Some dogs jump up and grab their leash at the word “walk”, while others cower in fear as soon as you clip their leash on. Why is this? And how do you convince a dog to walk if they don’t want to? We’ll explore the reasons why your dog is a flaky walking buddy and offer some solutions that will get them out and about in no time.
There are tons of reasons why a dog doesn’t want to walk on a leash. The good news is, if you identify the triggers early, you can learn how to minimize them and reintroduce the leash in a positive way. So why do some dogs go dead weight when the leash goes on?
Anyone who’s ever worn a turtleneck sweater knows the initial discomfort of something around your neck. Now think of someone attaching a heavy object to your neck while wearing that sweater and pulling you around by it. Sounds fun, right?
Solution: Allow Fido to wear their leash without you on the other end. This is best done in an environment they perceive as safe, like your pet’s favorite room of the house. Pick up the leash and hold it very loosely while your pup explores their surroundings.
With the leash still on, call them to you and give a reward when they do. Repeat this a few times. Then hold a treat by your side and walk around the room. If your pup follows you, give them another treat. Soon, your woofer will associate the leash with reward and want to wear it.
Anxiety is one of the most common reasons dogs don’t want to walk. They might be scared of the leash, the outside world, cars, noises, or people and pets they may encounter.
Solution: Repeated exposure. Exposure therapy sounds labor-intensive and scary, but it’s really not. It boils down to taking your dog outside, further and further away from your house, and rewarding them.
Over time, these rewards will create positive associations with walking and make your dog actually want to walk. Reward your dog even if all they do is look at the sidewalk it’s progress. Desensitization can take weeks or even months, but progress is possible!
Understandably, many dogs refuse to walk or even get up from their bed when they’re in pain.
Solution: Talk to your vet if your walk-loving dog decides they’re not digging it anymore. Your vet will likely do an examination or take some X-rays to diagnose any injuries or arthritis that your dog may have.
Vets often prescribe pup-safe NSAIDs like Rimadyl for joint pain or minor injures. Never give your dog a painkiller made for humans in place of a dog-specific medication unless explicitly instructed to do so by your vet.
If your dog truly is in pain, leave the walks alone until they’re feeling better. When they feel up to walking, they’ll let you know!
As you can probably imagine, heavy leashes and tight collars aren’t the most comfortable combo in the world, but this trigger is an easy fix.
Solution: Try a harness and a lightweight leash instead and see if that does the trick. If this doesn’t solve the problem, other factors may be at play.
Inexperience with leashes is a common problem for rescues with a history of neglect. You’ll need to treat inexperienced pooches the same as you would a puppy.
Solution: Start by clipping the leash to their collar and letting them walk around freely with it dragging behind them. Supervise them while you do this exercise since they may get tangled up and cause an injury or increase their leash wariness.
After a while, call them to you and reward them with a treat. Hold the treat out and circle the room; when Fido follows you, give them a treat. Next, do the same exercise, except hold the leash while you walk.
Dogs are a lot like toddlers. If they’re having fun and don’t want to leave, they’ll throw a fit. Bucking, pulling, putting on the brakes — anything they can to keep you from dragging them away.
Solution: Don’t proposition them with treats or make a fuss. Simply face away from them until you have their attention. When they look at you, give them a treat and throw another where you want them to go. This will redirect their train of thought and make them interested in leaving with you.
It isn’t uncommon for puppies not to want to walk on a leash. Most dogs go through this stage. Leashes feel unnatural and restrictive at first because they are. So how can you convince your littlest bud to walk on one?
Start with a harness and lightweight leash. Then, when your dog gets more comfortable with it, switch to a collar.
Allow Fido to sniff and explore their walking gear before putting it on. When they do, praise, and treat them.
Have them wear their gear in the house while you’re at home to supervise them.
Don’t leave your puppy in a harness when you’re not there. It may get caught on something and startle them or pose a choking hazard if Fido decides to eat it.
Make it exciting. Use a cheerful and high-pitched tone when you talk about the leash.
To further encourage positive associations, go to a fun place the first time you let your pup wear their leash outside.
Manage your expectations. Your dog isn’t going to be a pro the very first time they walk on a leash, no matter how you introduce it.
Work on Fido’s comfortability with the leash first. Leash manners can come later.
If your old dog is stuck in their ways, don’t give up. There's hope for them still. Use the same methods as you would for puppies and be consistent. Your dog is still making positive associations even in old age. Do not scold, hit, or pull any dog who doesn’t cooperate with leash walking — this will only make them resist it more.
Introduce the leash slowly while in the home.
Be consistent with leash practice.
Do not use prong, shock, vibration, or similar collars as teaching tools.
Use high-value treats and toys when encouraging walking.
Work on leash training when your dog is well-rested.
Train in warm, dry weather. Cold and wet weather can cause arthritis flare-ups and may make your senior dog less likely to cooperate.
Always be gentle with the leash. Never jerk or pull it.
Be patient. Older dogs walk slower, and it may take more time for them to get comfortable with the leash.
Check out our guide for more tips on teaching an older dog to walk on a leash.
Don’t fret if your dog doesn’t take to dog walking on-leash straight away. It takes some time and patience for dogs to get comfortable with walking. If you implement these tips consistently, your dog will learn to love their leash and may even bring it to you when they feel like walking!