Walks give dogs an opportunity to get out of the house, or backyard, and release pent up energy as they search for interesting smells, sights, and sounds. A welcomed break from their ho-hum routine at home. Even dogs get bored sitting around the house all day. The time you spend walking your dog should be enjoyable for both of you. But it’s not fun if your dog chews and tugs on his leash the entire time. If he chews through it and runs off, he could become lost or injured. There are reasons why dogs chew and tug on their leash, and it’s possible to stop this unwanted behavior.
Why Dogs Chew On Their Leash
Fear – Attaching a leash to your dog’s collar can be a frightening experience for some dogs, especially puppies or older dogs unaccustomed to walking on a leash. A fearful dog will react in the only way he knows how by biting and chewing the leash to get it off of him. The history of most shelter dogs are never known, and some dogs could associate a leash with a bad experience. If your pet cowers, runs from you, or hides, that’s a good indication he’s afraid of the leash.
Frustration – Some dogs can become frustrated if they can’t do what they want. The leash prevents him from chasing an animal that bolted out in front of him, stops him from following an interesting scent, or keeps him from running up to another dog. As his excitement and frustration increases, his response is to redirect his anger on the leash in an attempt to chew through it so he can do what he wants.
Playing – When a dog grabs his leash and chews and tugs it, most people respond by tensing up and yanking it back. Your dog could be wanting you to play tug of war with him. If you don’t play with him in the backyard, tugging his leash gets you engaged in his favorite game. His intention isn’t to misbehave, he just wants you to play with him. Reward him with a game once you get back home, and use an appropriate tug of war toy.
Other reasons – To dogs, negative attention is still attention. If you aren’t focused on what your dog is doing, one way he can get your attention back on him is to chew his leash. An anxious dog may chew his leash to release tension. Some dogs love carrying things around in their mouth. If he doesn’t have a stick, ball, or favorite toy, the leash is his only option.
How to Stop Leash Chewing and Tugging
All dogs should know the “drop it” command. If your dog doesn’t understand what it means, that’s a good place to start.
Don’t force a fearful dog to wear a leash until he’s comfortable with it. Stay calm, positive, and use a happy voice when leash training. Get his favorite treats and sit on the floor with the leash close by. Wait for your dog to check out the leash. As soon as he walks to it, give him a treat and praise. When he’s comfortable being around the leash on the floor, attach it to his collar. If he doesn’t freak out, leave it on as he walks around the house. Reward with treats and praise when he remains calm. Keep an eye on him to make sure the leash doesn’t get caught on something. Another technique to desensitize him to the leash is to attach it to his collar while he’s lying beside you while you watch TV, and he’s relaxed. Clip it on his collar, then remove it right away. Gradually increase the time you leave it on. Let him walk around with the leash on, as long as he isn’t biting it. Give praise and treats only when he remains calm.
The frustrated chewer is saying he’s agitated. When he grabs his leash, stop immediately, give him the “drop it” command, and wait for him to drop his leash. Don’t move until he does. If he grabbed the leash because you wouldn’t let him check out a bush, fire hydrant, or telephone pole, as soon as he drops it, let him go where he wanted to go. That’s his reward, but only when he isn’t biting his leash. You have to be firm, consistent, and sometimes put your foot down, however, otherwise he will think chewing his leash will get him everything he wants. Obviously, you can’t let him off leash to chase an animal, or run at full speed if you aren’t a marathon runner. There are some limits to what your dog can and can’t do during a walk.
The tug of war playing dog draws you into his game by biting his leash. Put a dragline on his collar along with his leash. Tie knots in the dragline so you can get a good grip on it when you pick it up off the ground. When your dog starts to tug on his leash, pick up the dragline and drop his leash. If he starts to chew on the dragline, grab his leash and drop the line. When he’s not rewarded by you pulling back on his leash, it stops being a game and there’s no reason to continue tugging or chewing the leash.
Applying bitter apple spray on the part of the leash your dog grabs will work for some dogs, but it doesn’t work for all canines. Replacing your nylon leash with a chain can stop the chewing issue, but chains are bulky and hard to hold on to. An easier solution is to attach one end of a heavy duty choke collar to the leash attachment on your dog’s collar with a double ended snap hook or a sturdy carabiner. Then snap the other end of the choker to the leash. This gives you a section of chain dogs don’t like to chew on. The best thing you can do is teach your dog chewing or tugging on his leash is unacceptable behavior. Teaching him how to walk on a leash is for his safety, and your piece of mind.
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