It’s a beautiful day, and you want to take the dog out for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. But as you reach the sidewalk, the dog slams on their brakes and refuses to move. You encourage them with words — nothing happens. You pull forward — the dog pulls back. You don’t want to drag them along the concrete, so what can you do?

First, you need to understand what is behind the improper behavior, then arm yourself with a few tools and techniques to overcome the issue. We have some insights for you here, and if you need more help, we can train your dog and show you how to keep the momentum going.

Why Does My Dog Refuse to Walk on a Leash?

#1: They Know They Can

Sometimes, when we see this with our clients, we wonder who’s training whom? Who’s walking whom? It looks like the dog is calling the shots. 

We see it a lot with smaller dogs because those are the ones that get picked up and carried or placed in a large purse or a pet stroller. They get used to that, especially if it starts when they’re young. The larger dogs learn that if they put the brakes on long enough, they can go back home or in the desired direction. The pet parent doesn’t know what to do, so they go along with what the dog wants.

#2: They are Ill or Injured

A dog may refuse to walk because they don’t feel well. Perhaps they stepped on something that hurt a paw, or they’re a senior dog with chronic aches and pains. If it makes them hurt, they won’t want to go. 

An injury may be the culprit if the refusal to walk is a suddenly new behavior. Take your dog to the vet if you’re concerned about possible health problems. 

#3: They are Scared

Several things involved in the walking process can scare a dog. If you have a puppy or an adult rescue dog that has never encountered a collar and leash, they may balk at the feeling of restraint and the inability to escape. If someone uses the collar and leash to aggressively pull the dog, they will associate these tools with negative actions.

To a puppy or dog that’s spent much of their life confined, being in wide open spaces, like outside, can be overwhelming and make them shut down. Also, if they’re in a new home, they are not yet adjusted to the area, which is a big unknown to them. 

There may be something nearby, such as an object or smell, that is scary. Kids on bikes, joggers, other dogs, or anything that reminds them of something or someone that threatened them in the past can trigger fear.

#4: Their Leash or Gear is Poorly Fitted

A walk is no fun if what the dog is wearing is uncomfortable. A collar, harness, sweater, or any other gear must be appropriately fitted for the dog’s comfort and safety. It shouldn’t limit the dog’s mobility

#5: They are Tired

Sometimes your furry friend is just plain dog-tired. If they’ve had a long day, or it’s close to a time when they would typically nap, they might be reluctant to go for a walk. If you’re already out, and the dog loses steam halfway through, the exercise routine might be too much for them — too fast or too great of a distance — something to watch for, especially with a senior dog.

#6: They Just Don’t Want to Go

Either they don’t want to go out, or when out, they don’t want to go in. We’ve seen funny YouTube videos of dogs refusing to leave the dog park. Who would want to leave that? Your dog may have a stubbornness that requires training to come to you when you call them

#7: They Lack Leash Training

If your dog has never been leashed or had a bad experience with it in the past, they have not been properly trained. The collar and leash should be associated with positive moments — getting outside to experience exciting sights, sounds, and smells, meeting people and other dogs, and exploring new places. Effective training will help make that connection.

Comfortably Walking on a Leash

The leash is there for us to lead and guide the dog, not for the dog to drag the pet parent around. We teach the dog to respect the boundary of the leash and emphasize pack drive. Pulling on the leash is prey drive. The right training will get the dog moving and teach the pet parent how to act as the pack leader. 

A dog who won’t walk with the pet parent might not hesitate to do so with a trainer. That is because the trainer takes a leadership role that the dog recognizes. They realize the refusal to walk does not work with this person. It goes back to a pack principle — they will either lead or follow. If they look to you as that person in charge, they will follow your lead. 

How Can I Enjoy Hassle-free Walks Again?

In addition to leash training, there are a few other things you can do

  • Speeding up will keep your dog moving and not give them a chance to flop to the ground.
  • Use verbal commands like “Let’s go!” to get the excitement going.
  • Walk often to repeat the behavior you want.

Be patient with a fearful dog, and gradually help them overcome or avoid what they fear. Use praise and treats to encourage them. Socialize your dog to be comfortable with all kinds of people and dogs. Maintain a positive attitude and make the walk fun.

And don’t forget to reward good walking behavior with treats and praise. Positive reinforcement always goes a long way!

Seek Help from a Professional Trainer!

If what you’ve tried hasn’t worked to your satisfaction, call a professional trainer, such as our team members at K9 Basics. We will not only train your dog, but we will also teach you how to maintain the good dog etiquette they learn here. Contact us and tell us about your dog, then make an appointment to see us. Meanwhile, take a look at our blog for a variety of helpful topics all about how to correct inappropriate behavior!

Remember, you are the pack leader. Where you lead, your dog will follow!