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Ask the Trainer: My Dog is Afraid of the Leash

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Hi Kevin,
My dog Ralphie showed up at my gate about 7 years ago. Guessing he was about 6 months old at the time. He is very afraid of the leash, I have tried and tried and also the car. I would love to take him for a walk. Thank you.

Hi Jan,

I had a similar problem with a foster dog I had in regards to the leash. What I did was put the leash on her and let her drag it around while she was supervised. I also gave her lots of constructive things to do while it was on so she wouldn’t focus on it. By doing this it will help desensitize Ralphie to the leash. This is something that I recommend doing daily while giving him the things he enjoys. Once he shows that he is comfortable with the leash you can remove it. Once again make sure he is always supervised when you do this.

From the little information I have it sounds like Ralphie could benefit from some confidence building exercises. One thing you can do is get a hula hoop and try to get Ralphie to sit in the middle of it. Use lots of awesome treats. As he is getting good at it try to get him to walk through it as you stand it on its side. Allow him to do things at his own pace and once again pair it with lots of awesome rewards. Another thing you can do is lay a ladder flat on the ground and try to get him to walk along it on the inside. It will be a little funky at first but the ultimate goal is he will walk right down it avoiding stepping on the rungs. In the beginning just toss a lot of good things around and so he walks near it and gets them. As he gets more comfortable with that start to place them on the inside so he has to summon his inner confidence to go and grab them on his own.

Another thing you can do is present the leash right before you do something he absolutely loves. If he loves meal time, the first thing you do to start the meal process is present the leash. With repetition of this he will start to get excited when he sees the leash because he knows that getting his food follows. If meal time isn’t that exciting, find something that is very exciting and use it the same way I just mentioned. I am going to attach a video at the bottom of this to help with the teaching of how to walk on a leash too.

One last thing you can do which is similar to something I mentioned above is to present the leash, as soon as he looks at it tell him good boy and toss him a treat. Repeat this process until he is looking at the leash with anticipation.

In regards to being afraid of the car, one easy thing you can try is for the time being feeding him all of his meals in the car. Keep the car stationary in the beginning. After some time when he is in there eating and showing no signs of stress you can start to take short trips while he is eating. Take your time with this because if you try to do it too quickly you will be making it worse instead of better.

Overall this isn’t a super fast process. Building a dog’s confidence can take a little bit of time. Just focus on doing all the things I mentioned above and you should start to see some results.

Here is a video on how to get your dog to walk on leash:

Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org)  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Of Cindy



    Hi my name is cindy and my 7month dog is afraid of the leash im not sure but i think she wad beaten with a leash. I have tried everything and she shuts down. Please help me i don’t know what to do

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