Restraining Dogs: Does It Affect Dogs’ Mental Health?


Should you restrain your dog if it is excitable, aggressive, or snappy? And is it good for their mental health? But first, what do dogs do for our health?

Owning a dog promotes physical activity and helps boost your confidence. Since you have to take your dog out on walks, you also meet new people and improve your interpersonal relationships. 

Your dog’s everyday routine and the regular activities with your dog provide structure to your life. Your dog reduces your anxiety and negative emotions with their love and companionship.

Yes, dogs are certainly beneficial to your mental health, but have you ever considered the state of your dog’s mental health when you restrain it? And should you restrain your dog in the first place?


Why Do We Restrain Dogs?

Ideally, dogs should be free to come and go in their backyards and home. But there are instances where pet owners have to restrain their animals.

According to the US Union County Sheriff, a dog is restrained when a responsible person has it secured by a leash or lead. The dog should also be obedient to the person’s commands at the time.  

There are many leash policies in place, especially in public places. This can prevent dogs from attacking people and protect themselves from injury. It also helps lessen disease transmission and safeguard wildlife in the area. Restraining also reduces cases where dogs meet with traffic accidents.  

The San Diego law requires that when the dog is home, the dog owners should be capable of controlling their dogs either by voice, an electronic control method, or by restraining them by a leash or enclosure. 

And when inside a vehicle, you should protect your dog harness or an alternative device. This is to keep it in place and prevent it from being thrown, falling, or jumping out the window.

We also restrain dogs when they are injured or feral and are being rescued.

Are you wondering, “Is it OK to restrain a puppy?” Well, all pups will need to be okay with being restrained for their own safety. This will help in case they get into a fight or you need to take them to the vet. But do not force it on your pup, and ease into it with a few practice sessions a day.


Different Kinds of Dog Restraining Techniques

Dogs do not enjoy certain vulnerable body parts—like their necks, abdomen, legs, feet, and groin—being handled. Your dog will also not appreciate being touched when it is injured. 

Most laws require dog owners to restrain their dogs in public using a hand-held leash that is less than six feet in length. 

Learning proper restraining techniques can keep you from harming the dog and reduce its struggle as much as possible.

We apply several restraining techniques to dogs, but here are the two most popular ones.

Standing Headlock

When you apply this restraining technique, your dog will be standing, while you will be kneeling at its side.

With this initial position, put your forearm around your dog’s neck and gently but firmly hold your dog’s head in place. You must kneel facing your dog’s rear to avoid getting injured.

Then place your other arm under your dog’s belly or over its back, and again, hold confidently. You will know you are doing the correct standing headlock if this arm settles in front of your dog’s back legs.

Lying Down Restraint

To perform this technique, position yourself alongside your dog with the front of your body parallel to your dog. Then reach over and wrap your hands around the top of the animal.

Hold your dog’s front and rear legs that are against your body, and then gently grab the legs and position them between your arms.

With another person assisting you, have that second person gently guide your dog’s head and pull the dog’s legs in your direction. Expect some struggling to happen here because you are compelling a dog to be in an awkward position.

And once your dog is lying on its side, continue holding on to its legs because it will keep trying to get up. Finally, use your elbow nearest your dog’s neck to apply pressure. This will keep your dog from continuously struggling and lifting its head.

Following proper dog management and restraint on a need-only basis or when restraining will contribute to the overall welfare of the dog.

ALSO READ: 6 Easy Everyday Cleaning Tips For Dog Owners


How Restraining Affects Your Dog’s Mental Health?

The controlling effects of restraining your dog, even if the intention is good, can have a negative impact on your dog’s mental health.

Imagine being forced to stay in a limiting position and not being able to do anything about it. The manner of restraining can also impact the dog’s overall perception of being restrained.

Any form of restraint can elicit fear from your dog. It is slightly comforting if you are there—a familiar face during the process—but it can still be a traumatic experience for your dog.

Here are some possible effects of restraining on your dog’s mental health:

The Need to Break Free

All dogs want to go where they please to sniff and explore their environment and engage accordingly. Being restrained stops this—or at least limits them—from doing so, and this becomes an unforgettable memory for your dog.

Whether you are merely going to the park or a walk around the neighborhood, your dog will always want to break free and be as far away from you and leash as possible.


Causes Aggression

For dogs, aggression can mean many different things, and this typically starts with warnings until it progresses into a vicious attack. 

If your dog went through a traumatic restraining experience, you might observe some changes in its behavior. 

You may observe your dog getting rigid and still whenever it sees an object related to being restrained, like a leash or muzzle. Your dog may also produce guttural sounds as a warning up to the point of growling, snarling, and baring its teeth.

Again, your dog is trying to control the situation, which is natural dog behavior. However, you can correct this with gradual exposure to restraint-associated objects.

Exhibits Depression

Can dogs be mentally disturbed by restraint?  Your dog won’t be able to understand why it is being restrained and if it is for its own good. What stands out is being controlled against its will.

And since your dog both feels positive and negative emotions, the experience can cause your dog to be sad, disheartened, and depressed. Whether you have a Labrador, German Shepherd, or one of the many types of Beagles, all breeds of dogs can get stressed when restrained. 

Do dogs have mental health issues? Yes, they do. You can spot signs of your dog being depressed when it turns restless or lethargic.

Your dog no longer finds the usual activities like walking or playing ball enjoyable. You are likely to find your dog always curled up, spending more time sleeping. Sometimes, depression in dogs can also lead to loss of appetite.


Displays an Unexplainable Fear or Phobia

If your once bold and adventurous dog starts to cower, complete with tail tucking, hiding, and trembling after being restrained, the experience has surely traumatized it.

Your dog may become fearful or exhibit passive escape tendencies or unexplainable neediness or clinginess.

Your dog may be afraid of the incident occurring again. So they may become hyper-vigilant, get startled, and forgo sleep. A fearful dog can also have aggressive outbursts and would rather stand guard than play with you or your other pets.

ALSO READ: How to Make Your Home More Pet Friendly

Human Interventions for Your Dog’s Mental Health

If you have recently restrained your dog, you need to double your attention to your dog and spend quality time with it. Your presence can help it deal with the aftermath of the experience.

How do you know if your dog is mentally ill? You cannot analyze your dog’s mental well-being overnight. There’ll be expected setbacks, but here are activities that can motivate and guide you to help your dog heal mentally:

  • If you spot any changes in your dog after a restraining incident, talk to your vet immediately. Real-time intervention and prompt management can make a lot of difference.
  • Be physically active with your dog, but skip the leash and harness. Stay in a controlled environment like your enclosed backyard and exercise with your dog. You can even go up and down your stairs together and play indoors.
  • Re-introduce mental enrichment by providing games and puzzles. Eventually, start going out with your dog with a leash and head to the park to meet other canines in the neighborhood.
  • Respect your dog’s privacy because it just went through something new and overwhelming. Allow your dog to process the experience and give it the space it needs. Be there within earshot without smothering your pet.
  • Spend time with your Fido and give it some extra TLC. Your presence is enough to reassure your distressed canine that all will be well.


There are circumstances where restraining your dog is necessary.  While some dogs can be more resilient and get over the experience faster, some may take longer. And when this happens, make sure that you are around and provide companionship to your dog, who wouldn’t hesitate to do the same if you are feeling down.

Restraining Dogs: Does It Affect Dogs’ Mental Health? was last modified: by