what to do if your dog bites and tugs at the leash.
I recommend you read over the post and then pick and choose what might work for your situation.
Also, get help from a professional trainer if you need it. It’s scary when your dog starts biting and jumping at you. What starts out as play or mild frustration can quickly escalate to real aggression. Even with a small dog, this can become a serious problem.
I divided this post into 3 sections:
- Determining what the problem is.
- Tools that can help.
- Additional ideas and advice.
OK, here we go …
First, determine what’s causing the problem.
Biting on the leash is often related to:
- Frustration (Bored with the walk, bored with training)
- Pent-up energy and lack of exercise
Are there more? Let me know in the comments.
Here are six examples why a dog might bite the leash, but they’re all related to excitement, frustration or energy. See if any of these describe your dog.
1. The dog is full of energy or immature.
The dog doesn’t know what to do with his energy, so he bites the leash.
If this sounds like your dog, look for ways to increase his exercise in general. Perhaps longer walks more frequently or visiting the off-leash dog park. Use a dog backpack to give your dog a “job” and burn more energy.
See my post: Why exercise is more important than training
2. The dog is so excited to go for a walk that she can’t contain herself.
She’s tugging on the leash because she’s excited! “Let’s go!” she says.
Perhaps playing fetch or tug (with a toy) in the yard right before your walk might help. Or, the opposite, work on some simple cues like sit or stay to turn your dog’s energy down a notch before a walk. Use high-valued treats if needed.
3. The dog doesn’t want the walk to end.
Some dogs bite at the leash because they’re not ready to go home.
Try changing your route so your dog doesn’t anticipate when the walk will end. You could turn around randomly and pass the house or go a totally different direction than you normally do.
Towards the end of the walk, use treats to work on simple behaviors like sit/stay to help calm your dog.
4. The dog is super excited to be home after a walk.
Some dogs bite and tug on the leash because they’re excited to be home! Instead of letting him run around after your walk, try working on some “calming” commands like down/stay and then calmly putting him in his kennel with a bully stick or Kong toy for some quiet time.
5. The dog is frustrated or bored during training.
If your dog bites the leash during training, end your training sessions sooner or take more breaks.
My dog Remy will sometimes throw a “tantrum” in obedience class by jumping on me and grabbing the leash. I know he’s tired or bored when this happens so we walk away for a few seconds and then re-group.
See my posts:
6. Does your dog have to go to the bathroom? Is he hungry?
Sounds silly but sometimes the dog is just trying to communicate something simple to you. For example, Remy was suddenly jumping at me and biting me while we were seated in a dog friendly brewery … turns out he had to poop really bad! Thank goodness I decided to take him out for a quick walk.
Tools that can help stop your dog from biting the leash:
Here are several tools that can help stop your dog from biting the leash. Pick and choose what might work for your unique dog.
1. A chain leash. Dogs generally don’t like to bite on chains vs. leather or nylon. Watch your fingers. You do not want to get your finger or your dog’s paw caught in that chain. Remy chewed on his leash as a younger puppy. A chain leash put a stop to that! Order here.
2. A muzzle. This may be extreme for some of you but not for others. It’s likely only temporary. You can train your dog to accept the muzzle by putting it on, taking it right off and giving a treat. Or if you have a basket muzzle you can put some peanut butter in it. Make it fun for your dog, not a punishment. Order a soft muzzle here.
3. Gentle Leader or Halti. A Gentle Leader fits over the dog’s muzzle and can give you more control. Introduce it slowly and reward your dog. Or consider a martingale training collar. Find the right collar that gives you the most control of your dog. A harness generally does not give you the most control of a dog that jumps or bites the leash.
4. Dog backpack. To give your dog a “job” and something to focus on. This also helps drain energy. I recommend RuffWear.
5. High-valued treats. Treats will help some dogs focus. Try to put the leash on and off your dog when he is calm. Ask for a sit/stay before and after you leash your dog. Then give a treat. If you can recognize when he’s about to have an “outburst” try working on some quick, simple tricks or commands for treats to switch his brain to something else. We recommend Zuke’s minis treats.
6. Bitter apple spray. The spray won’t harm your dog and usually they don’t like the taste. Spray a bit on the leash as a deterrent. Unfortunately, you might get it on your own hands. You could wear gloves.
7. Electronic collar with a remote. Find someone who can help you with this if you’re not experienced. Put the e-collar on a low setting and correct the instant she jumps on you or bites the leash. It should be one quick correction. Then reward when she stops. Email Lindsay@ThatMutt.com if you need help with e-collar training.
8. A tug toy. Offer the toy to your dog as an alternative to tugging the leash. Or, give her a ball or other toy. If her mouth is full she’s not going to tug the leash. (Sometimes this can backfire and make the dog even more riled up. Know your dog.)
Other general ideas to stop your dog from biting the leash:
Here are some additional training ideas to stop your dog from biting the leash or shaking the leash.
1. Try a firm ‘no’ but don’t correct over and over.
If your dog is sensitive, you might be able to give a firm “no” and a quick tug correction on the leash with a command like sit. This might snap him out of it. To be honest, I’ve even bopped my dog on the nose for jumping and nipping at me.
On the other hand, repeatedly tugging and correcting your dog will likely get him even more excited or aggressive. Instead, try gently and calmly pulling up on the collar until he calms down if you are comfortable doing so.
You can also see if ignoring your dog works by truly showing no emotion and turning away from him. Try to keep the leash loose. One person said she will tether the leash to a tree or post and take a few steps away until her dog calms down.
2. Sign up for obedience classes.
Just working on the basics regularly and having a trainer and peers to bounce around ideas with can make a big difference.
3. Try to “switch” your dog’s brain.
Toss a handful of treats on the ground, not as a reward but to snap the brain out of it. Ask for a simple “sit” or quickly walk off in another direction with your dog following.
4. Change your routine to block or prevent the behavior.
It’s easier to prevent your dog from biting the leash that trying to stop it once it’s happening. For example, my dog Remy will bite the leash as I’m trying to put it on him. To prevent this, I just send him to his kennel for a treat. Then I easily put the leash on him while he’s in his kennel and much calmer.
5. Take it in stride.
If your dog’s biting the leash is not a big problem and it’s just something “fun” she does for a few seconds, perhaps it’s nothing to worry about.
OK, now I’d love to hear from you …
In the comments, let me know what suggestions or questions you might have. It’s very helpful for others to hear from a variety of people.
How would you stop a dog from biting the leash?
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