Going for a walk with your dog should be an enjoyable outing for both of you. However, it isn’t much fun if your dog drags you down the street or you spend the entire walk trying to get him to behave. Some dogs grab their leash and chew through it before you know what’s happening, and others bark or lunge. These are common on-leash issues that can be corrected with practical solutions to put you back in control.
Walking nicely on a leash isn’t something canines instinctively know how to do. It’s a process we need to teach them. Leash pulling has nothing to do with a dog trying to exert dominance, nor does it mean he doesn’t respect you and is challenging your leadership. Eager dogs pull because they are excited to sniff out smells that interest them; in their mind, pulling on the leash is just a faster way to get where they want to go. The tighter you hold onto the leash, the harder your dog pulls.
It doesn’t matter if your dog walks beside, in front or behind you, as long as he isn’t straining at the end of his leash. His reward for not pulling as hard as he can is getting to do what he wants whether it’s going into the dog park or investigating smells he comes across. Teaching your dog how to walk on a loose leash isn’t something that happens overnight, but if you’re consistent and patient you can teach him how to walk on a loose leash.
Your dog’s favorite CANIDAE treats or toy can help you get his attention during walks. Instead of yanking back on his leash when he pulls, stop and stand perfectly still. Hold the leash next to your body and don’t move. Offer him a treat to direct him back to you or just wait for him to come back on his own. When you begin to walk and he starts to pull, stop and wait. You want him to learn the walk continues when he isn’t pulling on his leash.
Another option is to change the direction you’re walking and gently pull his leash as you turn, but don’t jerk it. This helps him learn to pay attention to you instead of forging ahead like a locomotive. Reward him for walking on a loose leash by letting him sniff under a bush or around a tree he indicated he was interested in. For dogs that need a verbal cue, pick a sound like “Ooo-Ooo” or a word like “yikes” that tells him he’s pulling.
Biting or Chewing the Leash
Some dogs see their leash as a tug-of-war toy, and others like to chew on it or carry it around in their mouth. Dogs chew on their leash because of fear, frustration, to get attention or to play. Some dogs enjoy carrying things in their mouth. An easy solution to stop a dog from grabbing his leash is to use a heavy duty choke collar as an extension to the end of his leash. Attach a double ended snap you can get at hardware stores to his collar and clip the other end to his leash. The chain isn’t as fun to chew on as a nylon leash is.
Another option is to use a harness and attach a leash to his collar and another one to his harness. When he grabs the leash in his mouth, drop that one and pick up the extra one. If he grabs it again, drop it and pick up the other one. A drag line also works. Attach it to his collar along with his leash and alternate between the leash and drag line. Tie knots in the drag line so it’s easy for you to grab off the ground. Dogs that chew through their leash and run off are at risk of becoming lost or injured. If your dog simply enjoys carrying things in his mouth, give him a toy or ball to carry during walks.
Lunging or Aggressive Behavior
Some dogs bark and lunge towards other dogs, bikers, walkers, joggers, cars etc. The leash restricts their ability to get to whatever it is they see and it can be extremely frustrating for some dogs – to the point of causing them to become overly anxious. To them their reaction is normal, but it’s an emotional one that causes them to feel uncomfortable or even afraid. A dog wanting to chase an animal, person or car can feel frustrated by his leash that’s holding him back.
Lunging is a common leash problem, but the solution usually requires help from an animal behaviorist or professional trainer that only uses positive reinforcement. It’s important to remember to never punish your dog for barking, snarling or lunging. It will only make things worse and can cause your dog to have a negative association with whatever the trigger is that’s upsetting him.
Read more articles by Linda Cole