Blake is a great little dog except for one thing – every time you get him out he bites the lead. Not once or twice, he is obsessive about what he sees as a form of play. The big problem is that he sometimes misses – watch your fingers! This is a dangerous habit and one we have to re-train him not to do. It is most likely why he has become a stray, a dog who bites at your hands as well as the lead is never going to be safe. We never give dogs pulls and tugs for this very reason, they teach dogs that it is fine to pull against you and grab whatever you are holding. They are fine for throwing and retrieving, drop it, good boy, but should never be used as a battle of strength.
How to stop Blake biting his lead? It’s quite a problem and one that can take a long time to solve. Blake has been encouraged to pull on a tug toy, why is a rope lead any different? Humans are crazy! He’s excited when he’s going for a walk and jumping around and wanting to play. Changing his lead is the first thing to do, a chain is not so much fun to grab. He might go higher up and get the leather bit at the top though, so watch out for that. All chain is the answer if you can get one. These leads are cold and might hurt your hands so wear gloves. Don’t have any tugs around or anything fabric that he can ‘worry’. Solid toys are alright so long as they don’t have loops. It’s best to avoid toys altogether for a while though, this dog has been damaged by playing so he needs to forget all about it for now.
When you put the lead on, have something ready for him to grab as the instinct in him to do this will be ingrained. A rubber bone would do or maybe a very large chewstick that he may decide to gnaw at instead. It’s all about distraction and breaking the cycle of tugging. If he does grab the lead or anything else you will have to growl at him – ‘bad boy, leave, no’ – whatever your reprimand, it should be a consistent word or phrase and said in a very fierce voice. You have to talk his language and a growl is what he will understand.
Lots of exercise will help, not with the specific problem but he will benefit overall and become calmer if he’s had a good run. All dogs (except young puppies, seniors and any who are unwell) need to run free and walking on a lead just isn’t the same. The benefits of running around and letting off steam are considerable and make all the difference to any training programme. Unless you live in the country it’s difficult to let dogs off the lead nowadays, but if you have a dog you need to let him have free exercise. A walk through the woods is great, he’ll be in and out of the trees and chasing squirrels and having a great time.
Every time he stops tugging and biting it’s all praise – ‘good boy Blake, well done, good fella’ - a big hug and a fuss and a titbit perhaps, again be consistent with the tone of voice and words of praise. If he does accidentally nip you, and remember that this dog isn’t intentionally biting, don’t be stoical, a huge ‘ouch!’ and outcry and shriek of pain (might be real!) will get you his sympathy. Left to their own devices, dogs don’t play silly games, it’s human interaction that has ruined (temporarily we hope) this good young dog.
Most of our stray dogs need some form of re-training and can’t be offered for adoption until they are rehabilitated. A donation towards their care, no matter how small, is a great help. [donate]