As a professional dog walker, this is a question I occasionally get asked. Generally, dogs love to go for a walk and explore the world around them. Daily walks are essential for your and your dog’s health and fitness. But occasionally, a dog refuses to walk.
For a small percentage or occasionally for other reasons, dogs can sometimes refuse to move or will go and hide under the table when they see the lead. It is always worth checking this is not just simple stubbornness.
Rather than ignore this, it will benefit you and your dog (let us call her Peggy) in the long run to work out why dog walks are not the plan. Once you understand the reason, there is a good chance you can turn this around and start enjoying walks.
So if you want to start enjoying walks with Peggy, these tips will hopefully help.
It’s raining. It’s pouring ….
During my time as a Professional Dog Walker, I have had a few clients who favour cuddles on the sofa over going for walks in the rain. Maybe your dog doesn’t like going for a walk when it’s raining, and most dogs certainly don’t like going out when it is really hot (and shouldn’t).
It is a fact that some dogs love to play in puddles and are not phased at all by the rain. Other dogs look at you as if to say, “Have you seen my hair? You want me to go out in that?”
Dogs find it hard to cope in hot weather as they don’t sweat as we do. Panting is one of the ways they get rid of heat, but on warm days they don’t always want to exert themselves.
After all, we all like to put our feet up and watch TV when the weather is stormy and chucking it down or it’s sweltering.
Is your dog feeling under the weather?
If your dog likes to go for a walk and gets excited when they see the lead, they may feel unwell. Many dogs can and will cover up their ailments as they do not want to be seen as vulnerable to their enemies.
The other problem is that humans are not always clued up on body language. We spot the easy ones, such as shaking, limping, cuts and grazes, vomiting or lethargy. However, if they are older dogs, then it may be walking itself has become uncomfortable.
If they continue to be under the weather and not themselves, then contact a vet).
Has something frightened them when on a walk?
Occasionally, dogs can become frightened of the outside. This can sometimes take one negative walk to cause your dog to be afraid and want to stay home. It could be that a child has been a bit ruff and pulled their tale, or they kept getting bowled over by a big dog.
If they no longer like going out on walks, which has been due to fear, then you need to handle the situation with care. E.g., Going on walks and allowing dogs to run up to them will make them more fearful.
You need to observe their behaviour and body language when you are out on a walk. Is their head low with ears pinned back? Are they jumpy when you pass certain people or objects, etc.?
You may also like to talk the matter over with a dog behaviourist
Are the collar and harness too small?
How long have you had the collar and/or harness? It may be a case they have grown out of them, and so it is causing discomfort and rubbing against their skin. Perhaps it is time to try a different harness to see if that helps.
What not to do
Hopefully, the above has been helpful for why Peggy doesn’t want to walk. Below are a few things that you should not do when your dog refuses to go outside for a walk
Force them to go outside.
It is easy to grab the lead and harness and put them on the struggling dog, especially when in a hurry. DON’T. Making a dog that refuses to go for a walk will create more problems.
Since you picked up and brought Peggy home, you have been building up trust in each other. By forcing them to go for a walk or do something they don’t want to do. You are risking damaging that trust. This will cause problems when you want them to carry out regular training such as “stay” or “wait”, as they may not even listen to you as they have lost trust and respect.
Always try things slowly and gently and at their pace if you want to build a close bond between the two of you
Don’t lose your temper
t is important to try and remain calm and relaxed and not lose your temper with your dog even if they are not doing what you want. Losing your temper and telling the dog off will not make them submit. It is likely to cause Peggy more stress and cause her to lose respect for you
Always follow the principle of cool, calm and collected when interacting with your dog.
Lure them out with treats.
Whilst luring is mainly a good thing, you have to be careful you do not coach them out and put their stress levels high. It is always to find out why they don’t want to do something if you can
What to do when your dog refuses to walk
We’ve explored what you should never do when your dog refuses to walk, so here are a few things you should do.
Weather can play a big part in not wanting to go for a walk
Rain: Some dogs don’t like going out in bad weather. If this is the case, then maybe consider buying your dog a nice outdoor waterproof jacket to keep them warm
Snow – Not all dogs like the snow, and if this is the case, I would recommend a nice warm coat (as above), but you may also want to consider dog booties as this will protect the dog’s feet from ice and rock salt on the roads
Summer – It is important to remember that dogs get jot and cannot cool in the same way we do. Therefore it is vital to take an early or late walk when it is cooler
Are your walks with the dog boring – jazz them up
Your dog may be refusing to go out as the walks are boring. This is particularly the case if you do the same old route day in and day out, and Peggy has become bored with seeing and selling the same thing
Try mixing up where you go for a walk and take a different route to the park. Go to a new park in the neighbourhood. Go for a sieve at weekends to new and unfamiliar areas like a new forest or the beach. Another option is etc.
Another option is to go for a training walk and stop randomly to do some training, use street furniture such as weaving in and out of bollards,
Check your dog for any issues.
One of the reasons they have stopped waking could be they are under the weather. Check your dog for any injuries and keep an eye on its overall behaviour indoors. If they seem more lifeless than usual or have gone off their food, then you may wish to talk with your vet
in certain circumstances, especially if the reason that eggy no longer wants to walk is due to fear because something or someone scared them on a walk (such as an attack), then you may wish to contact a dog behaviourist
However, there are some things you can do to help build their confidence and make walks a positive and fun experience again
As with nervous or anxious dogs, you need to take baby steps and introduce the triggers slowly
It may be that even the site of the walking gear can cause stress, so we need to make this a positive experience by laying the harness on the floor and getting them to sniff it and then, as you slowly pick it up to put the harness on rewarding them with treats. The next step is to add cue works such as “Shall we go out?” and offer more teats. Remove the harness and repeat this two or three times, slowly removing the treats.
Repeat this exercise over the next couple of days, slowly moving the exercise towards the front door whilst feeding treats and keeping an eye on their body language.
Leave them alone if they refuse to go for a walk.
It may also be that your dog is just having an off day and doesn’t want a walk. If occasionally you find they don’t want to go out, especially as they get older, don’t force the situation.
Play games instead
If it is too hot for a walk or your dog refuses to go for a walk, then play some bai games. Mental stimulation is just as good as going out for a walk and can tire them out. Play a game of fin it or the muffin tin game. Some brain games can be made from simple materials around d the house. Other more complex ones can be brought online.
Occasionally, you come across a dog that is quite happy to go outside and do its business and spend the rest of the time at home. If your dog is like this, then don’t worry. Make sure they go out for comfort breaks and to check the daily wee-mail. You can play games at home the rest of the time, so your dog still lives a happy life.
Another great article to read from a dog trainer in Cheltenham is Why your dog is not being stubborn.