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Dog Walking on Lead

Question

When I walk my two-year-old dog on leash, she bites and chews on the leash the whole way. It is very frustrating and I end up cutting our walks short because it is so uncomfortable. Is there any way I can get her to stop?

-Lennie from Marblehead

Response

One easy fix is to coat the leash with something that will deter her from biting on it. Check your pet supply store for the various brands of bitter tasting or otherwise unpleasant products that can be applied to the leash.

For a natural remedy, Pat Towler at Common Crow Natural Health in Gloucester suggests two possible solutions. Moisten the leash slightly and dust with alum powder. Pat assures us that the alum is non toxic and is a definite deterrent. Another quick and effective solution is diluting grapefruit seed extract (directions are on the bottle) with either water or alcohol (edible alcohol only, so NO rubbing alcohol) and putting in a spray bottle. She suggests shaking the oily solution in the spray bottle each time before applying. According to Pat, grapefruit extract is the “most nasty tasting thing on earth.” Again, it is non toxic and an added benefit is that it is antiseptic and has plenty of other household uses.

Some of our clients have suggested using clove oil, but Pat says that clove oil, especially full strength, can be dangerous since it is a neurotoxin. She would suggest not using clove oil as a remedy.

There are some flower essence remedies that can also be quite effective. However, we would suggest consulting with a holistic veterinarian or other professional to determine if this therapy is appropriate for your dog and which formula would be indicated.

You might try using a chain-link leash instead of a leather or cotton webbed one. Dogs are less likely to chew on a chain leash.


Question

I take my year-old lab, Sammy, to the doggie park everyday. It is a bit of a walk, and everyday she pulls me all the way to the park. She gets so excited knowing that we are on our way there, that she starts to pull as soon as I snap the leash on before we even get out the door. I have tried everything but I can’t get her to stop. I have come near to falling a few times, and my shoulder is beginning to hurt. How can I get her to stop?

-Mary from Salem

Response

Certainly, very few people could walk fast enough for a lab on her way to a play park!! This is definitely a problem, a safety issue (yours). We get many calls from pet owners after they have dislocated shoulders or broken arms or legs.

First, try desensitizing her to the “trigger.” The leash triggers excited behavior. Pick the leash up, put it down, and walk away. Some moments later, repeat the process. When picking up the leash causes a minimal or controlled reaction, practice putting her into a sit, and then picking up the leash. The next step would be putting the leash on Sammy and then walking away.

Once putting on the leash has become less of a trigger, begin practicing around the house, in the yard, or on short walks around the block. In the house you might try putting Sammy on a leash and tying it to an immovable object such as a couch. Stand just beyond her reach with something irresistible. Knowing labs, a tennis ball will do the trick. She will probably start pulling to get to the ball. Let her know she is pulling with a “hey” or other such short sound. When she relaxes a bit and the leash goes slack, praise her, quickly release her from the lead, and engage in a bit of play. After a few minutes, put her back on lead and repeat the exercise.

Outside, whenever she starts to pull, use the same sound to alert her that she is pulling. If she doesn’t stop, then you stop and refuse to budge until the pulling stops. If she is too strong for you, then secure the leash to a tree or some other object and wait until she calms down. When the leash is slack and she is relaxed, praise her, release her, and continue on your way. If she starts to pull again, stop and repeat the process. Do this on short walks around the block or the neighborhood. We would suggest varying the route you take each time, even if it just involves walking on the opposite side of the street.

During this training period, you might invest in a no-pull harness to aid you.

Also, if possible, drive to and from the park for now until you start to have some control over her pulling. Remember, everytime your dog engages in a behavior it is self reinforcing, even when the consequences are negative. If she pulls and you continue walking with her and moving ahead, the undesirable behavior (pulling) is reinforced, even if you correct her.

Be patient and consistent. A few weeks of work will give you years of pleasant walks to the park.