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Leash biting – Why does my dog bite the leash while walking?

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leash biting
leash biting
Photo by Megan (Markham) Bucknall from Pexels

Lets talk about leash biting!

Leash biting is an issue many owners battle with, usually starting in puppyhood, around the time of their very first few walks. But why?

Lets think about it for a second… Your puppy has enjoyed freedom for the first few weeks of their life. Since they were born, they have pretty much been unrestricted in their movement. Until now!

Now we want to walk them outside, near traffic, and dogs, and other people. We generally take them to places which could potentially be rather scary for a dog, and dangerous!

Leash biting is not something that we don’t want to have to tackle during every walk! So its best deal with early (but its never too late). Not to mention it can be quite costly!

We use the leash to keep them safe.

Unfortunately, they don’t really see it that way. They find it restrictive, and we can’t tell them why they have it on, which can make it more frustrating for them. However, we cannot allow our puppy to be roaming free, they will end up in all kinds of trouble!

Frustrated leash biting

We talked about frustration a moment ago, however, did you know that dogs can become frustrated about not being able to greet other dogs? Or not being allowed to chase the cat? Or basically anything that they want to do, sniff a tree, greet a person, run after a jogger. The frustration is displayed as leash biting.

Fear and anxiety

Dogs cannot tell us how they are feeling, so we need to keep an eye on their body language! If you watch their body language, they are actually very clear in what they are thinking and feeling. Leash biting could be a symptom of your dogs fear and anxiety towards something in the environment.

Redirection

Redirection is a symptom of fear, anxiety, or frustration. Again, a way of your puppy communicating to you that they are not happy about something, so they redirect to leash biting.

Mouthy phase, or because its fun!

Puppies like to explore, especially with their mouth. Its how they get to touch and feel things. And when things pull away from them, they become even more exiting!

That’s when leash biting becomes fun, its a game for them. Then we get into a cycle of rewarding them for the tugging. The more we try to get it away from them, the more fun it becomes.

So what can we do about leash biting?

  1. First and foremost – training! Investigate why your dog is leash biting, then deal with the issue. If they are fearful or frustrated, dealing with the underlying problems will fix the symptom.
  2. Don’t tug back. We can grab the collar and prevent them from pulling, or if it is safe to do so, drop the lead. Sometimes once the pressure has stopped, the game is no longer fun.
  3. Get your puppy used to the lead early! Yes, this means walking around the house or garden with the lead on, or even dropping the lead and allowing it to drag behind.
  4. Reward the good behaviour. If your dog is walking nicely to heel and paying attention to you, reward it!
  5. Quality over quantity. I would rather have a short, great walk with my dog than a long, horrible one. If your dog is frustrated/stressed/fearful, then the longer that you walk, the more in danger they are of leash biting. Keep it short and sweet, then build from there.
  6. If its really bad, use a chain lead. Some textures are more fun to tug on than others. Leather and fleece can be very tempting to your dog, whereas biothane and metal are less enjoyable to clamp their teeth around (this doesn’t mean that they won’t do it). If they really struggle, and you are really desperate, use a chain lead (not a choke chain) to walk them on until the issues have been dealt with.

Training is key

The most important thing is to remember to treat the cause, not deal with the symptoms. If causes are not dealt with then you run the risk of your dog choosing another unwanted behaviour to tell you how they feel about a situation.

Are puppy training pads a good idea?

Using a long lead correctly

Categories: Dog Behaviour