While pulling during walks is a typical challenge, there are dogs that do the opposite. Instead of pulling, your dog may slam on the brakes and refuse to move. They may tug backward, sit down, or even lie down. Whatever they’re doing, your pet is making it clear that they are refusing to go on walks.
Before you think they’re just being stubborn, there are actually reasons that have nothing to do with manners or training.
Reasons Why Your Dog Is Refusing to Go on Walks
Firstly, you should check if your dog has any disease or allergies. Many infections, for example, can lead to lethargy. There are a variety of medical issues that might be the reason why your dog is refusing to go on walks. Medial issues make walking uncomfortable or even impossible for dogs—from injuries because of overactivity to age-related aches, orthopedic issues, tick-borne diseases, and even certain cancers.
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Fix: It is important to tell your vet that you intend to start walking with your dog and get the clean bill of health (just like any exercise program) before you start. If there is any present health issue, start the prescribed treatment so you can get to walking!
A dog who is limping may have a muscle sprain or strain. A plant awn or burr or other sharp object might be embedded in his paw. A broken nail can be painful as well. Dogs can also hurt themselves by jumping on or off furniture or in or out of the car or playing rough and tumble in the backyard. One common type of canine injury is a cruciate ligament tear.
Fix: Cancel the walk and give your dog’s body a rest. If they’re still limping the next day, call your veterinarian for an appointment.
New to the leash
The first time they wear the leash, the unusual sensation of pressure around the neck can make an energetic dog stop in their tracks. Pulling your dog to encourage walking won’t work and might even make them more distressed about what’s happening. A newbie dog does not know that walking is an opportunity to be healthier. This could be why they’re refusing to go on walks.
Fix: Introduce the idea of walking outdoors slowly. Before you take your first outdoor walk, let them wear the leash around the house with supervision so they don’t get caught on anything. This helps acclimate your dog to the sensation of something around the neck. Then pick up the leash, making sure that there’s no tension in it, call your dog in a happy tone, and give them a tasty treat when they approach you. Repeat the process, moving around the room and keeping it upbeat. Once your best friend is walking close to you in anticipation of the next treat, head outside and continue the fun.
One of the most common culprits for a dog to suddenly decide to refuse going on walks is fear. Something must have happened during a walk and removed all the previous positive connotations associated with walks. It could be that a car’s engine backfired, the trash truck made a loud noise, or a child on skateboards or a flailing siren passing by startled your dog. Your dog may have collected static shock on their coat. And when you touched them to put the collar on, they got a bit of static shock. The fear may stem from many subtle things that we often are not aware of.
Fix: Read about desensitization and counterconditioning—two behavior modification techniques used to treat phobias in dogs. It’s basically taking baby steps every day in reintroducing walks as a positive activity through treats and praise over a course of weeks. Calming supplements may also be helpful. For severe cases, you may need to enlist the help of a force-free trainer or professional behaviorist. Once your dog stops refusing to go on walks, don’t take things for granted. Reinforce your dog’s progress!
Many pet parents buy a sturdy collar and leash to ensure their dog’s safety. They do not realize that oversize gear can be uncomfortable, particularly for small dogs. Both the thickness of the leash and the weight of the clasp might feel like an anchor around your dog’s neck, which in turn can make leash walks slow and dragging.
Fix: Opt for the lightest leash and collar that’s safe for your dog. We have a guide for choosing the best collar for your dog here. Help your dog adapt to the collar and the life outdoors with a pocket full of treats and a loving and fun attitude.
If your dog isn’t interested in his usual stroll, they may simply be tired. Too much running, jumping, or even walking on hard surfaces can leave them feeling painful all over. Middle-aged and senior dogs especially might have trouble recharging after an active weekend or will have less energy than in the past.
Fix: For a young dog (less than 18 to 24 months old), ask your veterinarian or breeder about appropriate levels and types of exercise. And while your older dog might still seem the same, ask your veterinarian if it’s time to ease up, slow down, and take a few more breaks.
Getting your dog back to the level of willingness they showed in the past can be a long, gradual process. Be patient if you really want to work things out. It will surely get better with time if you identify the problem early.
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