How to Stop Your Dog From Biting the Leash
Most dogs love walking, but some love chaos a little bit more.
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I’m a dog walker, and one of my clients has two adult dogs, a Whippet and an Australian Shepherd, who I take out three times a week. The Whippet is no problem, but the Aussie barks and runs around like a crazy thing, which makes leashing him a challenge. He's a very big dog, with a big bark! Once the leash is on, he takes it in his mouth and jumps all over the place. Walking is also a challenge because he’s always trying to grab the leash. Any suggestions?
That sounds hectic! It’s no fun walking a dog who seems to be on a pogo stick and is grabbing at the leash to boot. When another dog is along (no matter how well behaved), it can feel even that much crazier.
It’s a common scene — your dog’s hyped to go on a walk but once the leash is on, they take it in their mouth and jump all over the place. It can be frustrating and make walking a challenge because they’re always trying to grab the leash. When another dog comes along, no matter how well-behaved, it can feel even crazier. This hectic dance takes all the fun — and many of the benefits — out of dog walking. But it doesn’t have to stall all attempts to venture outside with your pup.
There are definitely things you can do to make these outings better for everyone. One of the best ways to keep the leash out of the dog’s mouth is to give them something else to put in it — say, a toy they can carry. If their mouth is occupied, they’ll be less likely to be interested in grabbing the leash.
However, you may have to experiment a bit to find something they like better than they like to bite the leash. Safety is the primary consideration, but beyond that, let the dog’s interests guide you, while making sure the item is too large for them to choke on it. Good options include a ball, rope tug toy, fleece animal, or flying disc. Many dogs will happily carry a stick, but sticks can be dangerous due to splinters and mouth and throat punctures. If your dog is a true stick lover, try a toy designed to mimic one. For example, Kong has a few longer heavy-duty options for many stick-loving dogs.
This potential solution may seem overly simple, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. Many dogs get super amped up about going for a walk, and when they’re in that state, they become very mouthy, and the leash is right there. By providing the dog with an outlet for their need to grab something, you’re allowing them to give in to their urge without driving you insane — it may just solve the problem.
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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.