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What to Do When Your Dog Bites the Leash or Shakes the Leash

Puppies will bite and tug on the leash because they’re excited and immature and trying to figure out the whole leash-walking concept.

When older puppies or adult dogs bite the leash, 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 while walking

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.

What to do when your dog bites the leash

I divided this article into 3 sections:

  1. Determining why the dog bites the leash.
  2. Tools that can help stop your dog from biting the leash.
  3. Additional ideas and advice.

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First, determine why does my dog bite the leash?

Biting on the leash is often related to:

  • Excitement!
  • Frustration (Bored with the walk, bored with training, can’t get to that other dog)
  • Pent-up energy or lack of exercise

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 and bites the leash

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 bites the leash out of excitement

She’s tugging on the leash because she’s excited! “Let’s go!” she says. You might find that your dog bites the leash only when you start running or picking up the pace – that’s because she’s excited.

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 so she bites the leash

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.

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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.

How to stop a dog from biting the leash

5. The dog is frustrated or bored during training so she bites the leash

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. The dog bites the leash when he sees another dog

This is likely excitement or frustration.

A lost of dogs feel excitement when they see another dog. They might think, “Yay! Another dog! I want to go say hi, sniff and play!”

And, when they can’t get to that other dog fast enough, they feel some frustration and therefore start biting at the leash.

For other dogs, seeing another dog will trigger some fear or nervousness.

If that’s the case, your dog might actually want to get away from that other dog or she might want to scare it away before it can hurt her.

Therefore, she might start biting at her leash due to this frustration of feeling “trapped.” Due to the leash, she’s not able to move towards the other dog or away from the other dog.

You can help by being proactive and alert and moving away from other dogs before your dog has a chance to start biting at the leash. Give her high-valued treats before she has a chance to react.

7. Your dog bites the leash while running

Again, this is likely excitement! Your dog is simply biting the leash in response to this excitement of moving faster.

You can try telling your dog a firm “no” when he bites the leash. You can also reward with high-valued treats when he is NOT biting the leash. Or, try handing your dog a toy or ball to hold onto instead of the leash.

Finally, using a chain leash temporarily or a bitter apple spray can help. (More on that below.)

Most dogs get over this burst of excitement if you just ignore it and keep moving. If you run more regularly, they will get used to the faster pace and will be less likely to bite the leash.

8. 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.

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Tools to 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 or chew proof leash

Dogs generally don’t like to bite on chains or cable. Watch your fingers with these leashes though!

You do not want to get your finger or your dog’s paw caught in a chain. Remy chewed on his leather leash as a younger puppy. A chain leash put a stop to that!

Order a chain leash here.

Order a chew proof cable leash here.

2. A muzzle to stop dog from biting leash

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.

Dog backpack

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 Wellness Well Bites.

6. Bitter apple spray to stop leash biting

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.

Bitter apple spray for dogs

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 vs. biting the leash

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.) I like the Mammoth brand.

Other ideas to stop your dog or puppy 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.

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How to stop a dog from biting the leash

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.

My dog tries to bite me when I put his leash on

If your dog is mouthing your hands or nipping at you when you try to pus his leash on, he is most likely acting out of excitement and impatience.

For example, my own dog will mouth at me when I put his harness on him. He doesn’t particularly enjoy wearing a harness and he also gets impatient with me.

To solve this problem, I trained him to sit for a treat. Then, I’d put his harness on him and give another small treat. At first, I would give a few small treats while in the process of putting the harness on.

All of these things helped make a positive association with the harness and teach my dog if he would just sit still, he would get a treat.

You can do the same while putting on your dog’s leash or other gear.

If your dog is truly showing aggression, growling and trying to harm you, then he may be afraid to go for walks, afraid of you or in pain. Please consult with a trainer or vet if you suspect any of these possibilities.

My puppy bites when putting on the leash

This is common for puppies! You can use the same approach as above. Ask your puppy to sit. Give a treat. Then clip the leash on and give another treat. This will teach your puppy to be patient.

A lot of puppies will then start biting at the leash once the leash is on! They’re simply playing and learning about the rules. Following some of the tips mentioned previously in this article such as using a chain leash or bitter apple spray.

Reward with treats or praise when your puppy is being good and doing what you want her to do.

My dog chews through his leash

If your dog is chewing through his leash, I recommend you try either a chain leash or a cable chew proof leash. I would also consider the bitter apple spray product.

Obviously, I would not recommend leaving your dog tethered unattended if he has the ability or habit of chewing through his leash. It’s better to leave your dog indoors, in a crate or in a fenced area when you can’t supervise.

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 or puppy from biting the leash?

Let me know in the comments!

-Lindsay

Related articles:

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Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training, dog exercise and feeding a healthy raw diet.

What to do when your dog bites the leash

Jessica Riedel

Saturday 17th of July 2021

I have a 5yo American bully and he is is horrible on a leash. He goes crazy when he sees me go for his leash, which is a chain leash to try to stop the biting, but he goes for the handle. He literally will attack the leash and jump on me, or my husband. To others is is scary, but he isn’t doing it to be aggressive. I’m going to try a few things I saw on here, but he is so hard headed and we cannot snap him out of it. I’ve tried treats, balls (his favorite) and he doesn’t care. Sometimes I can get him to calm down but I don’t know how to stop it. He cannot run to play fetch because he is extremely crazy when trying to catch the ball, which has led to minor issues with ligament. If I could walk him I think it would be much better. I’m just lost with it all, and training is SO expensive around here. Any other suggestions I can get from anyone?

Shannon

Tuesday 15th of June 2021

We have. 5 month old chocolate lab. We have had him since he was 8 weeks. We did puppy kindergarten and are signed up for a basic training class in a few weeks. Scout is good on the leash 90% of the time but sometimes when we are in the yard on a leash or on a walk he will all of a sudden jump up and start biting at the leash then at me. He will growl when he has the leash in his mouth. I try to step on the leash but sometimes I can’t get a hold of it. I try saying sit and giving a treat but that doesn’t work either It scares me when he does this and I know I get worked up. I can’t figure out why he is doing this. He is great with other dogs and kids. Any help would be appreciated!

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 15th of June 2021

It's hard to say but sounds like he's either playing or doesn't want to walk at that point due to boredom. I would try a chain leash for a few weeks. Most don't like to bite the chain.

Also take note of when he's doing this (time of day) and how long into the walk. Look for patterns. He might be extra wound up at that time of day or even overly tired. Many puppies act up in both situations and sometimes it's hard to tell if they're overly tired or haven't had enough exercise. Hang in there, 5 months is a wild age! It gets better.

wendy Craig

Thursday 3rd of June 2021

Our new puppy does this out of excitement. We have chosen to stop and without any eye contact talking or touching, wait it out. Then when she drops it we very calmly reward her by moving forward. She’s been responding well to this. I do like the idea of the spray and will try that on our next walk!

Sheri

Saturday 15th of May 2021

I acquired a 1 year old husky mix who is very energetic. The leash biting, when it occurs, is frenzied. "NO" very loudly gets no attention. And alternate tug toy gets her attention for a second and then its back to the leash. Same with any other distraction. At the time she is moving her body a lot and getting the leash wound around herself which makes her crazier. Or, she will have the part of the leash close to her in her mouth while also going for another part of the leash. Getting her to sit at those moments requires me to be very hands on and even then it is difficult.

I've also tried stepping on the leash close to her harness. Sometimes that helps, but she will be writhing around on the ground and it's hard to keep the leash from gradually being pulled out.

I'm not comfortable with walking away, since she could see a rabbit across the street or something. If I simply let go of the leash in the yard, she will roll around playing with it or shaking it for awhile, then drop it, then start of again when I pick up the leash.

This is most often when returning from a walk, if I happen to meet someone and stop to talk to them while walking, or when bringing her in after a LONG session of playing (running, fetch, playing with different toys, trying to jump up on trees after squirrels and birds--lots of exercise). I tried bitter apple, but her obsession when she goes after the leash is too intense. I'm thinking of a spray bottle of water with some vinegar in it? I tried connecting a chain collar between her leash and her halter (or collar, depending on if using the harness) but she knew the leash was still there. I worry that if I got a chain leash she'd go for the handle itself.

At the same time, outside of those moments I can drop the leash on her face, do all kinds of things to tempt her to bite it--and she will completely ignore it! It's like a switch gets turned on.

The walks themselves go fine, because she is so intensely interested in everything that is going on around her.

Phoebe Fraser

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

Hi Lindsay! I’m in the UK and have a Lakeland Terrier who is almost three. He is my parents dog. He is lovely and so gentle, and loves his walks, yet when we get home or round the corner from the house, he starts biting at the lead, barking, jumping, and tugging at his lead relentlessly. He’s bitten through loads so we now have to use a chain one, although he pulls so hard we are worried he’s going to pull his teeth out. He also tries to get the leather handle. He bites through coats and harnesses so we have given up with those. when we get to the front door it’s like he’s possessed and nothing will stop him. He also gets possessed for post or parcels, ripping them if he can, possessed for: garden trowel, dish cloth, post man, lead, harness, coming to the front door, scissors, his brush, etc. Additionally, if I brush my hair and he hears it, he bounds upstairs to me to attack my hairbrush.

He also does the lead front door thing at other people’s houses when returning from a walk. He’s been doing it since he was a puppy and isn’t stopping. He grips onto the lead with his paws and teeth, he used his paw like human arms it’s so strange and he’s strong! He spends most of the day trying to find the stuff he hates, sniffing around and jumping up into the air constantly to see what’s on the table. Sometimes he spend hours sitting and staring outside the cupboard that his lead and coat are kept in.

We are lost with this and have no idea how to help. Im trying to help my parents with this before I move out, as it is quite troublesome for them! I hope you can help, thanks so much. (The little devil is called Watson btw)

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 4th of March 2021

Do you have a muzzle for him on walks? I would probably go that route.

I recommend a counter conditioning approach to change his emotional response to his triggers.