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If Your Dog Refuses to Walk – Do This:

Your dog suddenly refuses to walk and you’re asking yourself what’s wrong.

What’s even worse is when a puppy refuses to walk away from home because they’re young, energetic, and full of life, right?

Going outside is usually the best thing to do for a young pup and many pull strongly on the leash to get around the next corner as quickly as possible.

You might just witness that your dog stops walking and won’t move. Maybe he’s even sitting down all of a sudden and seems like he refuses to walk any further.

This behavior not only seems stubborn but can also become quite dangerous if it happens in the middle of a busy road.

So why does your puppy refuse to walk?

If your dog refuses to walk, it may be due to a medical issue, lack of leash training, too much exercise, or fear, which may require desensitization and counter-conditioning.

Medical Reasons

Before you start worrying about any dog training or behavioral issues, get him checked by a vet. Keep in mind that dogs are masters when it comes to hiding pain.

Pain or trauma should be considered even more seriously if it happened out of nowhere.

A thorough examination of your dog’s body is the easiest way to make sure there are no wounds and no foreign objects stuck in his paws.

Important notice: There is something I want to show you that will change the way you interact with your dog. Check it out here.

If your puppy won’t walk paired with a gait that is not as smooth as usual or if he is limping, that’s another giveaway.

An older dog might experience orthopedic pain from diseases like arthritis and doesn’t want to walk due to the discomfort it causes him.

Do not force your dog to continue on walking unless you have clearly ruled out any medical problems.

There is nothing worse than dragging your dog throughout the walk only to discover that he has been in pain during the whole time.

Boxer dog in fear, surrounded by darkness.
Photo by Jordan Davis

Lack of Leash Training

If your puppy refuses to walk on leash but he’ll happily walk without (which might not be possible due to poor recall, busy streets, etc.) then you might have to take a step back and leash-train your pup first.

Leash manners have to be taught constantly. No dog is born with the knowledge of how to walk on a leash.

Leash training starts with a proper introduction of the leash and collar. If this part is skipped, negative associations with walking may follow which could cause your dog’s refusal to walk.

An ill-fitting collar may lead to discomfort and a heavy leash could become a burden for a toy breed or young puppy (reserve stronger leashes for your grown medium/large-sized dog).

When choosing a collar or harness make sure you read the size instructions and fitting guides carefully. Start by using a short and light leash for better control and training results.

To properly familiarise your dog with the collar and leash you can read the tips outlined in my guide on how to leash train a puppy.

Follow the leash training steps and make sure that your dog has a perfect understanding of how to walk on a leash.

Many times, simple leash training and the right introduction will do the trick. Dogs thrive with clear guidelines and easy-to-follow routines.

If he knows what he is doing, he will quickly gain confidence and be more excited during walks.

To further boost his confidence, make sure sure that he doesn’t struggle with other behavior problems such as separation anxiety, barking, chewing, jumping, etc.

Those are all symptoms of a dog that doesn’t have clear guidelines in his life and is not feeling secure.

If you have a very young puppy that has never been walked outside, start by creating a great leash walking experience inside first.

A puppy that has never seen a leash or collar before might freeze when being restrained for the first time.

Let your puppy walk around the house with the leash on for a few days so he gets used to the weight and feel of it.

Use lots of treats during the process and encourage your puppy with a warm and happy voice.

You should also do the same thing with a rescue dog that had no prior exposure to leash walking.

Fear

Dogs are much more sensitive to all the different environmental stimuli, including sounds, smells, people, places and movement.

A dog that didn’t go through socialization training as a puppy will be much more fearful of his environment.

Fear could play a big role in your dog’s refusal to walk. He will demonstrate it with a submissive posture – ears laid back, tail tucked and a crouched body.

Your dog might even seem to breath weird and heavy which is another sign of stress.

The fear will be evident in other situations, for example when unfamiliar guests arrive or loud noises startle him from outside.

You might see that your dog stops in the exact same spot every time because he is frightened of a certain sight or smell.

The trigger might not be visible to you since past experiences may have led to that point.

Try to avoid this place for the time being and find out if your dog feels more comfortable on a different route.

Desensitization and counterconditioning will slowly ease his fear.

Carry a handful of treats during every walk and be prepared to make good associations with your dog’s surroundings.

Restrict your walks to quiet paths at first to avoid overwhelming your dog which could cause him to shut down.

If your dog is scared of something, try to lure him away from the trigger with a treat and comfort him.

Increasing the distance always helps and when you’re ready to approach again, every little step towards the right direction must be rewarded.

Redirecting your dog with simple commands or a toy might also help in certain situations.

Make sure you never reward the fearful behavior though and only reward the calm situations or if your dog bravely approaches something.

Although it may seem comforting, it could reinforce the fear.

Every place you visit and every person or dog you meet should become a pleasant experience for your dog.

Boost his confidence by integrating some bonding time into the day. With you at his side, he will surely become much more confident to conquer any fear.

Recommended Reading: How to Bond With Your Dog

Infographic on five steps to follow if your dog refuses to walk.

Too Much Fun

A dog that just had the best day at the park will be very reluctant to leave the area.

While we love seeing our pooch having fun, this stubbornness can get very annoying especially if you try to call him for the 20th time.

The first thing you should be doing is teaching your dog a very strong recall. Follow the steps on my recall training guide and stay very consistent with it.

Teaching a proper recall will take time and dedication so in the meantime you can use another alternative to get your dog to walk again.

Put your dog on a leash and call him to follow you with whatever command you have taught him. Only use your dog’s recall one single time, if he doesn’t react you just stop.

Restrict any access to his playmates or a nice spot to smell and just wait for him to pay attention to you.

This might take several minutes and you can try to get your dog’s attention by luring his nose with a treat or making sounds with your mouth.

He will eventually understand that you are in charge of deciding which direction to go and he will be rewarded for following you.

Mark every tiny step in the right direction with a click or verbal praise followed by a treat. The more distance you build up the easier your dog will continue walking with you.

Choosing the right gear can also have a big impact. If your dog’s nose is bound to be on the ground all the time then buying the Halti Head Collar will provide you with maximum control over your dog’s head.

Too Much Exercise

If your dog always starts to lay down on the way back from your walk, consider that the route might have been too long.

Especially puppies shouldn’t walk until total exhaustion in the first few weeks. Playtime is much more crucial at this point for a puppy so why not get your pup a brain game?

Puppies are satisfied with exploring their environment and playing. Their joints are not connected yet and too much exercise will lead to orthopedic problems later in life.

Similarly, older dogs or those that just aren’t in perfect shape (shelter dogs, for example) may have problems keeping up.

Dog laying on the bed exhausted.
Photo by Ryan Stone

How to Stop Dragging Your Dog on the Leash

You have already learned a few tips and tactics that you can use to get your dog to walk again.

Most dogs stop during walks all the time because they want to sniff everything. If your dog doesn’t stop out of fear or medical reasons, then he just doesn’t want to go the way you want to.

A quick fix that works a lot of time is just picking up the pace in very interesting locations.

That way, your dog won’t even have time to think about jumping into a smelly bush and you’re not rolling your eyes and screaming “Why won’t my dog walk!” again.

Proper leash training will definitely eliminate a lot of these problems but the best way to conquer any leash-related problem is by just stopping and standing still.

No dog wants to just sit there, he will eventually start to sniff or walk into other directions, even if it takes some time.

By just stopping right where you are and restricting access to any of his desires, you will show your dog that the only right way to walk is beside you.

The second he walks toward you, reward him with a yummy treat and continue walking.

You will probably have to repeat this step a few times depending on how often you have reinforced this behavior in the past by giving in to your dog.

Dogs have a natural tendency to lean against any pressure or force applied from the other end of the leash. So trying to drag your dog down the road will make it much more difficult for you.

On the other hand, it’s very hard for dogs to manage sideways pressure, so that may be easier for you to keep him going.

Teach your dog the good association of a reward that comes when the leash hangs loose.

Also, choose one side that your dog should always be walking on, this will eliminate sudden pulling.

My Puppy Refuses to Walk Away from Home

A young puppy gets overwhelmed by his environment incredibly quickly.

He just got separated from his mother and littermates and is now supposed to live with complete strangers in a new home.

He will try hard to adjust to the new place but leaving home too early might be daunting to him.

Take your time and be very patient with a young puppy. Don’t expect him to jump outside into a busy city with lots of people and loud noises.

Never ever force a young puppy to go outside if he doesn’t want to. Rather show him how lovely the world can be by engaging in play and luring him with treats.

Start in a quiet and controlled environment like a backyard where he can take plenty of time to explore.

A puppy knows when he is ready to take the next step.

If you go too fast you will have to live with the consequences for the rest of his life that could include fear, reactiveness and possibly aggression.

Your home should be a fun place to be. He doesn’t have to walk far away to be able to explore. A combination of compassion, treats and patience will solve this problem.

Rescue Dog Doesn’t Want To Walk

You might have heard of the 3-3-3 rule, let me refresh it for you.

  1. This rule states that your dog will be overwhelmed by his new environment in the first 3 days. Don’t worry if he refuses to walk or even eat, total shut down or heightened challenging of your leadership is possible too.
  2. After 3 weeks, your dog will start to get used to his new surroundings and family. Use that time to bond with him, leash-train and you should be good. Refusal to go for walks could be signs of an underlying behavioral issue.
  3. The full 3 months have gone by and your dog has settled in. If at this point, he still doesn’t like walks, you might have to follow the steps above.

Here are some of my favorite dog walking tools

Thanks for reading, I hope it’ll help you solve your dog’s walking refusal. If you’re interested in what I’ve been using to leash-train my dog, here are a couple of simple tools. These are all products I’ve used and would recommend to my own family.

Dog training treats: Every time you’re out and about practicing to compel your dog to walk, you’ll want to pack single-ingredient dog treats. Avoid using multi-ingredient treats with unhealthy additives, just liver is what I’m mostly using for my dog (besides homemade dog treats).

Head Halti: While head haltis are designed to stop dogs from pulling, they can also help with encouraging your dog to walk forward through gentle pressure.

Thundershirt: For dogs with anxiety, a thundershirt can be pretty calming. Personally, I’ve never had to (and probably never will) use it with my Rottweiler but I’ve seen it work wonders with other dogs. Try everything before considering medication if anxiety is the cause of your dog’s refusal to walk.

If you’ve got a problem and think your dog doesn’t like going for walks, maybe you’ll find an answer in the comments.

If not, feel free to drop a comment and I’ll get back to you asap!

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About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

Mary Corcoran

Saturday 2nd of October 2021

My 11 year old Coco has stopped wanting to get out of car on all our usual walks. She is happy to have collar on and get into car but refuses to get out when we get to walking place. At first it was just a few spots but now it's everywhere. I am very anxious. Mary

Danielle

Sunday 10th of October 2021

Hi Mary, will she walk outside the house? At this age, you may have to rule out any medical issues as how she feels may just be different from day to day, walking might get harder and so on.

paula arsenault

Tuesday 10th of August 2021

I got 2 rescues 2 years ago. They are both approx. 3. One lately started putting the brakes on when we get a few feet away. Not in the morning but always in the evening. Now she hides under my bed when she knows we are getting ready to go so I leave her. I am stumped.

Danielle

Wednesday 11th of August 2021

Hey Paula, your dog definitely still needs exercise and the issue definitely needs to be addressed. Is there a reason why this behavior might've surfaced now?

Maria Lawless

Friday 6th of August 2021

Hello, read your interesting article about dogs refuse or wont walking. None of them match my question 🙋‍♀️. But the treats might do the tricks anyway. I’m a dog walker, I walked various kind id dogs mostly loves and happy walking. Husky this one sometimes walking happy other time just lazy and decided enough go home lol 😂 funny dog. Mind of his own like who is the boss. He is old. No worries.

Other one whippet. This one interesting 🧐 this morning i came to pick up he was exciting ready to go as usual we went downstair then put on the leash no problems but this morning he stopped at the top of stairs and I then put on leash and ready to go but it wont i gently nudge and encourage he wont i gently pull he still wont (didnt think of treat) but it was so unlikely of him he loves walking never miss and full of energy but this morning something was off. Wondering 💭 what solution should I do? From Maria. Ps this is first time he refused walking - only I know his behaviour he is very attached to his owner like mummy’s boy. Like he worried about his owner etc. thats what I can see this pattern/behaviour

Danielle

Wednesday 11th of August 2021

Hey Maria,

the best thing you could do is ask the owners. Maybe he was already exercised and exhausted, medical issue that morning or day before or it was just one of those days where he didn't feel like walking :). If it's a one-time thing, I wouldn't worry about it and just pack a couple of treats next time you're walking him.

Cheers, Danielle

Megan J Cousar

Wednesday 14th of July 2021

Hi! My rescue dog is driving me crazy. He is sweet and playful after being here for about a month, but is absolutely terrified of loud sounds. The 4th of July happened and this dog wants to run back to the house immediately upon hearing any loud noise. Just one loud noise will stop him from going to the bathroom and turn an otherwise nice walking dog to a wild animal caught on a rope. I don’t know how to make him feel secure and I don’t want any more messes in the house. This fear has made house training difficult, though he’s done well the last week (he stays tethered to me or in my sight at all times). Help!

Danielle

Thursday 22nd of July 2021

Hi Megan, you should look into desensitization to sounds. Useless fireworks actually cause noise phobia or a lesser version of this condition quite often in dogs so you're definitely not alone. Desensitize him slowly with positive reinforcement/ignoring negative responses and you should be fine. It just takes some time.

Cheers, Danielle

M

Tuesday 13th of July 2021

My 1.5 year old dog used to love going for walks. We live in a somewhat busy city, and one day she heard an extremely loud car noise and is now terrified to go on walks. She gets easily scared by everything now. I tried walking her down my parents quiet development but she heard a dog barking and now refuses to walk there as well. I’ve tried everything, including high value treats. Not sure if the next best step would be a dog trainer or anxiety medication.

Danielle

Thursday 15th of July 2021

The first step should never be medication, even though so many vets are quick to jump to that conclusion. Consulting a trainer might be a good idea. Slow and gradual desensitization to sounds will solve this, especially if your dog was fine before and nothing extremely traumatic happened in between.

Have you tried every toy, treat, etc.? What we think is high value may not actually be. Do you have strong bond or is she a recent addition? A strong bond definitely helps cause your dog will seek guidance quicker.