Your dog Roxy does not seem as excited about going for walks as she used to be. She does not seem to be in pain, but you do acknowledge that she is getting older. Could this be why she sluggishly goes to the door and even sits in the middle of the road? She used to get so excited when she saw you put on your sneakers and run for the door, but now she acts as if she would rather take a nap. You are unsure what to do because, yes, Roxy is getting old, but you also know that to enhance the life she has she needs to still walk. You don’t want to drag her out the door but are running out of ideas.
The Root of the Behavior
Most dogs love to walk but there are circumstances in which our four-legged friends would rather do something else. Maybe, like Roxy, they are getting old, maybe they are hurt, maybe they had a traumatizing event in a walk, maybe they’re tired, or maybe they’re too young. Dogs who don’t want to walk are actually not as uncommon as one may think.
Owners are usually eager to walk their furry friends. Some eager that some owners get their new cute little fur ball and take her out for a walk immediately. A young puppy may never have gone on a walk before and may have no idea how to function with that weird leash contraption. Also, a pups coordination is not fully developed. They might not even know how to walk in a straight line. If you are expecting to take you eight-week-old puppy on a hike up a mountain, think again. You need to start off small. Start with just getting your puppy used to a leash. Walk her around the house with it. Then, move to very short walks outside. You will eventually build up to hiking that mountain together, but it takes time, and patience is key.
Sometimes, it is the weather that causes your fuzzball not to want to go for a walk. Maybe it is 10 degrees outside, maybe it is raining, or maybe it is too hot. It’s important to note that tar on the roads gets hot quickly and can actually burn your canine’s paws. This painful event could even result in your dog not wanting to venture out for walks in the future so be mindful. Dogs also just may be tired. If you just went to the dog park for three hours, your pooch may not be up for a walk. She might just need some water and a nap.
Pain is another reason why your dog might not want to walk. Would you want to go for a walk with a sprained ankle? If your dog is favoring a leg or seems to be in pain, it is probably not the time for your morning run. Arthritis is also common in older dogs like Roxy. Sometimes dogs are just getting old, but they still should be encouraged to walk.
Encouraging the Behavior
Walking your dog has numerous benefits for dogs and their owners. In fact, it has been shown to decreases obesity and blood pressure and increased bond. Biomedical Central Research studied the mutual benefits of dog walking for both the pets and their owners. Researchers Hayley Christian, Carri Westgarth, and Robert Christley studied 276 dogs from Cheshire, England where they had owners walk their dogs once a day. The study recorded positive behaviors and negative behaviors and found that many positive dog behaviors were associated with dog walking. Many studies have also concluded that people who own dogs are more physically active than people without dogs. They are excellent training partners and provide an initiative to get off the couch.
Even if your dog is old, you should still try to go for short walks. Short walks are actually beneficial for an old dog’s arthritis. Although the benefits of dog walking are many, there are certain times when your pooch needs to take a break. If your dog has a cut or severe pain in her par or leg, you should lay off the walk and see your vet. If the weather is intolerable, again not a good time for a walk, but for the most part, get out the leash and get moving.
Other Solutions and Considerations
There are some solutions to help your dog get moving. One is teaching Roxy the command, “Let’s go!” You can reward her with treats if she obeys. You also can have Roxy go a short distance and then have her sit. Go a little bit further and then have her sit again. She might actually get sick of the sitting and walk for longer and longer periods of time. Additionally, some dogs get bored, so you could always change things up a bit by going to a different neighborhood. This might provoke Roxy to explore the new place. Another important note to keep in mind is instilling a routine and sticking with it. Dogs like to know what’s coming. If you go for a walk every day at 8 AM, Roxy knows when she is expected to get some exercise. It’s also important to be patient. Set realistic expectations. Roxy can’t walk the distance that she used to, but that is okay, as long as she is walking.
Don’t give up on Roxy. She just needs a few changes to get her going again. If she has arthritis, your vet may be able to provide some medication for relief. This might make her more eager to walk in the future. And remember, making the effort to get her walking is not only beneficial for Roxy, it is beneficial for you.