My Dog Refuses to Walk – How & Why Does This Happen?

dog not walking

What happens if your dog suddenly refuses to walk? Sometimes dogs are reluctant to even leave the front door, and sometimes they become stubborn on the walk and refuse to move another step.

Walks are an enormous part of every dog-owner’s life. Whether you live at the base of rolling hills in the countryside, or in the middle of a city, you will have your regular route that you map out with your dog. 

It brings many great joy, and others wondering, how do I get my stubborn dog to walk?

Why Is My Dog Refusing to Walk?

It is important to get to the root cause of why your dog doesn’t want to walk, and there are several possible reasons.

The most common reasons your dog refuses to walk are that your dog could be injured or in pain and might require a visit to the vet. They could also be facing other discomforts, from their collar or harness, or because of the weather.

It is also possible that your walks aren’t long enough for your dog, and they are not ready to go home. It is important not to drag your dog along the ground if this happens. You can find some tips on how to deal with this later in the article.

Let’s look at some of the main reasons why your dog is refusing to walk in more details below, and what you can about it.

Your Dog is in Pain

A possible reason that your dog is reluctant to walk is that they are in pain. They might have stepped on something and hurt their paw, or there might be a more serious underlying condition.

Look for signs that your dog is in pain – if they are trying not to put pressure on a certain paw, or giving one area a lot of attention, or seem generally down in their mood.

You can perform a basic medical check on your dog and look for obvious cuts or scrapes. But if you can’t identify the problem, it’s time for a trip to the vet. They will perform a thorough check on your dog and maybe prescribe some medication.

Be aware that growing pains occur in dogs too, so if you have a puppy, this might be the cause of their aches! It is especially likely if you have a large breed dog who is going through a growth spurt.

Puppies are known for being full of energy, so if there is hesitation around walks, you might be thinking, why won’t my puppy walk? It is possible that they are having a growth spurt and just feeling too achy to run around.

Your Dog is Feeling Fear or Anxiety

Everybody has days where the world can seem like too much, and this happens to dogs too! Sometimes there is a specific event to explain your dog’s fear, like an attack or witnessing something scary. Sometimes dogs just feel anxious around new people and smells.

Signs that your dog is scared of going outside are digging their paws into the ground when you get to the front door or front gate, panting very heavily, or trembling.

Building your dog’s confidence outside of the home is going to take some patience. It requires you to stay exceptionally calm, because dogs pick up on our mood. Positive reinforcement can come in the form of treats, toys, cuddles and words of encouragement.

Baby steps are also key to rectifying this issue. I often get asked, should I force my dog to walk if he doesn’t want to? And the answer is absolutely no. Focus on progress – if you can make it to the end of the garden after a month when before you couldn’t get outside of the door, that is progress. No one likes being forced to do something they are scared to do.

Your Dog Has an Uncomfortable Collar or Harness

Getting the right equipment for your dog is essential for happy walks.

It is tempting to buy a heavy collar and lead for your dog, as they promise safety and security. However, you should be looking for the lightest collar or harness available that is suitable for the dog size.

Heavy gear can be exceptionally irritating and uncomfortable, and may make your dog reluctant to walk. Gear that is the wrong fit can lead to injury by rubbing and irritating the skin.

If you have a puppy who has never walked with a lead before, they will need some time to get used to the gear. You can start by leaving their collar or harness near their bed so they can get used to the smell. Then try putting it on for an hour or so, just around the house, so they can get used to the feel. Again, baby steps are the way!

If your dog is already used to walking on a lead but you still think the gear is the issue, try a lighter lead, collar, or harness, that is secure but not tight.

Harnesses are becoming much more popular because they don’t put pressure around the neck of the dog but can still be uncomfortable if they are too tight or too heavy. Introduce new gear slowly, just like with puppies.

Your Dog Doesn’t Like the Weather

Every dog is different when it comes to the weather, and you will know your dog’s weather preferences better than anyone. Some dogs marvel at the possibility of jumping in puddles, whilst others are happier sunbathing. The ‘wrong’ weather is certainly a possible reason for a dog not wanting to walk.

If it is especially hot outside, the ground might be uncomfortable for your dog to walk on. This is especially true on pavements and tarmac, which become very hot under the sun.

If you think this might be the issue, try to find shady and grassy areas to walk your dog. This should be possible even in a city, but it might mean changing your regular route.

Another thing to consider in the heat is the time of day that you go for your walk. Early in the morning or later in the evening is perfect in the summer, when the sun is not at its strongest.

It is also essential to carry water for your dog on hot days. Dogs have good built in heat-regulating systems, but they need to be hydrated to keep it up. There are great portable dog bowls available, to offer your dog refreshment along the way.

It being very cold outside could also make your dog reluctant to walk. Some people find that a dog jacket helps in the winter, although it’s not for everyone. If it’s so cold that it’s painful for you to be outside, your dog is probably feeling the same way. In this case, it is a better idea to keep walks short and ‘functional’.

Storms can be very scary for dogs. There is no way to explain to them that thunder doesn’t mean the world is ending, and few dogs enjoy playing amongst the lightning. In these cases, like with bitter cold, sometimes it’s better to accept a day off and just get your dog out for enough time to do their business.

Your Dog Doesn’t Want to Go Home

We’ve covered some reasons why your dog may be refusing to leave the house. Sometimes, your dog isn’t ready to go home! If you find that your dog suddenly refuses to walk when you turn around to go home, this could be the reason.

I often get asked, why is my dog stopping on walks? In their refusal, some dogs plant their heels into the ground to stop moving. Some dogs lie down and roll onto their backs. It can be frustrating if you need to get home, and can be embarrassing with a lot of people around.

Lots of people think that if they pull hard enough on the lead, the dog will give up and start moving. You might think to yourself, should you drag a dog that won’t walk? 

Pulling too hard on the lead or trying to drag the dog along the ground is not the right approach. It could cause injury to your dog, especially if they start thrashing their neck around to try to get free from the collar.

It will also cause a lack of trust between you and your dog, as they will think that you force them into doing things that they don’t want to do.

The most obvious solution is to try to extend the walk. This could be difficult for several reasons, including time and lack of space. Doing what you can, however, to make sure that your dog is getting enough exercise, will make them happier in the home, too.

You can use treats in these situations but be careful to only reward them once they are moving again. You don’t want the dog to understand that stopping equals food.

Another option is to try to make coming home an exciting thing, too! This could be a play session, a tasty treat, or a cuddle on the sofa (you know what your dog likes). Whatever it is, it should enforce the idea in your dog that coming home is good, which should help if they are prone to stopping.

And, of course, the most important thing is patience. Rather than pulling the lead very hard, try giving it a gentle tug and calling your dog’s name. Squatting to their level and opening your arms is also a good technique to get them to come to you. It’ll take a bit longer, but will lead to much better results long-term.

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