It’s the most exciting part of any dog’s day- going for a walk. Whether it’s your dog’s regular sniff-round of the neighbourhood, or a ramble through the park to explore the trees and bushes, every dog loves going for walks. But sometimes, some of them have to be convinced of it first.
Some dogs refuse to take to going on walks. But exercise and fresh air are absolutely essential for them, as well as socialization. So how to get a stubborn dog to walk on a leash? Or even what happens when your dog doesn’t want to walk at all?
My Dog Refuses to Walk – First Tricks
The first and most important trick is to use positive reinforcement. You can use small treats, a favourite toy, or a snack your dog gets only after coming back from his walk.
You can start by taking your dog on very small strolls, just enough to reinforce the idea that going out and behaving himself will equal to treats. Slowly increase the length of the walk, adding treats at regular intervals. This will make your dog equate longer walks with more treats.
You can also use toys. You can use either his favourite toy, or a toy he gets to play with only after his walk. This will make him understand that when he cooperates and goes on a walk, he gets to play with this special toy.
Another very good trick is to use an auditory cue with the treat or toy. Every time you give your dog his treat, you can either click, or snap your fingers, or use a verbal cue, like saying ‘Treat!’. This helps him make a connection between the command, following the command, and being rewarded for it.
But these are things you can do with a dog who is at least moving. You may be thinking, well yes, I could do these, but my dog refuses to walk at all! In this case, here’s what you should do.
When your dog sits himself down in the middle of the path, don’t pull him along. A stubborn dog will not be trained by force, rather by patience. Let him get up on his own and walk to you. And when he does, toss a treat in the direction you want him to come with you in. This sort of ‘reverse Hansel and Gretel’ manoeuvre will teach him to expect rewards when he cooperates.
No matter what you do, do not yell at your dog. Yelling at your dog will not make him realize that he’s doing something wrong. On the contrary, he will get more confused and anxious, and more scared. It will end up being completely counterproductive.
How to Get a Stubborn Dog to Walk on a Leash
Another problem pet owners face is getting a dog to walk on a leash. Some dogs refuse to cooperate when they are on a leash.
The trick here is to train them to wear a leash in their ‘off-time’ as well. At home, for example. You can use the leash for taking them between rooms and around mealtimes, so that they associate the leash with following you.
In public, if your dog starts acting up, let him get all the extra energy out of his system. Don’t pull back on the least to hold him back. Rather, stand your ground till your dog stops tugging at you. When he stops, reward this behavior with treats. Positive reinforcement is the best tool, when it comes to leash training your dog.
The best method, however, is to always use a combination of verbal and nonverbal commands to train your dog. Using gestures as well as words doubly reinforces the training on your dog.
You should also physically project being in charge, for your dog to pick up on it. Dogs are very sensitive to fluctuations in command. You have to assert your authority with your dog. This will force him to follow you, not challenge your authority at every step.
As a last point, keep in mind your dog’s personality and his possible limitations. Some dogs have serious anxiety issues. Similarly, many rescues have a history of trauma. These negative experiences leave dogs wary and scared of new experiences. They go into sensory overload, when suddenly forced into a new environment.
Similarly, try to understand why your dog doesn’t want to go on a walk. Does it hurt him to walk? Has your dog joint pain? Does he have any physical issues that make walking uncomfortable for him? Your vet is best placed to evaluate this and give you the all clear.
Being patient and rewarding your dog is the best way to convince the, stop being stubborn and come for a walk. And when they start doing it regularly, they’ll come to associate walks with having fun in any case!
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