letters to my puppy cash pit bull on leash

Day 241 – Journey to the end of leash-biting

Dear Puppy,

It’s been a full 2 weeks of daily running, and I’m proud to report that we’re officially done with leash-biting. It’s been quite a roller coaster…

The progression of YOUR leash-biting

There have been a good amount of times that you have bitten the leash with me: like this day, this day, this day, and this day.

Just cute puppy behavior

When the leash biting first started, it was just once or twice within a 2-month span. Once was when you were 5 months old and it was right before you pooped, and I didn’t really think of that because that’s when you were going through this phase of being really excitable right before dropping a deuce.

It didn’t seem aggressive or scary. You bit the leash and played a little bit of tug-of-war and then snapped out of really quickly. All the internet articles I read said that you were just mistaking it for playtime, so I didn’t think much of it.

INCREASED FREQUENCY AND INTENSITY

When you were old enough for me to take you running regularly, you were still great on-leash. You would just run alongside me and be awesome.

But then slowly you started developing this habit of biting the leash at the same spot on our route every other time or so. It wouldn’t last super long, but you DID start to redirect onto my hand. Not cool.

I started to get pretty worried and runs became a time when I was constantly thinking “Will he or won’t he?”.

To teach you impulse control and “drop it”, I started playing tug-of-war with you with a designated toy. I had previously avoided teaching you this, since I had read that it caused aggression.

I kept strict rules of tug-of-war: only tug when told, drop when told, and the game stops if your teeth come in contact with me. You caught on fast and loved the game. You quickly became awesome at “drop it”.

PEANUT Butter seemed to fix the problem

Puppy kindergarten instructed us to teach you to walk beside us by rewarding you on walks every time you heeled. (You heeled so well on your own as a young puppy  that this wasn’t really an issue until you got a little older and a little more adventurous.) Instead of using treats, I used a jar of peanut butter to reward you on walks. It worked great and seemed to eliminate your leash biting. I thought we were out of the woods.

The day peanut butter “stopped working”

For weeks, the peanut butter was doing such a great job training you to focus on me during walks and heel and be the best on-leash doggy ever, I thought leash-biting was certainly a thing of the past.

And then one day, it seems like a flip switched. And you bit the leash a multiple times on just one walk. These were full-on crazy tug-of-war sessions with lots of teeth every, including on my forearms, fingers, and everywhere. I ended up with small puncture wounds on my hands, bruises, and one or two scratches that almost broke the skin.

There was even one time when a lady stopped me to ask if I needed help. Yup, really helping the pit bull cause, aren’t we?

Stress was at an all-time high, and I was thinking to myself “S***, wtf am I going to do?”.  I started to worry that this was it, that that “pit bull aggression switch” that I always dismissed as ignorance had perhaps really been flipped in your brain. And that this was bad.

Pit bull training classes assured me it was totally normal

Luckily, you had one of your leash-biting fits during one of the classes we took you to, one specifically for bully breeds, and the instructor reacted quickly with a spray bottle. She assured me that your leash biting behavior was completely normal, and instructed me to bring a spray bottle on walks to correct your behavior.

I was very comforted to learn that I wasn’t alone in my leash-biting experiences, and that you were not turning into this big scary aggressive dog as I had feared. I was reluctant to adopt the spray bottle idea.

No more leash-biting?

After your leash-biting display in class, my increasingly demanding work schedule meant that I wasn’t able to take you out on a run immediately after getting home from work nor wake up early enough to take you on walks in the morning. Instead, either Charlie would take you running or I would take you to play fetch in a field late at night.

You didn’t bite the leash with Charlie (you never have) and on the brief walks with me to the field, you responded to a simple “No” when I saw you even briefly glancing at the leash too fondly. I resisted the spray bottle idea, and it didn’t seem like you didn’t need it anymore.

Life was good. My guess was that you had outgrown this leash-biting business.

More leash-biting

Once I was able to take you on walks again, you would leash-bite occasionally, but I would step on the leash immediately and ignore you. This seemed to discourage you, since it didn’t give you any attention nor the tugging fun. It seemed like it was working. Leash biting was becoming more infrequent and when it did happen, it was short-lived.

Life seemed to be getting better…

And MORE LEASH-BITING

…until it wasn’t. You started getting too strong for me to step on the leash effectively to stop your leash-biting. We were back at square one. Except now I was afraid to take you on a walk.

No more harness, no more biting

Finally, we discovered that it was your harness that was causing you to bite the leash. Harnesses aren’t designed to be worn while jogging, so it was the harness’ chafing and irritation sent you in a biting frenzy.

 

I can’t express how great it feels to be freed of leash-biting fears. Knowing that we can go for a jog or a walk and have a great time. And just focus on exercise outdoors and leash manners training.

We’re out of the woods, pup!

Your human,

Vicki

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