It’s that time of day again, and you go to put your dog’s collar and lead on but they don’t want to go. Dogs are supposed to love walks, right? It can be worrying and stressful, leaving you with the question of my dog doesn’t want to walk, what should I do?
Well, the good news is that there is plenty you can do. The reason for your dog not wanting to walk could be a very simple one, or it might be a sign that they need to take a trip to the vet. But before you panic, take a look at the reasons why they might be reluctant and what you can do to help them.
Why Would a Dog Not Want to Go for a Walk?
It’s a puzzling thing, especially when dogs tend to love being out walking so much. However, there are some very valid reasons why your furry friend doesn’t want to go outside.
Little to No Lead Training
This is a very common issue, especially for young puppies that have never been walked, or rescue dogs that aren’t used to the concept. The pressure of a collar and lead is very light, but it is still a strange sensation for a dog when they are not used to it or have never experienced it before.
It could also be caused by a collar that doesn’t fit properly or a lead that is too heavy for them. The weight and pressure can cause discomfort as well as stress, making them reluctant to go outside and walk. Always check the tightness and fit of the collar and choose a lead that will feel light on your dog.
When introducing them to the lead, make sure you use treats and a positive tone of voice so that they learn to associate it with something that is good and exciting. Patience is key as some dogs take longer than others to warm to the idea – especially rescues that have had a bad start in life.
Undiagnosed Health Issues
Dogs are the masters of hiding pain, and so it is not always easy to tell if they are sick or in pain. However, not wanting to go for a walk can be a tell-tale sign that something more serious is happening.
Before you take them to the vet, make sure you check them over for any injuries, cuts, or foreign objects stuck in their paws. A jagged step or limp is also a clear sign something is wrong. If nothing is apparent, or they are limping, make an appointment for the vet to give them a full checkup to determine what’s wrong.
It could be that they have pulled a muscle and are a little lame, or an older dog might be suffering from arthritis and general joint pain. It could even be something more serious, such as spondylosis, and this is why veterinary care is so important. Always have a medical condition ruled out before you walk them as the last thing you want is to force a dog that’s in pain to walk.
Sometimes dogs get spooked and we have no idea what caused it, but now they associate it with their walk. It could be anything from a bad experience with a dog to a loud noise that gave them a fright. Dogs who were not socialised as a puppy will also have an incredibly difficult time getting used to new things and may need extra patience.
Your dog’s posture can usually identify fear – ears laid back, tail tucked, and body crouched. They may even shake or their breathing becomes heavy. You may also notice the fear is present in other situations, such as when guests visit or loud noises startle them.
You may notice that your dog stops in the exact same spot on every walk, and this could be because of a specific sight or scent that frightened them in the past – even if it was not visible to you. Try to avoid this area as much as possible and see if your dog might be more comfortable on a different route.
When trying to help them through their fear, it is important that you never reward them for their fearful behaviour. You don’t want to reinforce their fear as this will only make them more frightened of going on walks or approaching specific areas on your route.
Poor Weather Conditions
If it’s pouring with rain, thundering, too hot, or too cold, your dog doesn’t want to go outside. Just like people, there are times when dogs don’t fancy bracing the weather conditions outside for the sake of their walk. On days like this, let them stay inside and find other ways to keep them entertained instead of walking.
Too Much Exercise
You can exercise your dog too much, especially when they are puppies and their bodies are not yet finished developing. Too much strain on the joints of a puppy can cause health problems later in life, as well as causing damage to their joints and muscles as they grow.
Even older dogs can be over-exercised. It can cause pain if they already suffer from arthritis, or cause them to limp and become lame for a few days. Similarly, if your dog is unfit and under exercised, they may also suffer from exhaustion and joint pain if you take them out for too long.
What to Do When Your Dog Doesn’t Want to Walk
When your dog doesn’t want to walk, there are a few things you can do to try and coax them out. Of course, this should be following a vet visit to check that there is nothing wrong with them physically. You should also check the weight of their lead and the fit of the collar to ensure that it is comfortable for them.
If they are afraid, the best thing you can do is desensitise or recondition them. A lot of the time this involves using treats and positive reinforcement to help them associate walks and the outside world with things that are good – like treats and toys.
You may need to seek help from a professional dog trainer if you don’t feel confident with the process, and they will help your dog to become more comfortable outside in a calm manner and a pace that suits the needs of your dog. Read here how to traing your dog with hand signals.
Lead training is very much the same, it just requires a lot of patience and practice as well as plenty of treats so that they get used to the lead and also have that positive association with it. This makes the process much easier, and it does take time but you can get a dog trainer to help you out if you feel stuck.
Is it Bad if You Don’t Walk Your Dog?
Your dog is fine to miss the odd walk, especially during the summer months when the ground is far too hot for their paws. However, you should be walking your dog every day as much as possible. It’s not just good exercise for them (and you) but also provides them with mental stimulation and the chance to burn off extra steam.
Not being walked results in boredom and can leave them feeling frustrated, as well as full of unspent energy – much like a coiled spring. If you are unable to walk them for any reason, you should at least play with them in the garden or create fun and challenging games for them to play in the house.
A lack of physical exercise can also cause joint pain and stiffness, leading to conditions like arthritis and loss of muscle mass. This can lead to them being unable to walk and becoming reliant on medication for mobility as well as being in a great deal of discomfort when they move.
Dogs are funny creatures, and ones that we love deeply. When they decide they don’t want to go on walks anymore it can be very stressful, but there is usually a simple explanation for their behaviour. It’s something that can easily be resolved with a visit to the vet or some gentle coaxing and training.
Just remember that your dog has feelings too, and there is usually a valid explanation for their behaviour. Patience and a gentle touch are essential, and no matter what, do not drag your dog to get them to go outside – you’ll just make it worse. Sometimes dogs need reassurance too, just like us.
For over a decade, Adrienne has been a freelance content writer and blogger who’s passion lies in anything related to dogs. Growing up, dogs were a very important part of family life in the Hardwick household. Now, Adrienne is the proud parent to two Swedish Vallhunds called Moose and Pumpkin.