a dog that refuses to walk on the leash

If Your Dog Refuses to Walk – Do This:

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A dog that suddenly refuses to walk on the leash is a weird sight for many dog owners. Going for a walk 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.

Your dog might be either sitting down while walking or just stopping out of nowhere. This behavior not only seems stubborn but can also become quite dangerous if it happens in the middle of a busy road. Before we go into the training steps that will help get your dog to walk again, you will first have to determine the cause of this issue.

Medical Reasons

Before you start worrying about any dog training or behavior issues, get him checked by a vet. Especially if it just happened out of nowhere, pain or trauma could be the issue.

An older dog might experience orthopedic pain from diseases like arthritis which makes it extremely uncomfortable for your dog to walk. Examine his paws and determine if there is any foreign object stuck or wound bleeding.

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 to only discover that he has been in pain during the whole time.

Lack of Leash Training

Leash manners have to be constantly taught. No dog gets 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.

A non-fitting collar may lead to discomfort and a strong leash could be too heavy for a toy breed or young puppy. When choosing a collar or harness make sure to closely read the size instructions and fitting guides. 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 resolve the problem. Dogs thrive under clear and non-confusing guidelines. If he knows what he is doing he will quickly gain confidence and excitement during walks.

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 in motion 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 its 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. The fear will be evident in other situations for example when new guests arrive or loud noises can be heard outside.

Your dog might stop 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 and past experiences could have lead to that point. Try to avoid this place at first and see if your dog just had that one problem.

Desensitization and counterconditioning will slowly take away the fear. Take a lot of treats with you on any walk and be prepared to make good associations with the surroundings. Only visit quiet paths at first to avoid any upcoming fear.

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 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.

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 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 call him 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 overdo walking in the first few weeks.

They are very much 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.

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 than he just doesn’t want to go the way you go.

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 the time to think about jumping into a smelly bush.

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.

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 towards you, reward him with a yummy treat like Zuke’s Natural Training Dog Treats and continue on 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 tendency to lean into any pulling or pressure. So trying to drag your dog down the road will make it much more difficult for you.

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 which 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.

The environment around 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.

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7 Comments

  1. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

  2. My Yorkie is 6 and in the past she has had the odd day when she didn’t really want to walk but treats seem to do the trick. Other than that she has enjoyed walks. Just recently in the cold and the odd air bang going off in nearby farmers fields, she just flatly refuses to go. Do I let up on walks till it gets warmer or make her walk. She just doesn’t seem to enjoy it. I can lure about 100 meters then she just sits and as soon as I head home she walks back quickly. Really stuck as she isn’t a puppy, there’s nothing wrong, she just doesn’t want to walk 😢

    • Hello Kate,

      first of all, we have to discern whether your dog doesn’t want to walk due to the cold or sound.

      When your Yorkie refused to walk in the past, was that during summer or winter? And did she seem especially startled due to the bang and thus started this behavior or did this evolve over the last walks during winter?

      If it was winter when it happened before and now your dog doesn’t wanna walk below certain temperatures, she might just be too cold and the sound makes her even more uncomfortable. You could solve this if you get her a warm and cozy dog coat. Also, you could do extra fun things outside like playing with her favorite toy, going to new places and, of course, giving her favorite treats. Fact is that she needs to be walked. Dogs don’t determine the schedule, we do and your dog needs the physical exercise/mental stimulation (picking up all the scents for example).

      If it happened in the summer before (maybe even with other occurrences/sounds) and you think it was a drastic change in behavior, you might want to dive into how you can desensitize sounds. If the problem persists or gets even worse, you might want to check your dog with the vet to rule out any medical problems.

  3. Hey Danielle,
    Thanks for coming back so quick.
    So, there’s no real pattern to her not wanting to walk in the past it’s been hot and cold. For sure, she hates the rain so we do skip walks on those days. I did buy Bo a super cosy coat and that’s not made any difference. She is more than happy to go out in the garden when it’s cold without the coat.
    I do think it might be the quite a lot to do with the noise thing. She is terrified of fire works and the bangs in the fields do sound like that so I guess that might be a big part of the issue. If we see another dog when we are out walking she gets excited and wants to say hello and forgets that she doesn’t want to walk so some times I walk with a friend and that does seem to help. Obviously that’s difficult at the moment. She needs serious bribing with treats until we get to my friend and then she fine and forgets she doesn’t want to walk.
    As we have been walking on our own it’s got much worse. She does love my friends dog and my friends dog mothers her (very cute).
    So if it is the noise, how do I fix that? I would go through sooo many treats trying to bribe her to walk even 1/2 a mile!!!! Any suggestions?
    Thanks for the support xx
    Kate and Bo

    • Hi Kate, if your Yorkie Bo is really scared of sounds, you have to work on desensitization. You can start doing this by playing firework noises, for example.

      While doing this (or during walks) it’s important that you do not comfort her as this may cause reinforcement. We often want to show our dogs everything is okay and give her a pat on the back but this may signal your dog “Oh, she likes it when I’m fearful!” and we don’t want that.

      You shouldn’t get angry either, it’s very important to stay calm. So, if it happens outside, just sit that moment out. If she’s on the leash and she wants to race home, stand your ground (but don’t drag her with you). The more fearful she is, the more time she might need to come down, even if that means waiting 10 minutes.
      If it’s extreme, calmly remove her from the situation.

      But as always, it’s hard to diagnose from a distance and evaluation needs to be up to you. If she’s a little scared but it doesn’t seem to be a biggie, just keep walking and show her through confident body language that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Let her investigate if she wants to, just don’t force anything on her.

      The thing about your friend’s dog: If she’s motherly, it might be that Bo just needs confirmation that she’s safe and this dog gives it to her. Does the excitement persist with stranger’s dogs or only with this particular one? If so, take that dog with you on walks and try to go someplace loud etc. because that might create good connections. You could create that same relationship through bonding even closer to your dog so she’ll feel even safer with you than with any other dog – more on that in this post.

      If the behavior consists, you might want to think about going to a local dog trainer/behavior consultant – if (s)he’s any good. Hope this will help!

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