The Den

brown dog at the end of a leash

Why Does My Dog Seem Afraid of His Leash?


If you think the leash or harness is a trigger for fear and apprehension for your dog rather than anticipation and excitement, there are steps you can take to turn this experience around and make it positive.

If your dog exhibits signs of reluctance, tucks his tail or flattens his ears, or flat out runs away from you at the sight of the leash, he clearly needs a more positive association. If your dog shows signs of assertiveness or even aggression when you attempt to put his leash on, seek the assistance of a professional.

In any of these scenarios, remember that your dog is trying to communicate with you, and it’s important to be patient if you want to understand why your dog is reacting the way he is to his leash, and initiate retraining to develop a positive association.

Here are 3 pointers for how to approach leash reactivity.

3 things to remember when dogs fear their leash or harness

Look for causes. Leash anxiety can come from many sources. It could be a negative past experience with a previous owner or lack of socialization and exposure during formative months of the dog’s life. It could be other dogs, people, or objects you encounter on your walks, so be alert to environments where your dog begins to show signs of apprehension. Maybe the leash itself is too tight or otherwise uncomfortable, or maybe your dog just doesn’t like to be controlled. Be patient. Diagnosing fear of a leash can take some time.

Re-conditioning with food can help. Rewarding leash compliance with food or using food as an incentive can work to reverse old behavior or replace negative feelings with positive ones. In general, food can be used to create and build trust - especially for pet parents who are new to their dogs.

Training works wonders. Be consistent in how you train your dog to the leash. Keep sessions short and it positive, realizing that your initial goal may be attaching the leash to the collar and a walk may yet be days away. Notice your dog’s body language. Break down the process into little wins towards any progress of acceptance. For example, reward your dog with a treat for sniffing or displaying other interest in the leash while it’s in your hand. Use a higher value treat to reward when you place the leash on the dogs collar to continue building positive association.

End the session before you see signs of apprehension that can’t be soothed. Always try to end on a positive achievement.

Dogs need walks for both physical and mental health and happiness, so it’s important to overcome fear of the leash. But dog training is not an exact science because every dog’s personality and motivation is different.

That’s why you should always think of Canine Company Manners Training as a way to get experienced, professional help to get the outcomes you want.

Get Manners Training for Your Dog

  • Let Canine Company’s certified trainers help you stop your dog peeing indoors during on-site or online training sessions.
  • Involve other family members as you like.
  • With Canine Company, it’s not just about training your dog. It’s about creating a stronger relationship with your dog.

Improve the quality of your dog’s life.

Schedule a Manners Training session now Virtually or On-Site