You are ready to go on a lovely walk, get some steps in, and tire out your pup. Then it takes five minutes to get the leash on .... then you get the leash on and your puppy starts jumping up and down ... then you get outside and your puppy starts playing tug of war with you. What a scene! (I hope the neighbors don't see me!)
You are never alone in puppyhood. Biting on the leash is very common for a puppy. Dog owners typically buy tools for their dogs and then need to take an extra step to communicate the purpose of the tool. For example, you buy a dog bed and think your dog is going to sleep on it but instead he chews it. Therefore, you need to take an extra step to communicate the bed is for sleeping. You teach the command "Bed" which means "go to your bed and do nothing" and you redirect your dog to their bed when they are doing something naughty like barking or jumping. Then, you take the bed away when they are using it inappropriately. You teach them what a bed IS used for and your do not reinforce unwanted behaviors like biting the bed.
Same thing needs to happen with the leash. You need to take that extra step to communicate the purpose of the leash, while also not reinforcing unwanted behaviors. I recommend trying out a combination of these techniques at different times, based on you and your dog.
1. Practice leash handling
The leash is a form of communication (just like pointing, commands and luring). You can practice telling your dog where you want them to go by using the leash. Buy an inexpensive dog leash and direct your dog to different areas of the house such as the dog bed, around some chairs, in and out the door, etc. You can use the marker "yes" when you've reached a destination and use treats to reinforce the behavior.
Apollo going to his bed by means of the leash. No words, no pointing, just leash for communication.
2. Use the command "All Done" for handling your dog
Your dog gets all excited when the leash comes out, or your dog might get a little nervous about the unexpected handling. Either way, the faster you put the leash on, the better, because it minimizes the amount of time your dog is excited (or nervous).
You create a focus of being as fast as you can. Take a breath, move quickly and calmly. When the leash is on, say "all done" to communicate to your dog the handling is over. Say "yes!" and give them a treat saying "good all done". Your dog will learn the association between the clip and being ok to move again.
3. Do training sessions with the leash on
For your dog, the leash is a toy. It is a distraction. You are asking them to ignore the leash. Use your inexpensive dog leash and do a five minute training session with the leash on. Practice stay and bed and stringing together commands.
Remember, 'Stay' is the ultimate control command. If your dog can stay with the distraction of the leash, you're in good shape! Keep practicing!
4. Use a longer leash
I am imagining a dog jumping around, biting the leash, trying to get to the handle, trying to get to your hand, maybe even using you to get some extra height. I want the dog away from you and exploring the world. You are taking your dog out on a walk to sniff and stimulate, not to play with the leash and jump on you! Getting a longer leash will allow you to have more slack on the leash and get some distance from your dog.
5. Take your dog on a walk when they are tired
Change up the game a little bit. You want the walk to tire out your dog but they're telling you they aren't ready for that yet. Instead of doing the same old song and dance, change up the game a little and throw your dog off a bit. Play a little fetch or tug with your dog first.
This behavior is common for puppyhood. Know that leash walking comes later in a dog's training, around six months, so if your dog is younger than six months, they should be focused on exploring the world and socializing. The less you reinforce the behavior the better. Keep a loose leash, keep your hands down, don't over talk to your dog, and try to enjoy the walk!
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