Biting the Leash that Leads You – How to Stop this Habit?

Biting the Leash that Leads You – How to Stop this Habit?
15 Jun 2015

A few days ago, I saw a 6 month old Dachshund in my clinic. He walked in, very friendly and confident. He also was holding his leash in his mouth. Other pet owners in the lobby thought this was cute – thankfully, his owner did not.  This annoying habit can seem adorable at first but can seriously undermine attempts at obedience training and can put your pet at risk.

Which dogs bite at the leash?

Most commonly, this habit of biting the leash begins in puppyhood. It is normal for puppies to bite at the leash when it is first used. They’re not sure what it is- is it another tail? Many react as if it is chasing them. With gentle correction and teaching your puppy to focus on walking, this can be quickly corrected. Older dogs will bite at the leash as an attempt to get away, through anxiety, or playfulness.

Why does it need to be corrected?

When the dog has the leash in its mouth, it becomes less effective. You will have a harder time controlling your dog and leading him in the right direction. This is a dangerous scenario, because you don’t have control over your dog. They can easily rip the leash right out of your hands and escape. If he decides to bolt and you do have a good grip, he could potentially cause harm to his teeth or oral mucosa.

Dogs that bite at the leash are also not paying attention to their owner. Larger dogs can run into people on the street or become a tripping hazard. Biting can also cause damage to the leash itself, potentially causing an escape if they bite completely through the material. This habit is also downright gross- getting drool all over it and making it slippery.

How do I correct this bad habit?

If your dog is grabbing the leash out of play, you will need to gently let him know that this is not the time to play. Stop what you are doing and have him focus on you. Working on obedience can do the trick. Ask Fido to sit and remove the leash from the mouth. Say a cue word, such as “drop it” and offer a treat to help maintain focus. Over time, he will become more focused on listening to you (and getting treats) instead of grabbing the leash.

Also, reward the behavior that you want. In this case, you want her walking politely without the leash in the mouth. Don’t ignore her when she’s walking along quietly and is doing what you want. Praise her and give treats. Sooner rather than later, she will get the idea that this is what you want.

Many dogs that grab the leash also like to have something in their mouth. This could be due to anxiety and holding something makes them feel more secure. If your dog is anxious on walks, reward good behavior but also consider taking a toy with you on a walk for him to hold in his mouth. This “security blanket” can eventually be phased out by making walks a good experience and lavishing on the praise. Always consult with your veterinarian or trainer if your dog is suffering from anxiety, as a specific course of treatment may be necessary.

The Final Word

Remember that you are “the boss” and you have the final word when it comes to your dog’s behavior. Your dog should look up to you as a benevolent leader. Be consistent with rewards and don’t be shy with the verbal praise. Firm corrections may be needed, but never as punishment.

Always remember not to punish your dog for grabbing the leash. Shouting and reprimanding her can have the opposite effect. Any type of attention, good or bad, can reinforce the behavior you are trying to correct!

The next time your puppy grabs the leash and you think it’s cute – think again! With loving guidance, this annoyance will soon be a thing of the past.


Deborah Shores

Deborah Shores, DVM, is an American Veterinarian and a 2008 graduate of Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science, minor in Chemistry, from Berry College in Rome, Georgia, USA. As a child, she was obsessed with horses and received her very own mare, named Ivy, at the age of 10. She wanted to become a vet at the age of 13, when her beloved horse had to undergo a complicated eye surgery at the University of Georgia. The veterinary surgeons allowed her to watch the procedure in the operating theatre and she was hooked! As a military spouse, she has lived throughout the USA, in Poland and Japan. In the last 6 years, Dr. Shores has worked as a clinical veterinarian for dogs, cats, small mammals and non-human primates (macaque monkeys) and as a freelance writer. She has also taught anatomy and physiology as an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. Her passion is educating animal lovers about pet care and common animal diseases. She currently has two mischievous tabby cats, Hummer and Piper. Both cats are also world travelers and enjoy basking in the warm afternoon sun.

Leave a Reply