What To Do When a Dog Refuses to Walk

When your dog refuses to walk, it can be frustrating. But before you can get them walking again, you need to know why they have stopped. Common reasons dogs stop walking include pain, tiredness, fear, discomfort, reluctance to go home, and postponing the inevitable.

 

 “No, I’m Not Carrying You Home!”

 

We have put together a quick guide to help you to get your dog walking again. We will cover:

  • When your dog refuses to walk out of pain.
  • When your dog refuses to walk out of tiredness.
  • When your dog refuses to walk out of fear.
  • When your dog refuses to walk because they are uncomfortable.
  • When your dog refuses to walk because they dislike what is coming next.
  • When your dog refuses to walk because they do not want to go home.

What To Do When a Dog Refuses to Walk

 

When Your Dog Refuses to Walk Out Of Pain

 

If your dog is refusing to walk out of pain, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • They are limping.
  • They refuse to put weight on their foot/leg.
  • They pull their foot back up as soon as it touches the ground.
  • They whimper or yelp when putting a foot on the ground.

Has your dog recently had an accident that could have resulted in a break or fracture? If there is a possibility of a significant injury, take your dog to the vet clinic right away.

If there is no chance that your dog has a serious injury, the first thing you want to do is assess them for visible signs of injury.

  • Check your dog’s paw pads for cracking or bleeding.
  • Check between your dog’s toes for injury or irritation.
  • Check for any thorns or other foreign objects in your dog’s paw.

If there are no visible signs of injury, your dog might have an injury that you cannot see, like a sprain, strain, muscle pull or ligament tear, etc. In this case, you need to make an appointment with your vet.

 

When Your Dog Refuses to Walk Out Of Tiredness

 

If your dog refuses to walk, it could just be tired!

If your dog is tired, you may notice the following signs:

  • Sleeping heavily.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Refusal to get up.

There are plenty of reasons why your dog might be tired:

  • Has your dog been exceptionally active already today?
  • Is your dog older and just not up to a long walk?
  • Has your dog shown any signs associated with diabetes? (increased appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, etc.)
  • Has your dog shown any symptoms they could be under the weather? Viruses can cause tiredness in our dogs just like they do in us.

If you think your dog is refusing to walk because they are tired, let them rest! Missing one walk isn’t the end of the world but walking your dog when they are tired puts them at risk for injury.

Forcing your dog to walk when they are tired takes the fun out of walks – imagine if someone forced you to eat your favorite food when you were already full, would you enjoy it as much?

 

When Your Dog Refuses to Walk Out Of Fear

 

If your dog is refusing to walk out of fear, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Cowering.
  • Tail tucking.
  • Locking their legs and pulling them backward.
  • Whimpering.

If your dog is refusing to walk because of fear, the first thing you need to do is pinpoint what they are afraid of. For example, does your dog only show the signs above when you walk past motorcycles?

Once you identify what your dog is afraid of, there are two approaches you can take –

  1. Call in a behaviorist/trainer who can help your dog to overcome their fear.
  2. Begin positive reinforcement training. Work with your dog to get closer to a motorcycle by using their favorite treats. Do not push your dog to do anything that makes them uncomfortable. Continue this approach and little by little get closer to the motorcycle.

When Your Dog Refuses to Walk Because They Are Uncomfortable

 

First, note that being uncomfortable is not the same as being sick or afraid, being uncomfortable results from an external influencing factor.

Some reasons why your dog might be uncomfortable include:

  • It is too humid outside.
  • It is too hot outside.
  • The sidewalk is too hot for your dog to walk on.
  • It is too cold outdoors.

If your dog is uncomfortable, you are likely uncomfortable too. The best thing you can do is pay attention to what your dog is trying to tell you! 

Start by assessing the situation and whether there is anything you can do to change it. 

If, for example, your dog is refusing to walk because they are cold, invest in winter wear to keep them warmer!  

If you cannot make accommodations to keep your dog comfortable – for example, if it is too hot outdoors – then stay inside!

 

When Your Dog Refuses to Walk Because They Dislike What is Coming Next

 

If your dog refuses to walk because they dislike what is coming next, you likely already know what they are dreading. For example, if your dog knows that when you get home from a morning walk, you go to work, they may drag their feet or refuse to walk home at all.

When your dog refuses to walk because they dislike what is coming next, they will consistently show reluctance at the same time or before the same activity.

The best approach to this type of refusal to walk is to focus on positive reinforcement.

In the example above, you need to create a positive association for your dog with your leaving for work. So, you might fill a Kong with peanut butter and only give your dog that Kong when you leave for work.

For this type of positive reinforcement to work, you need to make the positive reinforcement something special and reserve it only for the specific thing that your dog is dreading.

 

When Your Dog Refuses to Walk Because They Do not Want to Go Home

 

If your dog refuses to walk because they do not want to go home, they will be reluctant to walk when doing something they enjoy. For example, if you are at the dog park and call your dog because it is time to go home, they may refuse to come to you or just flop down on the floor.

Dogs love to enjoy themselves just like we do! It isn’t unusual for dogs to refuse to come when called, or pretend they are “boneless” when having too much fun to go home.

If your dog is refusing to walk because they do not want to go home, approach the situation the same way you would if your dog refused to walk because they dislike what is coming next. Create a positive association with coming when called or when getting into the car to go home. 

 

Conclusion / Summary

 

Getting your dog walking again is about treating their pain, allowing them to rest, behavioral conditioning, keeping them comfortable, providing good incentives, and using positive reinforcement.  

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