Dog who is afraid of the leash: how to manage?

It’s time for a walk! As usual, you put on your shoes, put on your jacket, grab your bag. So far Toutou is doing well. Then comes the moment to take out the leash: immediate panic on board! Your four-legged friend is shaking, drooling, trying to take refuge out of your reach. Every day the drama is repeated and you no longer know how to manage your dog who is so afraid of the leash. But why would this piece of rope or nylon be like an instrument of torture? And how can you help your loulou so that he calms down? This is what we are going to explain to you in this article.

Why is a dog afraid of the leash?

From the discomfort felt during the attachment to the terror provoked by the simple sight of this essential canine accessory, different degrees of fear are observed in certain dogs. Due to a traumatic shock or as a result of repetitive behaviors, the fear experienced because of the leash can be interpreted in several ways. For example, a dog who is always free, who lives outside all year round or who is not used to being tied up for walks, will see in this new object an undesirable constraint. He may be afraid of what his human suddenly imposes on him without having prepared him for it, or even develop a phobia.

Before arriving in your household, your canine companion has had experiences of which you are unaware, and this all the more so if you have adopted it from a shelter or from individuals via a classified ad. Unfortunately, if today he is so afraid of leashes, it could be that:

  • his former master beat him with a leash;
  • the leash was used as part of a punishment;
  • the dog remained tethered for part of its life;
  • the leash was only used for negative experiences (visit to the veterinarian, deposit in a pension, bad meeting with a congener…);
  • etc.
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In addition, some dogs are fearful of people and do not like close contact. The leash is a close link with humans, not necessarily appreciated: everyone needs their living space, the size of which varies from one individual to another.

Do not reinforce your dog’s fear

Whatever the reason, you should not reinforce your dog’s fear. Wanting to comfort him by hugging him or cuddling him excessively in a moment of stress will prove to him that his anxiety is justified. Your goal is to reassure him without adding too many emotions to this painful situation: put an end to it by removing the object of the drama. Always stay consistent and even-tempered, to show your loulou that there is nothing exceptional and that he can trust you.

Of course, we advise against the use of force, totally unnecessary in any case, which will intensify and anchor the feeling of fear already present.

Trust your four-legged friend

Privilege moments away from the source of panic to strengthen the relationship and the complicity you have with your dog and attest to your reliability. For this last point, nothing could be simpler: make sure you are consistent in all your actions. The more he trusts you, the less he will be afraid of what you consider normal. Don’t forget that your companion, a real emotional sponge, will tend to adopt neutrality if you yourself don’t express any feelings.

Redouble your attention and multiply the playful exercises: you are a source of joy and not of displeasure!

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Associate the leash with moments of pleasure

At first, you have to get your dog used to the leash little by little, without tying it. A long-term job awaits you: associate this accessory with pleasant moments (positive conditioning). To do this, you can for example:

  • Leave the leash hanging next to his bowl while he eats. Be careful, in order not to produce the opposite effect (the food associated with a negative impression), it is better to remove it or move it away depending on the sensitivity of the animal.
  • Put the accessory on the ground with his favorite treats then offer your pooch to go and taste them.
  • Hold the leash in your hand or carry it with you during your games.
  • Cover it with peanut butter or cheese spread for him to lick it off.

With gradual familiarization, you’ll turn your leash into an everyday item that accompanies your dog’s most interesting activities.

Advance step by step

Patience and kindness are in the game: don’t proceed too quickly, at the risk of seeing your dog regress. When the object itself has been well integrated into the dog’s life with the techniques seen above, you can try to attach it to the collar or harness. After hooking it up, let go of the leash. Congratulate him if he doesn’t react, he deserves it! Then untie it. These short moments will last longer and longer and must be as many successes. If your dog cannot control his fear, go back to the previous step.

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When he no longer feels any fear of the dangling leash, you can hold the other end. This step is also done gently, taking time. Once well acquired, wearing the leash will no longer represent any discomfort and you will finally take the opportunity to take him for a walk, to a place he likes, to exercise his favorite activities, etc. Thus, the leash will definitely become a sign of pleasure.

Still a little patience before the veterinary practice or the grooming salon!

Reward your dog to encourage him

At each stage of learning you can reward your companion with games, petting, congratulations aloud or treats. If you opt for the latter, you will probably have to recalculate the portion of his next meal.

Canids need motivation to act and acquire the right behaviors. Emotional, playful or food gratification encourages him to renew an attitude; this is called positive reinforcement. It’s up to you to find out which reward has the most value in the eyes of a companion!

You now know how to manage your loulou’s fear of leashes. If, however, despite our advice, your phobic dog does not progress, do not hesitate to get help from an educator-behaviourist.

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