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Why Some Dogs Are Not Adept At Leash Untangling

Does your dog untangle themselves from a leash?

by Karen B. London, PhD
October 20, 2016
man untangling dog from leash in the snow
Photo: Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels

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There are two types of dogs in the world: dogs who become tangled in their leash and those who don’t. Tangled-up pups seem to have an easy-going approach to life — leash and all — while other dogs will stop in their tracks. Some dogs never learn to untangle themselves when the leash goes under one or more legs, even with efforts to teach them how to do this.

Safety is the main reason you should care about keeping the leash properly organized. It can be dangerous if the leash wraps completely around a leg, and a leash that is out of place can cause a dog to be off balance.

Why are some dogs unable to untangle themselves?

Problem Solving

Obviously, intelligence in the problem-solving area can play a role in which path a dog takes. But it’s far more complex than a simple question of brain power, with other factors being important, too.

Comfort

One big predictor of which dogs learn to extricate themselves when the leash has gone between their legs or wrapped around them is whether it makes them uncomfortable to have the leash there. Some dogs don’t seem to care if the leash is partially wrapped around a leg or if it touches their belly, so a twisted leash does not represent a problem. If it’s not a problem for a dog to have the leash out of place, then there is nothing to be fixed.

Interest

Some dogs are too interested in other things to focus on a tangled leash. If they are paying attention to the sights or smells on a walk, any issues with the leash may not be a top priority. Paying attention to other things may account for the dogs who sometimes choose to step over a leash purposefully and sometimes don’t bother; it depends on how exciting the walk is at the moment. Other dogs are always too intent on the sensory experiences during the walk to fuss over where the leash is.

Stop Leash Tangle

Here are a few ways to help your dog keep their leash untangled.

  • Choose a shorter leash

  • Teach your pup to walk by your side

  • Don’t use a retractable leash

  • If using a front harness clip, also attach it to the collar

  • Teach your dog to “fix it” by capturing the behavior with treats and praise when they do it themselves.

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Karen London holding up a small dog

Karen B. London, PhD

Karen B. London, Ph.D., is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression, and has also trained other animals including cats, birds, snakes, and insects. She writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.