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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Dare

Grabbing & Tugging on the Leash

Do you have a dog who likes to grab the leash during walks and then tug on it, sometimes quite ferociously? If so, you know it can be a nuisance, though the dog may be having fun. I've been working with a bunch of dogs lately who exhibit this behavior, and there are multiple reasons WHY a dog does this. Today's article will explore some of these reasons, because there isn't a single solution for this problem.

But first, click on the photo to watch Roscoe's impressive grab and tug behavior. He's a large and boisterous dude, and this behavior could be overwhelming for a small person to handle, even if it's only playful. (Video thanks to Vivek A., Chappaqua, NY)

If a dog is very energetic, the slowness of the human's pace during a walk may inspire him to create a tug game with the leash. If the dog happens to be in a safely fenced area, you could temporarily drop the leash to end the tugging fun. But to resolve this, you could:

  • Exercise the dog before taking a walk, to burn off some excess steam.

  • Offer tugging opportunities with appropriate tug toys if this is a game your dog really loves. (It's just important to teach the tug game with rules.)

  • Reward the dog frequently with treats during walks when he is moving along with you nicely, without his mouth on the leash.

Other dogs will grab and tug on the leash when they get frustrated. This often happens when the human is not permitting the dog to get to something he desires, like another friendly dog. In this case, we need to work harder to make our choices rewarding enough to the dog that he's no longer frustrated. We might:

  • Increase distance so the dog doesn't have to walk closely by something tempting, OR something that triggers a strong emotional response.

  • Bump up the value of the food rewards we use so they're irresistible. (Check out an article about this topic.)

  • Use pattern games (created by Leslie McDevitt), other training exercises, and bouts of play with us, to make the human more interesting to work with and pay attention to.

I also meet dogs who will grab and tug on the leash because they don't want to go where the human does. Frequently this happens as the dog is approaching the house. If he's still energetic and/or interested in exploring the neighborhood, this behavior is his way of boycotting the 'going home' idea. In this case, we might:

  • Offer something fun as soon as we get back in the yard, like a food scatter, or chasing a ball or flirt pole.

  • Make it a habit to give the dog a special food puzzle (or even a meal) when returning from the walk, so the dog has a good reason to want to get back in the house. (Check out this article for at-home enrichment ideas.)

  • Practice short segments of leaving the property, walking for just a short distance, and then returning back home, with the lion's share of rewards occurring on the way back to the property. This back and forth is repeated, and the walking-away portion can gradually be increased.

I hope this article has given you some helpful tips. If I can be of additional assistance, please feel free to contact me. :-)

Virginia Dare is a certified dog trainer & behavior counselor with decades of experience. Her business offers live video consultations anywhere in the US for training and behavior help, puppy matchmaking services, and pre- and post-arrival counseling for new puppies. She also provides in-home, private lessons and behavior consultations in northern Fairfield and Westchester counties, western New Haven county, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties.

Please visit to learn more, or contact me at 804.784.0120



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