The common perception is of a dog that is happy and excited for walks every day. If for any reason your dog is not like this, it’s pretty reasonable to worry and think that something is wrong.
There are a few reasons why dogs don’t want to walk: bad weather they don’t like; an injury that is making it painful; a scary experience that they don’t want to repeat or it could be that they are getting old.
We’ve had a few instances when walking Annie where she’s been hesitant and not wanted to continue her daily walks. She can be incredibly stubborn anyway but while I can blame her stubbornness there’s often something else underlying that is causing it.
Unless there’s something physical that is upsetting your dog like sore joints or an injury it’s often anxiety and being scared that is the root of the problem. So working on your dog’s anxiety, even if they aren’t normally like it, can really help.
Here’s what helped when Annie was struggling:
- walking a different route
- going on a much shorter walk but just allowing her to sniff and explore as much as she needs to
- treats when she was walking well
- treats after the walk
And here’s some other ideas that might be worth trying:
- changing the lead or collar
- trying a harness instead of a regular lead – sometimes dogs don’t like the feel of the lead and collar on their neck
- stay away from busy roads
Why does my dog freeze suddenly on walks
This is the problem that we had with Annie. She’d be fine and excited to go out on her walk, she’d happily get her lead on and even her coat if it was bad weather, but once we got to a certain point on the walk she’d freeze and want to go home.
It was always the same point – just before we crossed the road, walked down an alley and came to a large open park. Now she loved to run at the park once there but obviously something was upsetting her about it.
They key to overcoming this is working out what is the issue. Was it the sounds, the open space, the prospect of seeing other dogs? I think for us it was the other dogs – she’s nervous around them and so it wasn’t enjoyable.
Freezing on walks is the dog getting scared and explaining to you in the only way they know how that they don’t want to go on.
Here are my tips for when this happens:
- be patient
- speak softly and encouragingly to your dog
- check they haven’t hurt themselves
- try walking in a different direction to see if that helps
- if it keeps happening stay away from that area for a while
- Shorter walks might help to break the cycle
My mum’s large dog (a Rhodesian Ridgeback) used to just sit down and not move on walks. He was fairly lazy and just didn’t like walking far and this was his way of saying so!
Not all dogs will love long walks, not all dogs love walking – find out what your dog loves and do more of it. Annie likes short walks where she can take her time and sniff. And the occasional run on the beach!
My dog is suddenly scared of going for walks
For some dogs it’s the whole prospect of going for a walk that starts to scare them. They don’t want to even get out of the door.
If your dog was normally ok with walks and all of a sudden is scared then I’d take a good look at your dog to make sure they aren’t injured in any way at all. If it hurts to go on a walk then they might be reluctant.
Try and remember if there was anything that might have scared your dog on a recent walk. Did they get in a scuffle with another dog they met? Did they run away and get shouted at? Did they get cold and wet? Maybe there was a large bang that scared them? It could simply be that you had done a really long walk one day that they didn’t like and they suddenly remembered.
It might not be a big thing to you and I but to the dog it might be enough to have set some seeds of fear in them that might be leading to anxiety.
If you’re worried about a sudden change in your dog, definitely talk to your vet in case there are any underlying issues.
Getting puppies to want to walk
Getting puppies to walk is a whole other blog post! In general puppies might be scared to walk simply because it is so new to them.
First things first – get them used to having a lead and collar on and walk them around the house. Once they are used to that, take them into your garden with the lead.
Start small when you decide to get them walking. Little dogs might have lots of energy but it normally is small spurts and then they want to sleep again. Small walks are best so they don’t over exert themselves and then equate walking with tiredness and pain.
Reward and use positive language all the time. When they get their lead on, when they start walking and when they get home again.
Patience is key with young dogs as they can change quickly as they get used to you, your routines and the world. It can seem like such a big scary world out there!
What about older dogs?
Older dogs can often be reluctant to walk and although it can be because of some of the reasons listed above, quite often it’s because they are tired, have achy joints and don’t enjoy it so much.
Dogs are just like us and when they get older they are prone to arthritis and joint issues. As you can imagine this can make walks a real chore and if a dog is really in pain they might show that to you by being reluctant to go out or by stopping when they are mid walk.
It’s always worth talking to your vet as your dog gets older to get advice on what to expect. Some breeds, especially larger ones can be more susceptible to joint pain than others. There are over the counter remedies you can try to see if they help – I wrote a post about some of the options here.
Should I force my dog to go for a walk?
Finally I think it’s worth talking about what to do if your dog is being reluctant. Should you force your dog to go on a walk? Or should you force your dog to continue walking when they are scared?
While frustration can come out in ways that make you think you should just keep walking and hope the dog will keep going and eventually enjoy themselves and get over it, it’s a bad idea in the long run.
Anxiety can be so common in dogs and forcing them to do things they are scared of, being overbearing and generally making them uncomfortable can set up problems for the future. I don’t recommend it.
If your dog is unhappy going out but will do their toileting in the garden then once in a while it won’t hurt that the dog doesn’t get exercise.
Work on breaking the cycle and not triggering the dogs anxiety. It might take some time but patience will help you and your dog get through this and enjoy walks again.