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If Your Dog Refuses to Walk – Do This!

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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.

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 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 the whole time.

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

Lack of Leash Training

If your puppy refuses to walk on a 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 to 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 that he doesn’t struggle with other behavior problems such as separation anxiety, barking, chewing, jumping, etc.

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

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.


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 breathe 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 in 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

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 pups 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 in my recall training guide and keep it consistent.

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 lie 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 lying on the bed exhausted.
Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

My Puppy Refuses to Walk Away from Home

If your puppy refuses to walk away from home, just make the walks super fun, use positive reinforcement with toys and treats and gradually increase the distance.

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.

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 your life which 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

Rescue dogs often refuse to walk due to fear or a general adjustment to their new surroundings and patience is key to getting a rescue dog to walk happily again.

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. Your leadership will be tested.
  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 signal 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.

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 in 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.

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.

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 100+ comments.

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

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Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.


Thursday 7th of December 2023

Hi. I adopted 2 French bulldogs 3 months ago. One of them loves going out and has a great time. The other was always reluctant to go but was great when he got going. He seemed to be affected by cold, wind, rain however has a cosy jacket that fits perfectly. He has recovered from an abscess on his back leg and all clear now. Over the last few weeks he will only go a few hundred meters then stop, point blank refuses to move unless it's back in the direction of the car or home. Checked out at vet, no issues, tried all tips mentioned even resorted to the tastiest items I could think of but no joy. It's a shame as its really spoiling the fun for my other one. Any advice really appreciated


Friday 26th of May 2023

I've got a very sweet rescue golden of 5 years old in the house he's my best buddy but outside it's a different experience and not enjoyable - he refuses to walk on leash. Last couple of days I had to carry him back home after allowed by him to lead in his direction - I'm honestly thinking he needs a home w another dog as his mentor. Treats do nothing for him as he's not interested - I love this lil guy but if I'm destined to never leave the house with him I've got to make a very difficult decision.. I like going outside doing things beyond the backyard by which he pees on the house then is glued to my side. He's my shadow inside but walks are 100% impossible. I've read every article posted - I'm frustrated and close to giving up. What do I do ? He is going to be neutered in 4 weeks but I can't last that king under his current behavior.


Tuesday 6th of June 2023

Hi, first of all: I would NOT recommend getting the dog neutered because of this behavior. You can make this health decision but not based on a specific behavior that will probably not be fixed by neutering. If you just recently brought your Golden home, he probably just needs time to adjust which can be weeks or months. Think about your dog's history, there might be a reason he's not walking. Consulting a professional to evaluate his behavior might be worth a try.


Sunday 26th of February 2023

My 8 month old Border collie loved his walks and was very happy and sociable. 3 weeks ago he had a fit he was post ictal for 2 days, he is under vetinary care. He walks with another dog in a morning. But refuses to walk later in the day, he is full of energy and plays with us. We are upset about this is there something we can do we give him constant reassurance and praise him when good but nothing will persuade him to walk.


Wednesday 25th of January 2023

Fear is an emotion and cannot be reinforced; only behaviors can be reinforced. It's always best to comfort a fearful puppy/dog.


Wednesday 25th of January 2023

Hi Ruby, fear as an emotion may not be reinforced, but the behaviors that are caused by it can be reinforced in my opinion. It's a common myth perpetuated by positive-only trainers that fear cannot, under any circumstances, be rewarded in a way that will increase the resulting behaviors which is just not the case. However, of course your dog will not increase their heart rate or whatnot just because you've rewarded the plain act of being fearful.


Thursday 15th of December 2022

I have a 10yo (11 in Dec) Cavador (mum was lab) and (dad was a CKCS). He’s in pretty good health except for a bit of arthritis in a front elbow for which he gets an injection of Synovan every 2-3 months. My problem is walking him. He’s always very keen to go on a walk and he usually gets 3-5km every day. Once he’s walking, if he decides he’s had enough he just sits and refuses to move or walk. He weighs 25kg so there’s no lifting or carrying happening. He only ever walks on the lead as we didn’t train him to ‘come’ as a puppy. We tried using treats (given to him when he gets up and starts walking) but he would eat the treat and just sit again a short time later. We give him plenty of time to smell the smells etc but if he decides he wants to go in a particular direction you can’t force him any other way, if you try he just plonks onto the ground and refuses to get up. Walking him has become a real chore and I’m starting to despise it. Our local vet thinks he might be in pain with the arthritis and has put him on a low dose of Meloxicam. This has made no difference. My husband just thinks he’s getting old and cantankerous (even demented!). I am a really active person but of late prefer to walk on my own. Would really appreciate your advice…


Friday 16th of December 2022

Hi Carol, as your vet mentioned, arthritis may be the reason for your dog's refusal to walk, and this can generally happen when dogs hit that senior stage. You might still be able to teach him to come, although it probably is a lot more difficult now. Have you tried luring with toys or praise? Perhaps that would help more if your dog is not food-motivated. Keep in mind that walking has to be fun.

Let your senior dictate the pace, it's first and foremost for smelling (i.e. mental exercise), physical exercise comes second. It's okay for dogs to occasionally dictate the path but the only thing you can try is introducing a command to come and praise a lot when he does so with whatever incentive (praise, treats, toy).