6 Reasons Your Dog Refuses to Walk—And How to Help
Most complaints about leash walking challenges have to do with dogs that act like Iditarod competitors. While pulling during leash walks is a more typical challenge, there are some dogs that have the opposite problem; instead of pulling they slam on the brakes and refuse to move.
Pet parents might think their dog is stubborn, but there usually are underlying reasons that have nothing to do with manners or training for refusing to walk while on leash. The following are some of the common reasons why dogs go on leash strike, and what you can do about it.
New Puppy Blues
Most puppies are in constant motion, but the first time the leash goes on, the unusual sensation of pressure around the neck is enough to make a busy pup stop in his tracks. Pulling the pup to encourage walking won’t work and might even make your puppy more distressed about what’s happening to him.
The fix: Before you take your first outdoor leash walk, let your puppy wear his leash around the house with supervision so he doesn’t get caught on anything. This helps him to acclimate to the sensation of something around his neck. Then pick up the leash, making sure that there’s no tension in it, call your puppy in a happy tone of voice and give him a tasty treat when he gets to you. Repeat the process, moving around the room and keeping this new game upbeat. Once your puppy is walking close to you in anticipation of the next treat, head outside and continue the fun.
Dogs that were deprived of socialization as a puppy might end up nervous about the world outside their front door, which could manifest in a reluctance or even refusal to go for a walk. It’s likely that your dog’s fearfulness will be evident in other situations as well, like meeting new people and encountering different sounds, so his unease while leashed probably won’t come as a surprise.
The fix: Try to help build your dog’s confidence with baby steps – you won’t be doing any marathons at first. Your goal is to desensitize your dog to anything he perceives as scary while you reward him for moving in the right direction.
Take your dog outside during off-peak hours and watch for any rewardable behavior that resembles the beginning of a walk, which could be as minor as a glance toward the street. Mark the behavior with a clicker or a verbal “click word” like “yup!” and follow up with a high value treat. Then take your time, stay positive and gradually build your dog’s behavior from glances to steps to eventual sustained walking.
Many pet parents opt to buy a sturdy collar and leash to ensure their dog’s safety, not realizing that oversized gear can be uncomfortable, particularly for small dogs. Both the thickness of the leash and the weight of the clasp might feel like an anchor around your dog’s neck, which in turn can make leash walks slow and draggy. And collars that use pain to train, like prong, choke or electric collars, might have such a negative association for dogs that they refuse to budge when wearing them.
The fix: Opt for the lightest leash and collar that’s safe for your dog. If you’re still relying on outdated “training” collars that inflict pain, transition to a dog-friendly no-pull harness instead. Help your dog acclimate to the harness and life on the open road with a pocket full of treats and an upbeat attitude.
There’s nothing worse than thinking your dog is refusing to walk because he’s stubborn, only to discover that he’s dealing with pain you didn’t know about. There are a variety of medical issues that might make leash walks uncomfortable or even impossible for dogs, from injuries due to over-activity, to age-related aches and pains, to orthopedic issues, to tick-borne diseases and even certain cancers.
The fix: First, gently check out your dog for any hidden hurts, like an injured paw pad or nail. A sudden refusal to walk could signal an injury, so take your dog to your veterinarian for an exam to discover the cause.
A gradual reluctance to walk over time could mean that your dog is developing a pain point, so make an appointment with your vet to discuss treatment options and ongoing pain management options.
No Prior Exposure
Rescue dogs come from a variety of scenarios, from back yard dwellers to street dogs to puppy mills, and it’s possible that an adult dog that refuses to walk on leash might be doing so because the concept is completely foreign to him. Sure, he might be confident and happy out in the world, but the sensation of that lasso around his neck is enough to make him stop in his tracks.
The fix: Much like early puppy leash training, adult dogs need the opportunity to first get familiar with the sensation of the leash. Let your adult dog wear the leash around the house and work up to the same “come to me and get a treat” game suggested for puppies.
You can also jump-start your obedience training by teaching your dog to target your hand; simply present your open hand to your dog a foot or so away from him at nose height, and when he moves towards it click or say “yup!” to mark that forward movement, and follow up with a treat. Then encourage your dog to target your hand as you start your walk.
Unwillingness to Leave
Sometimes dogs go on leash strike because they don’t want the fun to end. Whether it’s reluctance to leave the dog park or unwillingness to part with a favorite friend, these walk refusers prefer to stay where they are rather than continue strolling.
The Fix: Instead of cajoling or, worse yet, scolding your reluctant walker, instead turn your back and ignore him. Make sure that he’s not being accidentally reinforced by remaining where he is, meaning, his friend is still right next to him or he’s able to watch the action in the park instead of you. The moment he makes a move, no matter how small, mark the behavior with a click or click word, then toss the treat in the direction you want to walk. Once you have forward momentum towards the treat, you can continue capturing reward-worthy moments and commence with your walk.
Original article from pawculture.com