Going out for a walk with your dog can be the most relaxing thing in the world – or the most challenging, if the two of you have control issues. One way to tell if you do is if your dog struggles with its leash – pulling on it, barking while on it, and many more. It’s a behavioral problem, of course – but not without solutions!
Your dog pulls on its leash because it’s annoying, which is a signal to you that he has a need that has yet to be met. It’s your responsibility as a dog owner to make your walk more relaxed and at the same time more controlled.
You can do this be figuring out the meaning behind the behavior and how to redirect your dog to an alternative that’s more constructive.
Leash Problem 1: Leash Pulling
If your dog is straining at its leash to the point where it is practically choking himself, then you have a leash pulling problem. The pulling action may happen at predictable times, such as when you are starting out on your walk or walking into a highly-exciting situation.
Leash pulling happens when your dog wants to go to a particular area or place and wants to get there fast. When this happens, it means your dog has very little connection with you, the human on the other end of the leash, and more with what he is interested in.
To change this behavior, you should only let your dog move a little bit forward when its leash has been loosened. If your dog starts to pull, simply stop in place and wait for the leash to loosen before resuming your walk.
A resistant dog might benefit from a verbal marker such as “oops” uttered when the leash has become taut, followed by a very gentle tug that will signal a stop to any forward motion.
When the two of you get closer to your dog’s area of interest, always require a quick behavior check such as sitting or hand target before you release him and let him explore what it is that he wants. See to it that he understands it is a reward for him to seek out his interest.
Make it a point to have treats on-hand to reward your dog with when he turns his head to you, thus better establishing awareness of you. The bottom line is to make your dog realize that looking back at you will yield more rewards than looking all around him ever will.
Management tools that will help with leash pulling behavior include a harness that has a front-clip feature, which will cross the front part of the dog’s chest. If your dog is stronger or has the tendency to go out of control, you might also consider a head halter to hinder pulling.
Leash Problem 2: Leash Mouthing and Chewing
If your dog uses his mouth to grab your leash, you have a leash mouthing and chewing problem. Other observable behaviors of this include pulling it like it is a tug-of-war game, nibbling, or biting whether you are standing still or walking.
Leash mouthing or chewing occurs when your dog is feeling nervous or agitated. Grabbing the leash with their mouth and nibbling on it is a calming way to manage the situation, especially for dogs that are bred for retrieving various objects like Labradors. You can also see it as a way for your dog to grab your attention or to elicit a reaction from you.
To change this behavior, your dog will need an alternative. It can be simple for some dogs, who may be satisfied or satiated with simply asking to heel while out on a walk or being given a reward command of ‘down’ if he makes an effort to demonstrate quiet behavior.
You can also try using two kinds of leashes, with one attached to a harness and the other attached to the collar. If your dog chews on one leash, drop it to dissolve the resistance on that leash and switch to holding the other one more firmly. This eliminates the ‘tug factor’ which your dog is using to signal a leash game.
A management tool for addressing leash mouthing and chewing is to switch to a chain leash because it’s not fun to chew on and hard to grab. You can also bring a stuffed ball or toy that your dog can use as a pacifier when out on a walk.
Leash Problem 3: Leash Lunging, Barking, and Reacting
If your dog seems to always react to things in the environment and demonstrates this by lunging, standing on hind legs, spinning in circles, or barking, then you might have a leash lunging, barking, and reacting problem.
Again, you can see this behavior as one that is rooted in frustration or anxiety. He is upset at the stimulus for some reason, perhaps because he cannot take a closer look at it due to his being leashed. It may also be because he wants to get away from it as fast as he can but cannot do so because of his leash.
The bottom line is there is something in the environment that makes him either very uneasy, anxious, or excited – and he wants to get away or get closer ASAP.
When this happens, remember not to punish your dog because this can aggravate the behavior. Changing it might require the help of a behaviorist or a dog training professional to find out which positive reinforcement behavior will work best for your dog.
A deeper analysis of your dog’s behavior will be required, and only a professional can accurately determine the exact stimulus and recommend a specific response.
One good management tool for addressing this is to use a head halter and a front-clip harness so your dog has room to turn around and turn away from the stimulus instead of reaction. You can train your dog with some cues that will prompt him to turn, such as a verbal prompt like “turn” and then dispense rewards while you move him away from the stimulus.
Create enough distance between your dog and the stimulus so your dog will no longer be able to react.
Being leashed will sometimes translate into three problems for dogs, namely leash pulling, leash biting, and leash lunging and barking. It is important to know what is causing these behaviors (environment triggers, or a decreased awareness of you being on the other end of the leash)
Investing in the right tools (two harnesses, rewards) and consulting with a professional can help you better understand and deal with your dog’s anxious behavior while being leashed.
Do you wish your dog would walk on a leash calmly and quietly without pulling? CLICK HERE to watch this FREE Step-by-Step Video from Doggy Dan’s Program!