Leash Training

Top 10 Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Walk On Leash

by Alison Page

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Why won’t your dog walk on a leash? That’s a common, frustrating problem for many pet parents.

So, how can you get your pup moving? Could your dog’s gear be what’s causing the problem? And what can you do to get your dog walking obediently on his leash?

Read this guide for our top tips and solutions.

Top 10 Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Walk On The Leash

It’s so frustrating when your canine companion decides not to trot alongside you on his leash.

Here are ten reasons why your pup won’t cooperate, together with some practical solutions to help you solve the problem.

1. Your Dog Is Not Leash Trained

Person Attaching a Leash to a Dogs Harness

Probably the most common reason why dogs refuse to walk on a leash is that they simply haven’t been trained to do so.

So, you need to start leash training your pooch or puppy correctly.

  • Show your dog every piece of equipment you’re going to use, such as his harness, leash, and collar.
  • Let your pet sniff everything and allow him to enjoy a few high-value treats. Take care not to skip this step, as that could leave your pup with negative associations around going for walks.
  • Put your dog’s harness and collar on him for short periods, gradually increasing the time until your pooch is used to the idea.
  • Begin training your dog to walk on a loose leash at home. Once the pup is happy and comfortable with the idea of walking on his leash, you can start walking him in your fenced yard or an enclosed run.
  • Once your dog is confident walking on his leash at home, you can venture out of his comfort zone for a walk.
  • Choose a quiet location without too much traffic or other dogs for your dog’s first few walks. Keep away from areas where you might encounter dogs running off-leash that could frighten your pup.

Remember to reward your dog’s good behavior with delicious treats and plenty of praise. Ignore bad behavior so that your pup learns what he needs to do to earn a tasty reward.

2. Your Dog Is A Puppy

Dog Leash and Owner

Puppies often sit down and refuse to move mid-walk. That’s incredibly frustrating, and many owners resort to picking up their puppies simply to make progress.

Don’t try to drag your puppy along with you. That’s not going to work! In fact, pulling on your puppy’s leash is simply going to make him dig his heels in and pull back against you.

3. Your Dog Is A Rescue Dog

Adult dogs from shelters are often not familiar with walking on a leash, especially if the pup was living on the streets.

Basically, you need to teach your dog how to walk obediently on his leash. The training process is exactly the same as you would use for a puppy. However, it’s generally a long process since you’re trying to train the pooch to unlearn old habits.

Be patient in your approach to training your rescue dog, and use positive reinforcement methodologies. That’s sure to get you the result you need in the long term.

4. Your Dog Is In Pain

Black dog on leash

Sometimes, a pup will refuse to walk on his leash because he is suffering from joint pain. Causes of long-term pain can include conditions such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and arthritis. Those conditions are excruciatingly painful for dogs. Affected pups might favor one leg over another or even give out a whimper or yelp before stopping.

If you’re concerned that your dog is experiencing joint pain, we recommend that you contact your vet and book your pooch in for a check-up. Once the vet has established the cause of your dog’s pain, he can prescribe a course of suitable treatment, and your dog should begin to enjoy his walks again. 

5. Your Dog Is Injured

Your dog could suddenly stop walking if he’s picked up an injury during the walk.

Some injuries are relatively minor, such as a broken nail or a thorn in a paw. Other injuries can recur if you don’t take preventative action to protect your dog in the future.

For example, my dog stopped walking one time because she had an accumulation of ice between her pads during a chilly winter walk. Similarly, in very hot weather, my dog’s sensitive pads can be scorched by walking on a very hot sidewalk. To prevent such eventualities, I fitted my dog with dog boots to protect her paws from injuries, and that worked perfectly.

The moral of that story is that you must check your dog’s pads for injuries that can be hidden by an overgrowth of fur or an accumulation of mud.

If your pup sustains a bad injury and can’t continue walking, you might have to carry him home or back to your vehicle. However, if your pooch is too big to carry, you’ll need to beg a friend for help.

6. Your Dog Is Frightened

Jack russell puppy playing

Although you might love the idea of going out for a walk around your neighborhood or to the park, that can be an overwhelming or pretty frightening experience for your furry friend.

If a pup is afraid of something, he might refuse to move, planting himself on the spot, purely out of fear. Puppies often get scared when they take their first walks away from their familiar home turf and are going through their fear period. 

A frightened dog will clamp his tail between his back legs and crouch down to make himself look smaller. The pooch might also pin back his ears and breathe rapidly or very heavily.

Anxiety on walks should be handled carefully since forcing a terrified dog to move can lead to leash aggression and other bad behavior, such as barking at other dogs and passers-by.

Solving the Problem

First, you need to work out what’s causing your dog’s fear. That could be something simple, such as another dog passing by, a strange scent you haven’t noticed before, an unfamiliar sound, or even passing traffic.

When you know what’s frightening your pup, you can begin working on desensitizing your dog to this particular trigger. That can help to build your dog’s confidence. 

Although every dog is different, here are a few helpful tips that can work well to desensitize your pup:

  • Use verbal commands to redirect your dog’s focus away from what’s frightening him.
  • Work out what the fear trigger is and work around building resistance to it.
  • Do not reward negative behaviors. Most dogs are savvy enough to work out that stopping while out on a walk gets them a treat. So, don’t offer your dog his favorite treats every time he stops walking.

If you suspect that your dog is afraid and that’s why he stops walking, contact your vet or a dog behavior specialist and ask for more advice on how you can make your dog more confident.

7. Could Your Dog’s Gear Be The Problem?

If your shoes didn’t fit properly and pinched you every time you took a step forward, you wouldn’t be too keen on walking very far, and you might even stop walking altogether!

Well, your dog is no different. He needs to wear comfortable clothing during walks, too!

You need to be sure that your dog’s harness fits correctly and doesn’t rub or pinch your pup under his armpits and that the fixings work smoothly without catching or pulling your pet’s fur.

I recommend using a comfortable harness rather than a collar for walking your dog. If the dog pulls or lunges, a collar can inflict a painful neck injury and potentially put the dog off walking altogether.

If your dog is prone to stopping and biting the leash, you might want to consider using a different type of leash, such as a chain one.

8. Your Walk Is Too Short!

Young girl is walking with her dog on a retractable leash

Dogs are pretty intelligent when it comes to their usual walk route and times for walks. So, if there are no training issues or physical discomfort to blame, your dog might simply have decided that his normal walks aren’t long enough. Your cheeky canine might suddenly down-tools to try to prolong the walk or persuade you to go further than his regular walk.

Perhaps your dog needs more strenuous walks to satisfy his needs for physical and mental stimulation. Try taking your dog for a longer walk than usual or using a different trail from your normal route to pique your dog’s interest and keep him stimulated.

9. The Walk Is Too Long

Conversely, your pup might stop in his tracks and refuse to walk any further because he’s decided enough is enough and doesn’t want to walk any further.

That can be the case when dogs get older and don’t want to walk quite so far. Pet owners should be aware of potential health issues that can affect older pups, such as arthritis. Just like people, dogs can lose energy as they get older, and they don’t want to walk quite so far.

If you notice your pup lagging behind on his usual walk or not seeming quite so full of energy, it could simply be that your furry friend doesn’t want to walk quite so far.

10. It’s Too Cold or Hot

Yellow Labradoodle in the snow

Certain dog breeds do not tolerate extremes of weather very well, and that can be a reason for a pup to stop and refuse to walk on his leash. 

For example, if the weather is extremely hot or humid, brachycephalic dogs will struggle to breathe, leading to overheating and distress. Likewise, dogs with thin coats and fine skin, such as greyhounds, will suffer if they are walked on very cold days without adequate warm outdoor clothing.

Get to know your dog’s preferences and accommodate them. For example, you might need to walk your pup very early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day or give him a game of fetch in your backyard rather than taking your pet for a long walk during freezing weather.

How To Get Your Pup Moving

Here are a few tips and tricks that you can try to get your pup moving again!

  • Don’t resort to offering your dog treats to try to persuade him to move. That training strategy simply teaches your pup that grinding to a halt will ultimately earn him a reward, which is not the message you want to give your pet!
  • Dog breeds in the scent hound group are especially prone to be distracted by a particularly tempting smell, and sniff-based walks can often provide a reason for your pet to keep stopping instead of walking alongside you. Increasing the speed of your stride can help to keep your pet moving through these tantalizingly scented areas!
  • To keep your pup interested and invested in the walk, try taking other routes through areas your dog hasn’t visited before.
  • When your dog exhibits good walking behaviors and trots alongside you, be sure to reward him with verbal praise and an occasional treat. 

When your dog stops and refuses to move, it’s essential that you don’t resort to overt bribery or try to drag your dog along behind you. That could simply encourage more negative behavior and might even make your problem worse. 

Scolding a dog

Don’t shout at or punish your dog. There could be lots of different factors that could be causing your dog’s reluctance to walk. If the problem is sudden in onset, the most likely cause is an underlying medical problem that you’re not aware of. So, we advise you to contact your vet for more advice and to give your pup a thorough check-up.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide on what to do when your dog won’t walk on his leash. If you found the information helpful, please take a moment to share it before you go!

There are many reasons why a dog might decide not to walk on his leash. The dog could be in pain, he might be afraid of his surroundings, or his harness might be rubbing and causing discomfort. Perhaps your walks are too long or too short for your pooch, or the weather is too warm or too cold for your pet.

If the problem is sudden in onset, we recommend speaking to your vet for advice. Once an accurate diagnosis of your furry friend’s problem has been made, you’ll know how to help him through it and get back to enjoying your walks together.

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