Helen Goodall: Chewing the lead can be a sign of stress
When training your dog to accept the constraints of a collar and lead, sometimes, through frustration or initial intrigue, your dog may grab at the lead with his teeth.
Teaching your dog to handle himself on a lead is paramount to your ability to have reliable control when you need it. Of course verbal control is also a main influence, but the lead helps us be responsible dog owners. Also, using a lead in the house, as well as out on a walk, can help give us an extra ‘hand’ when teaching a dog how to behave with visitors for example.
As the lead is basically a restraint, a dog can react negatively to his loss of flight response in a threatening situation. The more the lead tightens the more restrained and tense he feels, worsening his reaction. He may act more protectively towards his owner when on a lead.
Teaching your dog how to deal with restraint without panic and stress, can help you both enjoy walks more and meeting with others more relaxed.
Deterring him from chewing the lead is really important in a dog of any age. Lead chewers are a nuisance to the walker and in the many different situations where you need your dog to behave. Chewing the lead can be a sign that your dog is stressed; it needs an outlet for anxiety, or it can be an attempt by the dog to gain control over the restraint and the situation it finds itself in.
A good example of this is the dog that finds meeting other dogs stressful. It starts with the dog regularly jumping up at the owner, grabbing the lead whilst he gets ready to leave the house. Then, when the dog meets another that he is threatened by, he starts to jump up and grab the lead, getting higher and higher until he is grabbing at the owners arm. A concerning position to be in and a difficult habit to break.
I find the most straight forward approach is to firstly make sure that your dog is comfortable in the equipment you use. Whether it is a harness, simple collar or head collar, your dog should be able to walk sensibly without heavy pulling. Then, swap your normal nylon lead for a chain link lead. Bulky and cumbersome they may be, but dogs don’t like chewing them. Lightweight, longer chains are helpful for the smaller dog. Then, address the real cause of the chewing and help your dog to cope and address his issues, slowly and with the help of a Behaviourist. Lead chewing may be a displacement activity, without it, the dog’s stress may increase, so your approach to sorting the problem once you’ve identified it, needs to be sensitive.
If his lead biting is simply an extension of his excitability, you may find you can go back to your normal lead after a period of time.
This week, dog behaviourist Helen Goodall talks about solving problems with a dog grabbing at a lead. .
Helen runs Dogs Behaving Badly! in Bury St Edmunds. For appointments, ring Helen on 01359 241890 or visit www.dogsbehavingbadly.co.uk
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