The most common difficulty people have when walking their dogs is pulling on the leash. However, it’s not unheard of for a dog to simply “refuse to move” when out on a walk.
Some dogs will suddenly flatten themselves to the ground, sit, or lay down and not want to go any further. If your dog is one of these, you need to take steps to make him feel more confident.
For some dogs, many things out in the world are frightening or overwhelming. Couple that with the fact that being on leash can make some dogs feel as though they are trapped and could not run away if they needed to; and you can see why a less-than-confident dog might panic and not want to walk on his leash. In order to help a dog like this feel safer and enjoy his walks, start small. Begin by acclimating your dog to being on his leash in an environment in which he’s comfortable. Simply let him sit or walk around the house with his leash on. Periodically, walk over and give the leash a gentle tug; just enough so that your dog feels the pressure. Then say, “yes,” give him a treat, and walk away. Once your dog is moving comfortably around the house with his leash on, begin to ask him for a little movement. Hold one end of the leash and walk as far away from your dog as it will allow without becoming taut. Kneel down and encourage your dog to come to you. When he does, use your reward marker and give a reward. The next step might be to encourage your dog to follow you just a step or two while you’re holding the leash.
Once your dog is comfortable walking the way you’d like in the house, you can begin practicing in the back or front yard. Moving outside may still be quite frightening for your dog, so you may need to use even better rewards and start the process over (reward your dog simply for feeling a periodic tug on the leash, then for walking to you across the length of the leash, then for walking with you a few steps). When your dog is comfortable in the yard, begin taking him off your property only very briefly. At this stage, heading back home will probably serve as a powerful reward for walking just a handful of yards down the sidewalk.
This process may sound monotonous, but once you get your dog moving outside just a bit, he should gain confidence very quickly. Once that happens, walking will become its own reward; for you and your dog!
Guest Contributor–Danielle Grand has spent the last decade working to parlay her affinity for animals into a dog training career. While earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, she was involved in an experimental study on canine cognition. She has also obtained her dog training certification from Animal Behavior College and attended numerous dog training seminars conducted by respected behaviorists. At home in New York’s capital region, she works closely with colleagues and mentors to expand her expertise; she hopes to help forge strong, happy relationships between many dogs and their humans.