Sunday, August 19, 2012

Is My Dog Normal?: Leash Biting

The first week that we had Athena she seemed to be a very well mannered dog with little to no behavioral issues.  During her second week of being with us, she began to show her true colors and started to give us a run for our money.  I have read about how dogs often have a honeymoon period after being adopted where they seem like a perfect dog to their owner.  Once the dog feels more comfortable in their new home, behavior issues often arise, especially with an untrained dog.

During Athena's second week of being in her new home, she seemed to be over her honeymoon.  We now had a dog who had accidents in the house, bit her harness and leash every time that we went to put them on her, did crazy biting zoomies every night, and a handful of other unpleasant behaviors.  Despite her annoying challenging behaviors, we decided that it was our job as her new owners to teach her our desired behaviors so that we would have an amazing dog for the next 10-12 years.
One of Athena's super frustrating behaviors that emerged after the honeymoon was harness and leash biting.  Every time that B or I went to put Athena's harness on, she would somehow get it in her mouth and begin a game of tug with us.  When we would put her leash on, Athena would bite and pull.  At random times on our walks Athena would decide that she wanted to play tug with her leash and would begin an embarrassing tug of war with us in the middle of the park.  These behaviors made it very difficult for us to even get her out of the house and on a walk (even though we knew that she needed to release some energy as a way to end this crazy behavior!).

During our second week of beginning obedience training we asked the trainer how to eliminate Athena's harness and leash biting.  Our trainer recommended buying a bottle of Bitter Apple spray to spray on Athena's harness and leash.  When researching leash biting behaviors online, I had read a lot about the many people who said that Bitter Apple worked wonders to eliminate their dog's leash biting tendencies.  B and I decided to give it a try as we were desperate to be able to take Athena on walks again without getting into a game of tug at every corner.
The next time that Athena bit her leash and began to tug with us, we sprayed Bitter Apple in her mouth.  Yes, her mouth.  Our trainer suggested that this be the very first step in introducing Bitter Apple to a dog because spraying it on items alone isn't enough for the dog to fully taste the nastiness of the Bitter Apple.  I was a bit hesitant to spray Athena's mouth with the Bitter Apple because I'm not big into punishment or negative reinforcement, but B and I thought that it was necessary.  Once Athena tasted the spray, she immediately released the leash and got quite the sour pucker on her face.  After a few minutes we praised her and gave her some treats and water.

That night I sprayed doused Athena's leash, harness, and car seatbelt (which she also liked to bite) with Bitter Apple.  The next day Athena went about her normal routine of attempting to bite her harness the second that we put it over her head-- she quickly released the harness with one taste of the Bitter Apple.  Once her harness was on and the leash was attached, Athena tested her luck with biting the leash-- once again she released the leash and made her sour pucker face.

We can happily say that from that point on Athena no longer bites her harness or leash!  There have been only a couple of times that she forgot that it's not ok to bite her leash and attempted her luck.  Each time we gently reminded her that it's not ok by simply holding up the Bitter Apple bottle.  No spraying, just holding the bottle is enough to remind her that she doesn't want to bite her leash.

Our lives are much better now that this behavior has been eliminated and we hope that it stays this way for good!

Do you have a dog that likes to bite their leash?  What do you do to eliminate this behavior?

-A
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16 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this! I have a foster who engages in leash warring. And it drives me crazy, especially since crossing intersections seems to trigger it...I can't think of a worse place to have a tug-of-war with a growly dog. I had tried saturating her leash with Bitter Apple, but that hadn't made a difference. Well, last night, after reading your post, she got a few sprays of Bitter Apple to her mouth when she attempted to go for her leash. I had to remind her again this morning, but only once. I will be so happy if we can cross this off of her long list of questionable behaviors!

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    1. You're very welcome! I'm glad that it helped! After the first time that we sprayed the Bitter Apple in Athena's mouth she attempted to bite her leash a few times. We made sure that every time we got out the leash, the bottle of Bitter Apple was close by. If she attempted to bite the leash, we simply held up the bottle and she got the hint. Make sure you continue to spray the leash each day for about a week because it's likely that your dog might attempt to bite the leash and needs a bit of a reminded why not to.

      Athena has totally eliminated this behavior as of now. Like your dog, she also had a trigger for when she would bite the leash and play tug. Every time she went poop outside and she was on the leash she would do crazy leash biting! But not anymore!

      P.S.- Your dog is super cute =)

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  2. This reminds me so much of vintage Miss M! And it took me so much longer to find out about Bitter Apple, but it definitely became a lifesaver. The worst is when the pooch is trying to take themselves for a walk. Yeah for Athena!

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    1. We are glad that we got rid of this annoying behavior right away because it was really starting to get on my nerves! We are big fans of Bitter Apple....and we have yet to have to spray it on any furniture! Cross your fingers that we never have to!

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  3. Oh my gosh! I am so glad I read this post. I am going to buy some Bitter Apple ASAP.

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    1. I'm glad it helped! We haven't had to pull out the Bitter Apple in a looong time!

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  4. There are several reasons why your dog developed this manner. One obvious reason is that she’s not comfortable with it. When buying a new leash for your dog, try bringing her with you. Then, at home, start leash training and make it interesting, so that she won’t get bored. Take her out more often and let her carry a stick while on leash to distract her from the leash.

    Mariah Blum

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  5. We are happy that we disposed of this irritating conduct immediately in light of the fact that it was truly beginning to drive me up the wall! We are enormous devotees of Bitter Apple....and we have yet to need to shower it on any furniture! Cross your fingers that we never need to! buy facebook 5 star review

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  6. Very helpful advice in this particular post! It’s the little changes that make the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!
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