How Do I Stop My Puppy from Biting Her Leash?
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You love to take your puppy for a walk. That is, until she grabs the leash and tugs on it with all her might.
So you wonder how you can stop your puppy from biting on her leash.
After all, the habit can be dangerous if the leash breaks and she gets free.
Or someone can even get pulled down or knocked over because of this habit.
Not to mention how expensive it can become to keep replacing leashes.
My rescued golden retriever Riley was about six months old when I adopted him.
He came with some behavioral issues–not the least of which was grabbing his leash.
He actually ripped through the first leash I put on him.
Not to worry, he was inside and I was trying to get him used to it so that I could take him on walks.
So I worked with that issue and resolved it pretty quickly. I’ll tell you more about what worked below.
In this article I’ll set forth reasons why a puppy may bite her leash. And I’ll set forth how you can stop this annoying–and expensive–habit.
What’s the Harm in a Puppy Biting a Leash?
At first a puppy chewing on and tugging his leash seems so cute.
But as he grows and gets adult teeth, the habit becomes annoying and even dangerous.
Of course you don’t want to have to buy a new leash every day because your puppy destroys them.
But there are additional reasons to stop your puppy from biting his leash as soon as you can.
A walk with a puppy chewing on his leash is not pleasant.
So puppies who bite their leashes often don’t get walked very often and also lose out on socialization to new experiences.
The leash may break and she may get free and injured or lost.
And her biting the leash can lead to other unwanted behaviors such as mouthing or biting your clothes–and you.
And it doesn’t teach your puppy to have any impulse control, which can result in many other unwanted behaviors such as excessive barking, lunging, and spinning.
It can even lead to aggressive behavior in some dogs.
Why Puppies Bite a Leash
There are many reasons why your puppy may bite her leash. And there may be more than one reason.
So after you figure out why she’s grabbing the leash, you can fix the problem. And actually have enjoyable walks!
A puppy may bite a leash for the following reasons:
1. The puppy’s bored on the walk
Your puppy may just be bored on the walk. Sometimes this occurs if the same route is always taken.
Or it could be the pace you walk at.
Going too slowly may cause some puppies to lose interest and bite the leash to occupy themselves by chewing or tugging on it.
Or walking too fast may overstimulate her and cause her to bite the leash.
2. The puppy’s excited
When a puppy’s excited or over-stimulated, he may just grab onto anything that’s near him–whether it’s your hand, clothes, or leash.
3. To get your attention
A puppy may bite her leash because she wants your attention.
To some pups, even negative attention is better than no attention.
4. The puppy doesn’t understand what a leash is for
Puppies that are just beginning to learn to have a leash attached to their collar or harness may think that it’s a toy.
5. The puppy Is frustrated
Sometimes puppies get frustrated being on a leash.
It prevents them from getting to the things that they want to reach such as other dogs, people, birds, rabbits, and even moving vehicles.
She’s upset about being restrained.
So, what does a puppy do? She bites the leash, of course.
It’s her way of dealing with frustration.
This is especially true in an environment that is extremely stimulating to her that occurs on her walk.
6. The puppy’s anxious
If your puppy is stressed or overwhelmed, she may bite the leash to help calm herself down. It’s a displacement behavior.
This occurs especially to puppies who aren’t yet socialized to the new situations that they’ll face or if the new situation is overwhelming.
7. Out of curiosity
Your puppy may bite her leash out of curiosity.
She may see this interesting piece of cloth or leather dangling near her and wonder what it is.
And she’ll investigate it with her mouth, of course, because she doesn’t have opposable thumbs.
8. The leash looks like a toy
You probably play tug with your puppy.
Some cloth or rope toys are fun to tug (as long as your pup will release the toy on cue).
So a leash is very appealing to your pup.
After all, she loves that game and every time that she goes for a walk, this fun toy–the leash– magically appears.
And she takes advantage of the opportunity to grab it and bite it.
9. The leash is in your dog’s face
In addition to appearing like a toy to your puppy, when the leash appears right in her face when it’s attached to her collar or front-clip harness, it’s very inviting.
How To Stop Your Puppy from Biting on Her Leash
As is true with dog training and behavior issues, there are many approaches you can try to help break the habit of your puppy biting on her leash.
You may have to use more than one method listed below to deal with your little land shark.
1. Exercise your puppy
Make sure that your puppy’s had enough physical and mental exercise.
If she has too much pent-up energy, she won’t be able to contain herself and bite the leash.
So play fetch or other physical games to help take the edge off her excessive energy.
Mental stimulation is as important as physical exercise is, so have her play with activity toys that provide enrichment.
A flirt pole can provide physical and mental exercise for dogs.
Have her perform obedience exercises.
Have your puppy figure out how to reach kibble in a puzzle toy.
2. Get a different type of leash
It’s important to purchase a good-quality leash.
If the leash is too thin or of an inferior quality, it will inevitably break.
When I’m training a puppy, I use a cotton leash.
Cotton is easier on the hands than nylon is.
I generally don’t buy a leather leash until the puppy understands not to bite it.
A high-quality leather lead can be expensive and damaged by curious puppy teeth.
Some people even use a chain leash when training a puppy not to bite on the lead.
This can work with some puppies because it’s usually not fun for a pup to chew on metal.
You can also place a two-feet piece of PVC pipe over a regular leash so that the pipe reaches down to the clasp that attaches to the pup’s harness or collar.
Most puppies won’t be attracted to chew on the PVC pipe like they would a material leash.
Also, when choosing a leash, make sure that it’s no more than six feet long.
If you use a longer line to walk your puppy, the leash can be seen as more of a toy and lead to him grabbing and biting it.
3. Use a chew deterrent
I’ve found this to be very effective with most puppies.
You can spray a product like Bitter Apple on the lead from the clasp for about a three foot section.
Do it prior to placing the leash on the pup so that it’s not accidentally sprayed on her.
This is what instantly stopped my rescued golden Riley from chewing on his leash.
The second that he tasted the bitter substance, it was no longer fun to grab this piece of cloth that was attached to him.
We could then take nice, leisurely walks. And I didn’t spend a small fortune replacing leashes.
4. Teach obedience commands and impulse control exercises
Teaching a puppy to respect our rules is important in any situation.
If she knows some behaviors that you can have her perform on cue, it will redirect her to desirable actions.
So stop walking if she starts to bite on the leash.
Teach your puppy to pay attention to you–not to the leash.
Teach her a “look” cue.
And teach her some impulse control exercises such as sit, down, and stay.
You can show her the treat at first as a lure, then reward her after she performs the behavior.
Have her sit or lie down before you throw a ball. This helps your puppy to have impulse control even in stimulating situations.
PRO-TRAINER TIP: Have a supply of great, yummy treats that your dog can’t resist ready as a reward. They should be small, no larger than a pea. Always have your reward treats ready before giving your obedience cue.
I taught my Energizer bunny Aussie mix Millie to sit, lie down, spin, speak, perform hand signals, or whatever other cue I give before throwing her ball.
She’s ball-obsessed and performing these cues really helped with her overall impulse control.
Teaching your puppy to “heel” next to you will also keep her focused on walking next to you with attention rather than focusing on the leash that she’s attached to.
Also teach your pup to “leave it” on cue before her teeth touch the leash.
5. Have an alternate tug toy with you
Often rope or long cloth-type toys work well.
So, without distractions, teach your puppy to take and give the toy back to your hand on cue.
Then, if you see that your pup wants to bite on the leash, show her the toy on your walk to redirect her to the correct item to bite.
Redirect her before she starts biting at the leash.
6. Keep your puppy engaged with you
It’s important that your puppy is focused on you.
So have her attention, play with her, and make the walk fun.
Being engaged with you should occur at home too.
So play games with your puppy, socialize her, teach her tricks, and just spend quality time with her.
The bond that you have with her throughout the day will also help her engage with you on your walks.
7. Have your puppy use her nose
Teach your puppy to “go on a sniffari.”
The latest way to enrich our dogs’ lives is to encourage them to use their natural abilities to sniff on a walk.
You can teach your puppy a “sniff” cue for a short time on your walk.
After all, dogs have a “nose brain” and love to explore the scents around them.
This can help distract your puppy from biting the leash while providing an enrichment activity. Sniffing is naturally calming to pups.
Another fun game is to have your pup use her natural foraging skills.
Throw about five pieces of kibble down, telling her to “find it.”
Play this at home first so that she understands the game.
And make sure that she sees you toss the food down.
Then, you can occasionally use this skill to redirect her to a fun game rather than chewing on the expensive leash.
8. Focus on your leash-handling skills
Try to keep a loose, not tight, leash that’s held behind your puppy’s head.
If the leash is tight, it may cause her to get frustrated and start biting it.
Also, if the leash is right in front of her face, she may think that it’s fair game to chew as a toy.
9. Change equipment
If your puppy chews her leash because it’s in her face when walking, such as occurs with a front-clip harness, you can use a back-clip harness that she’s less likely to chew.
10. Start leash training when the puppy’s young
Even though it can be frustrating at times, don’t give up.
It’s important to leash train your puppy as soon as you can so that she doesn’t develop undesirable behaviors like biting on the leash.
11. Avoid the puppy’s triggers
While you’re training your puppy to learn how to walk properly on a leash, try to avoid situations that will definitely lead to her biting on it.
Of course, always start all training without distractions.
On your walks, some things, like a jogger running by, may overly stimulate her, causing her to bite the leash.
So try at first to walk her at a quieter time or at a further distance from such distractions until she gets used to wearing her leash on walks.
12. Do leash practices
So many puppies go crazy when they even see the leash or hear the word “walk.”
By the time they actually have the lead on and go on the walk, they can’t control their enthusiasm. Or their teeth on the leash.
So teach your puppy to be calm when she sees the leash and when she has it attached. This needs to be done in “puppy steps.”
First, make sure that your puppy’s exercised so that she’s not too energetic.
Then, do some training set-ups.
When you reach for the leash, and she’s calm, praise and reward that behavior.
Next step is when you hold the leash and your puppy’s calm, praise and reward her.
Of course, this process may take days or even weeks to be successful.
Teach her to sit and be calm while the leash is attached to her collar or harness.
Praise and reward when she’s calm and successful.
Also do training sessions where your puppy’s calm exiting your house and even when she hears you say the word “walk.”
Have her sit before exiting the house.
Teach her to heel by your side calmly rather than bolting out the door.
Eventually, with practice, your puppy won’t already be so excited at the prospect of the leash and taking walks that she automatically bites the leash.
13. Have two leashes
You can hold both leashes. Then, when your puppy grabs one, you drop that one and just hold onto the other so that her biting the leash doesn’t turn into a tug game.
Of course be careful not to drop both.
Then you should stop walking and start again holding both leashes.
14. Socialize your puppy
Even though you don’t want to over-stimulate your puppy, you still need to socialize her to everything that she’ll face in everyday life.
This means getting her used to people and dogs passing by.
puppy’s also bark on a leash when excited.
Of course you shouldn’t have your dog meet all people or dogs on walks.
Doing so can result in leash frustration where she expects to greet everyone.
And it can also be dangerous because not all dogs are friendly and most don’t want an over-zealous puppy in their face.
So teach her a “say hello” cue when she can go up to a person or other dog.
Get her used to sights and sounds of cars, children running, bicyclers, motorcycles, squirrels, rabbits, and everything else that she’ll be exposed to in everyday life.
If it’s too exciting for her, just distance yourself from the stimulus far enough away that she can handle the new experience.
Then, over time, she can be exposed at a closer distance where she’s able to handle the excitement.
15. Keep your puppy under threshold
As I described socializing your puppy, it’s best to keep her under threshold when exposing her to the world.
If she’s too excited, she won’t be able to control her conduct.
And she’ll exhibit many undesirable behaviors.
So always try to set her up to succeed.
If your pup is over-stimulated, you won’t be able to train or socialize her properly.
So, if someone or thing is too exciting, just add distance.
Walk her further away at a distance that she can handle the stimuli.
Keeping her under threshold is also true in your greetings with her.
Try to be calm and low-key when you arrive home.
And, before going on walk, don’t make it a party. Just teach her to be calm.
16. Use a basket muzzle
Some trainers have found this to be helpful.
Of course, if you ever need to use a muzzle on your pup, condition her to wearing it first.
Generally, with young puppies, the other methods discussed above are sufficient to stop biting a leash.
What NOT To Do: Don’t Try This at Home
There are many ways to help teach your puppy to not bite on the leash. But there are some that you shouldn’t use.
1. Don’t use harsh methods
This means not yelling at the puppy.
Doing so may temporarily stop leash biting, but it may scare your puppy.
With some puppies, it will over-stimulate them and make them more mouthy and out-of-control or even defensive and aggressive.
This is also true of any physical corrections, which should not be used.
2. Don’t tug on the leash
Tugging on the leash turns your puppy’s biting the leash into a game.
You’ll be rewarding her behavior–and she’ll keep biting at it.
3. Don’t give up
I know that some puppies can be very mouthy.
Goldens and labs are hunting dogs, and many have a genetic need to have something in their mouth.
Don’t give up. Just train them that it can’t be the leash.
My puppy bites his leash. Is he being spiteful?
No! Puppies aren’t spiteful.
You just need to make sure that he has enough exercise and train him not to bite his leash.
Teach him to pay attention to you and to sit and perform other calm behaviors that you’ll praise and reward.
Should I play tug with my puppy when he bite the leash?
No! Doing so will reward that behavior and teach him that it’s a game. Instead, teach him alternate behaviors that you can reward, such as looking at you or a sit or down.
My puppy goes wild when I take the leash out for him to go on a walk. He grabs it and starts biting it. What can I do to stop this?
Make sure that he’s exercised physically and mentally. Then teach him that calm behavior around the leash is what gets rewarded.
Puppies naturally explore the world with their mouths. The leash is often a fun thing to bite or chew.
We just need to teach a puppy that doing so isn’t acceptable.
After your puppy can walk on lead calmly and without biting the leash, your life will be improved.
And so will your puppy’s because you can have fun walks and adventures together.
How about you?
What do you do to stop your puppy from biting on her leash?
Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.
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