Dogcharmer: Leery of the leash

Yorkie is perfect in every way, almost.

This little Yorkie may be excited to go for a walk, but some leash training may be needed. — Courtesy Tom Shelby

Dear Tom,

I have a lovely Yorkie that I was given three years ago. She is a great dog. She’s affectionate, athletic, cuddly, curious, smart. There is, however, one little issue that drives me crazy, and angry at times. We take several walks a day and we live in town so she must be on a leash.  When I get myself all suited up for the walk, she gets excited about going out, following me around as I don a hat, gloves, mask, etc. But when it is time to put the leash on her, she backs off and doesn’t let me get close enough to her to attach the leash. It takes a while and she just keeps backing up, just out of my reach. I will say, “Do you want to go for a walk? You know we have to do the leash.” I have even taken off my things, thinking maybe she’ll get the message that we don’t go for a walk until she is on the leash. Then she will follow me and eventually I will get the (damn!) thing on her and off we go.

She was a rescue and I try to allow for that. I’ve never hit her, nor hurt her, nor given her any reason to be afraid of me or even to retreat as she does. I’d asked a trainer when I first got her about this and she said that I was probably violating her “personal space.” She’d suggested that I “pay” her to let me put the leash on her with a treat. But honestly, I don’t usually have that together first thing. And, when I have done that, it doesn’t matter since she’ll eat the treat and then continue to back up.

Please help me overcome this deficit. It does ruin what is otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable experience together.

Any ideas?


Dear Fala,

There are many possibilities as to why Yorkie girl is frustrating you with her “catch me if you can” manipulation game. However, dogs being creatures of habit, now she probably has no idea why she’s presenting her obnoxious response to the call for a walk. At this point it’s habit, she’s habituated to this response when it’s time to go out.

Henceforth, indoors, she wears a light harness to which is attached a light, flat nylon leash with the handle cut off (handle cut off to make it less likely to get caught on something). If she’s seriously evasive, the leash is 4 or 5 feet long. Simply pick it up or step on it and then put on the “going out” leash. Shorten it as she gets more cooperative. When no one’s home, harness and cut leash are off. Also, practice recalls having nothing to do with going out. Many times a day call her to come and give her a treat and a word of praise when she arrives and then walk away.

Fala, be aware that Yorkie girl will be fully cognizant of the control the drag leash gives you, so don’t remove it too soon, shorten it slowly as I suggested. I remember an obnoxious client dog that saluted the owner with cooperation as long as he dragged the leash, and flipped the owner the bird the moment she took it off. By conditioning her to come, and not being able to continue evading you, her previous unwanted habitual response will end. Give her a kiss for me.

The Dogcharmer