Why Your Dog Won’t Walk & How to Address It

by | Jan 12, 2021 | Articles | 0 comments

Does your dog freeze in place, refusing to move forward when you go for on-leash walks? 

While walking your dog should be fun and relaxing, it can be frustrating when they don’t  cooperate. It can be enough to make you avoid taking them for walks altogether, sacrificing the exercise and that precious together time. 

There are many reasons why your dog might refuse to walk on a leash. Understanding what’s holding them up can be the first step to enjoying walks again. 

Why Does My Dog Refuse To Walk On A Leash?

Did your dog once love going for walks, only to suddenly stop? Sudden changes in behaviour can be a sign that your dog is in pain. Maybe their new harness is scraping the skin beneath their armpits, or maybe they’re suffering from joint inflammation. Take note of any recent changes in your dog’s lifestyle or environment. If their activity has decreased and they’re no longer running around in the backyard, or hesitate to walk up stairs, a vet visit may be in order.

In the summertime, scorching pavement can make walks painful, even dangerous for your dog. Keep in mind that the pavement can be up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the air temperature. So if it’s 90°F/32°C out, the pavement can be 130°F/54°C and cause 3rd degree burns in seconds. 

In the winter, ice melt salts can burn your dog’s paws if they’re not pet-safe. 

Behavioural Reasons For Refusing To Walk On A Leash

Ruling out painful underlying causes, your dog may refuse to walk because they prefer sniffing and scent marking. Mindful dog walks during which you walk at your dog’s pace, giving them adequate time to sniff, can help you rework your walks in a way that you can both enjoy.

To encourage your dog to get more exercise rather than spending the whole walk just sniffing, you can use a structured walk to balance “sniffing time” and “exercise time”. You can encourage your dog to exercise by starting with short distances, even if it’s just a half a block, then rewarding them with a release cue like “go sniff”! Pretty soon, your dog will learn that it’s worthwhile to walk forward because they’ll be rewarded with free time to sniff. 

Carrying treats on your walk and giving your dog opportunities to earn them is another way to make walks more fun. You don’t necessarily need to bribe your dog to walk forward; practicing simple skills like “watch me” (to make eye contact with you) can help. You can also use as long leash in an open space to practice recall. 

Is Anxiety Stopping Your Walks?

Some dogs feel overstimulated by the outdoors. They may dislike the way their collar feels, or they may feel pain or discomfort when you put pressure on the leash. For sensitive dogs, walks can be a nightmare. 

There’s no shortcut to helping your anxious dog develop confidence. You may need to start by walking your dog indoors to get them used to wearing a leash and a comfy harness. When they’re ready to go outside, give your dog plenty of time to take in their surroundings before walking beyond the driveway or down the block. 

For dogs with moderate to severe anxiety or other behavioural issues, it makes sense to get professional help from a trainer, behaviourist and/or a veterinarian. While no dogs are alike and some will simply never enjoy walks, emotional and mental issues need not get in the way of their quality of life.

Reward-based, science-backed training is the best way to open up lines of communication with your dog and make real, lasting changes in their behaviour. 
Working with a positive trainer is now easier than ever. Healthy Houndz Dog Training offers virtual, in-home training via Zoom that works with your schedule. Book your free consultation call today.