Dear Bark: I’m a dog walker, and one of my clients has two adult dogs, a Whippet and an Australian Shepherd, who I take out three times a week. The Whippet is no problem, but the Aussie barks and runs around like a crazy thing, which makes leashing him a challenge. He's a very big dog, with a big bark! Once the leash is on, he takes it in his mouth and jumps all over the place. Walking is also a challenge because he’s always trying to grab the leash. Any suggestions?
That sounds hectic! It’s no fun walking a dog who seems to be on a pogo stick and is grabbing at the leash to boot. When another dog is along (no matter how well behaved), it can feel even that much crazier.
However, there are definitely things you can do to make this thrice-weekly outing better for everyone. One of the best ways to keep the leash out of the dog's mouth is to give him something else to put in it—say, a toy he can carry. If his mouth is occupied, he’s less likely to be interested in grabbing the leash.
You may have to experiment to find something he likes better than he likes to bite the leash. Safety is the primary consideration, but beyond that, let the dog's interests guide you, while making sure the item is too large for him to choke on it. Good options include a ball, rope tug toy, fleece animal or flying disc. Many dogs will happily carry a stick, but sticks can be dangerous (think splinters and mouth and throat punctures). If the Aussie is a true stick lover, try a toy designed to mimic a stick. For example, Kong makes Safestix and Squeezz Stick, both of which are enjoyed by many stick-loving dogs.
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This potential solution may seem overly simple, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. Many dogs get super hyped-up about going for a walk, and when they’re in that state, they become very mouthy, and the leash is right there. By providing the Aussie with an outlet for his need to grab something, you’re allowing him to give in to his urge without driving you crazy. And it may just solve the problem!