This is quite a common problem among both puppies and adult dogs. The only question is
whether this is really a problem and whether it should be dealt with.
Why does the dog tug at the leash?
If the dog bites and tugs the leash, it is a symptom of growing frustration in him, a desire to
relieve stress or an invitation to play. My dog bit the leash only in one specific situation and
only in one place. He always did this after I went with him to the gas station to get a beer
and would leave him at the door for a while. When I came back, he was happy and after
taking the leash in my hand he would start to bite and pull it. He never did it in any other
situation, even when I tied him outside a store two streets down.
Should we stop the dog from tugging the leash during a walk?
If you want your walk to be pleasurable, it is definitely worth doing something about this
problem. It cannot be that you are walking and the dog is biting and jerking at the leash like
crazy, often without looking at what direction it is pulling or without paying any attention to
what is going on around it. However, it is worth teaching the dog the correct behaviour with
one thing in mind. Namely, we often care about some behaviour of the dog, which we have
unlearned him (often unconsciously) in other circumstances. It is similar in a situation when
the dog is tugging on something that we are holding.
Tugging is great fun for the dog, as it builds a bond with the handler and it’s a game that we
can start anywhere. Therefore, before you say “no!” or “bad dog!” think carefully. And it will
be best if you …
Ignore biting on the leash
Before you start consciously unlearning your dog to pull the leash, prepare a tug toy and
The tug toy can be a piece of thick cotton rope or a special toy made of appropriate
materials. If your dog knows how to play tugging, that’s great. If he doesn’t know what’s
going on, it’s time to teach him. I wrote about playing with a tear/tug toy in the post Playing
with a dog with a tug toy. Read this post to find out exactly what this fun activity should look
Once your dog knows what the tear toy is for, it’s time to go for a walk. The training location,
as usual, must be carefully selected according to your dog’s training level and the dog’s
ability to focus on you and the dog’s stress resistance. You can read more about it in the text
Where to train your dog.
Walk – the dog bites the leash
When you are walking with your dog and he starts to grab the leash and pull it, then you
should stop immediately. Grab the leash tightly but do not struggle with the dog. If you have
trained playing with a tear toy, the dog should release the leash after the command “let go”.
If he does it, then give a loud and joyful “YES” and give the dog a treat. If you are using a
clicker, you can click in advance to mark the desired behaviour.
If the dog knows how to play with the tear toy, it also knows that it catches the toy only on
the command, for example, “catch”. In this case, when you notice that the dog becomes
interested while on the leash, the command should be “no”, “mine”. After something like
this, it is worth taking out the tear/chew/tug toy and playing with the dog for a while.
The dog doesn’t know how to play with a tear toy (tug or chew toy), but bites and pulls the
When your dog, for some reason, doesn’t know how to play with a chew toy, then the
moment when he starts to catch and pull the leash during a walk may be a perfect moment
to teach him to do so. In this case, when the dog starts to grab and bite the leash, stop, grab
the leash firmly, but do not tug it, and do not try to force it out of the dog’s mouth. The mere
fact that you stop jerking the other end of the leash will make this behaviour less attractive
to the dog.
Wait a while and when the dog lets go of the leash, show the dog the tear toy and try to get
him to catch it. It doesn’t have to be a success at the first time.
If, in spite of all the attempts, the dog does not want to redirect its activity to the tear toy, as
soon as he lets go of the leash, say “yeah” loudly and happily and give the dog a treat.
Remember that the treat should be given after releasing the leash, and not as a bribe for
changing the behaviour.
You can repeat this exercise every time the dog bites on the leash, but don’t reward him
with a treat every time, so that the dog doesn’t learn the chain of events that leads to him
getting something good. Dogs learn very quickly, especially behaviours that are undesirable
by people. You can quickly fall into a trap, of a behaviour where the dog catches the leash,
looks at you, and as soon as a treat appears, it will let go of the leash. He can also just catch
for a moment to check what you have in your pocket for him.
Sprays and creams
There are also various anti-chew sprays and creams available on the market. However,
personally, I advise against using them. First of all, they do not solve the problem. The dog
does not consciously learn that certain behaviours are acceptable to you or not. He will
transfer his frustration or the desire to relieve stress to something else that may be of much
greater value to you than a leash for 5 EUR
Avoid biting the leash
As I wrote in the introduction, the dog often jerks and bites the leash out of frustration. He is
just dissatisfied for some reason and tries to let you know through his behaviour that
something does not suit him. What can cause such frustration in a dog?
Start by checking the collar to make sure it is not too tight; nothing is sticking out of it and
does not scratch the dog sometimes. Are there any changes on the dog’s skin in the place
where it usually has the collar? Maybe something just itches or irritates him.
Fastening the dog on a leash. In a dog, the mere fact of putting on a collar and attaching a
leash can cause anxiety. The dog will then instinctively try to get rid of them from its body.
Therefore, make sure that the dog is relaxed when you put on the collars and the leash.
After the characteristic click of the clip hook, give a treat and praise the dog. Let him know
it’s the beginning of something fun.
The way you use the leash. See the entry on how to walk your dog on a leash and see if you
are making any basic mistakes. Sometimes your dog will try to break free by tugging on the
leash. This often happens when the dog does not feel well with its handler and tries to keep
his distance at all costs. In that case it is worth using a longer leash or rope, then slowly
shorten the distance and give the dog time to learn that walking with you is something
The way you walk. Is the walk just for you? If your walk is all about going out with your dog
and counting down the number of times he peed and pooped, and then straight back home,
this is the fastest way to generate a lot of trouble, jerking and biting the leash will be the
least to worry about. An ordinary domestic dog does not need to do a lot of kilometres a
day. Forget that you’ll physically tire him with walking and fetching a ball or a stick. Of
course, it is important, but the dog will regenerate after 2 hours and will still be full of
energy. Therefore, much more important than the length of the walk is its pace – it should
not be fast, unless it is training or a quick pee in the middle of the night.
The sniffing of the dog
On each walk allow your dog to be a dog. What does it mean? Sniffing, first of all. When you
walk with your dog, let your dog smell a garbage can, wall, pole or grass. It is very important
to them! Don’t drag, wait a moment, go to him and say “what have you got there?” or praise
as normal. It may sound strange, but your interest is building a relationship with your dog. It
causes the dog to form one herd with you, members of which are interested in each other. It
really matters to your dog to feel good and gets rid of frustration. It’s a bit like in a marriage,
when two people only live together but they are not interested in each other, they don’t ask
anything, they don’t offer anything to each other. This situation is always frustrating.
Of course, everything in moderation and within healthy boundaries. It may happen that your
dog picks up an extremely interesting lead and is stubbornly dragging you in a given
direction. Allow this behaviour every once in a while. However, most of the walks is up to
you to decide which direction you go. If necessary, adjust the pace to the dog, but the slower
Relieving stress while on the leash
Sometimes it happens that the dog bites on the leash and starts making nervous movements
as soon as it passes another dog or something else. Pay attention to this behaviour. A dog
can be stressed by anything – a man in a hat, a nun, a rustling sack – it can be anything. In
such cases, I encourage you to contact professionals and work on your dog’s fears. However,
it is worth remembering that the dog should not be put into too difficult situations too
quickly. Slowly working with the dog, showing him that it’s nothing too scary, you can
overcome the fear.
When the dog grabs the leash to relieve stress, it is worth redirecting his attention to the
tear toy or the rope. It is also worthwhile to carefully investigate what makes the dog behave
like that and either avoid it or slowly get used to it.
Or is it just a game of tugging the leash?
There are times when grabbing the leash is an invitation to play, not a symptom of
frustration. This is much less common, and as an owner/carer you will notice it rather
quickly. Then you have nothing else to do but pull out the rope or chew/tug toy. However, it
is better for you to initiate the fun and do it before the dog does it first. Remember that
playing with a tug is deeply ingrained in the nature of the dog. Properly conducted fun does
not teach aggression, on the contrary! It leads to the fact that the dog is less nervous, learns
to control himself. And snarling while dragging is nothing but fun.
The dog bites the leash – what to do?
Don’t react. Take a toy with you for a walk and while the dog tries to chew on the leash, wait
for it to stop playing with it. You can also reward with a treat. You can also use special sprays
and apply fragrance to the leash.
What does biting a leash mean?
Most of the time it is frustration. The dog is getting angry about something. Maybe you
don’t let your dog be a dog? He cannot smell or look around. Make sure you have fun.
Less often it is a typical invitation to play, and due to the fact that there is nothing else, a
leash is used for fun.
Metal dog leash
The use of a chain leash is one way for your dog to learn not to bite the leash. However, this
method only addresses the effect, not the cause of the behaviour. The dog may shift its
frustration onto something that might be more valuable to you than a leash. Provide the dog
with what he needs and the problem will go away.
How do I train my dog not to bite / grab the leash?
Best by playing with him. Preferably with a tug toy and fetching. Provide your dog with
entertainment. Allow sniffing, retrieving, if the dog tolerates other dogs, let him play with
them. You will then eliminate the problem of biting the leash much more permanently by
addressing the root of the problem.