Why Does My Puppy Refuse To Walk With Me?

Picture of Puppy refusing to walk
Photo by Anthony Fomin on Unsplash

You welcome a puppy into your home, however, when you take it for a walk, it doesn’t want to, and it decides to stand its ground and refuse to move when you are outside of the home.

Does that sound familiar?

If so, it’s a very common issue as puppies are new to the world and are very anxious, especially when you take them outside of the home to go on a walk. It can also be a very frustrating time for you, especially as a new dog owner and you will feel confused and frustrated, but treating your puppy differently because they don’t want to walk won’t do you any favours.

So why does my puppy refuse to walk?

If your puppy refuses to walk, there can be a few reasons for this, including being anxious, having an underlying medical issue, lack of training on the leash or lack of social skills, which will impact their confidence outside the home.

Woman walking puppies on a leash
Photo by REVOLT on Unsplash

Taking your puppy outside to receive exercise is crucial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it’s also important for them to see new social settings, other dogs, and humans to improve their social skills. If you are having trouble, then this article will help solve the issues of why your puppy doesn’t want to walk!

My Puppy Is Refusing To Walk

This is a question that we regularly hear from new dog owners and an issue that we have been through ourselves when raising Tilly, our Miniature Dachshund. Below are some reasons for why your puppy refuses to walk.

Your puppy is scared to walk

It’s not uncommon for puppies to be scared when they first start walking, it can be a frightening experience for these little ones, especially if they are very small and have recently been disconnected from the litter.

They will be super sensitive to everything that they come across, including sounds, cars, trees, other dogs, smells, people and movement.  If your puppy wasn’t socialised when they were young, this won’t help the situation and their lack of socialisation will result in an increase in fear. You may also notice that they stop at certain places, or refuse to walk past a certain point, this could be because they have come across something they don’t like or aren’t sure of.

Scared Puppy
Photo by Chris Arthur-Collins on Unsplash

If a puppy is scared and refuses to walk, you may notice that they attempt to lay on the floor, or crouch their bodies with their tail tucked inwards, this is to help them stand their ground and fight against the leash pulling them.

But how do you overcome this? Below are a few ways to ease their anxiety and to help them understand that walking outside should be a fun and positive experience.

  • Reward them with plenty of treats every time they take a step – remember to take a handful of their favourite treats while they walk, and slowly distribute them as they make progress.
  • Use words like “good boy” or “good girl” every time they make progress. Dogs react to the tone of our voices, so if this is said enthusiastically in a calm, but energetic voice, they will surely understand that it’s a positive sign.
  • Keep walks short at first and increase the distance over time. To start with, you could walk to the end of the road that’s a few seconds away, and once they have improved their confidence, you can increase the distance.
  • Improve the bond between you both. Give your puppy plenty of love, affection and attention at home and earn their trust, once this is earned, they will learn that you can be trusted to protect them outside of the home.

Your puppy has a medical condition

If your puppy refuses to walk, it’s worth getting them checked by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Some dogs have a high pain tolerance, so you won’t know that they have something wrong with them, as they are experts at hiding pain. But walking is an activity that can expose weaknesses with joints, so it’s worth getting them checked if you have any concerns.

A qualified vet will be able to undertake an examination of your puppy to rule out any medical conditions.

Any joint, bone or orthopaedic pain will impact your puppies ability to walk, so you should never force it upon them to exercise.

Sad puppy
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Below are some of the signs that your puppy could have a medical condition that’s impacting their ability to walk:

  • Limping and stiffness 
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Refusal to walk
  • Licking or biting a certain area of their body
  • Unable to maintain posture
  • Slipping or falling over while they are walking

If your puppy is showing any of the signs above, you should always get them checked to be on the safe side.

Lack of training on the leash

Does your dog walk fine while not on the leash, but as you put it on, they freeze and decide not to walk?

If that sounds familiar, you may have to take a step backwards and look to train your dog on the leash first.

It’s important for all dogs to be leash trained, as they may not be great off the leash (bad recall, they don’t listen, wander off and get up to no good), or because you need to put them on while walking alongside a busy road or area that requires them to be on a leash. At some point, you will need to put your dog on a leash to protect them.

There are some dogs that are afraid of the leash and may run, hide, or make it difficult for you when you put it on them, this is relatively common, but can easily be overcome with a few simple steps.

Dogs aren’t born to want to be on the leash, or know how it works, they need to be trained.

Puppy on a leash
Photo by Jaroslaw Knapek on Unsplash

If you don’t train your dog on the leash, this could result in negative associations with the leash and see it as a punishment, so it’s very important to introduce the leash with positive reinforcements, like treats.

Below are some simple ways you can help train your dog to walk on a leash:

  • Give them lots of treats when you put them on a leash. This will help make them aware that being on a leash is positive, and certainly not a punishment.
  • Create a word that you can use to tell them that you are about to go on a walk. Some dog owners say “walkies” with an energetic and fun tone to their voice. In time, when your dog understands walkies and loves to go outside and explore, when said, they will prepare themselves to go outside and are usually full of excitement.
  • Keep it simple first and walk them on a leash in a place they know. A great starting location is the garden, as they are familiar with this. You could put them on the leash in the garden and walk small distances with them, while reinforcing positivity by giving them treats. Once they seem happy to be on the leash, you can walk greater distances.
  • When they are on a leash, run ahead and say their name. This will encourage them to run on the leash towards you, and when they get to you, say “good boy” (or girl) and give them a treat. Increase the distance over time, or try to walk away from them, and ask them to come to you by saying their name.

Once our puppy is confident with being on the leash and responds to your recall commands, you can take them outside the home. This could be a local park, cycle track or field that’s somewhere quiet and away from any danger (i.e. roads).

Training your dog to be on a leash will help keep them safe and will allow you both to continue having fun, even in busy environments. Some puppies also prefer to be on a leash, as they know you are nearby, so this could help ease any anxiety that they have too.

Tilly, our dog, is super confident on the leash but off the leash she’s very shy!

Your puppy is having too much fun!

If your dog refuses to leave an area, like a local park or field, it could be that they are having so much fun that they don’t want to leave. They may really like the place that they are in and don’t want to end the fun.

If your puppy has no problems walking, but refuses to move when they reach a destination, this could certainly be the case.

Our puppy, Tilly, refuses to leave our grandma’s house, as she loves being around her and in her garden (it’s much bigger than ours and has lots of flowers). She will lay down and make it difficult for us to put her on the leash, but once she’s on, she moves.

Puppies can be very stubborn, but this behaviour can also be present in older dogs too, if they cherish the place they are in.

Puppy having fun
Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash

Below are some steps to help with this issue:

  • Put your puppy on a leash and continue to walk away from them. The fear of them not being close to you could encourage them to run towards you, however, if they don’t, call their name to see if they respond. If your puppy refuses to come towards you, stand still and wait for them. If their movement is restricted, it’s a matter of time before they give up.
  • Reward them with treats for leaving their cherished area. They will soon understand that leaving is a positive thing and that they will likely be back, this will help in the future when leaving. If they struggle to move, gently put a treat towards their nose, and move it towards the exit. Give them treats as they move and they will soon realise that you are in charge of where they go.
  • Give the destination its own name and reinforce that name throughout the walk in that location. As an example, we call grandma’s house “nannas” and the local park, “park” – we’ve said these words countless times during our time in these areas, that when we say the word(s) at home, Tilly is fully aware of where we are going. This will help them understand that they will return another day, and can be used as a way of getting them excited before leaving the home.

If this fails, you could take the lazy approach and pick them up! Some dogs will attempt to run away from their owners if they know that they are leaving their favourite area, so you need to think tactically about putting them on a leash before showing any signs that you plan to leave. A good trick is to walk towards a place that you can sit, and usually they will run up and try to sit on you, or sit next to you. That’s your chance to put them back on the leash.

Your dog is being exercised to much

It’s possible that your puppy refuses to walk with you because they don’t have the stamina – they could simply be very tired.

If you notice a change in their attitude on different days, and some days they like to walk and some days they don’t, it could be that they have had enough exercise already (garden time, playing with toys, play time, etc).

Puppies require very little exercise throughout the day and it could be that play time has worn them out.

Below are some of the signs that you Puppy may be over-exercised:

  • Fatigue and slowing their pace, panting, stopping or refusing to walk
  • Heat exhaustion, such as excessive panting, having their tongue out, drooling or vomiting

If your Puppy shows any of these signs you need to stop exercising them immediately and let them rest.

Provide them with plenty of water to help cool down. If you are concerned, or they haven’t recovered, you should take them to a veterinarian as heat stroke is a life threatening emergency in dogs.

My puppy refuses to walk outside the house

Dogs like to be in their safe space and if they are very homely, they won’t like the thought of leaving the house.

This is a relatively common issue, especially in smaller breeds.

Puppies that have just been separated from their mothers, brothers and sisters will be very anxious when entering a new home with strangers, and the surroundings will be a new experience for them, especially if they are entering a home that has another dog or young children.

This will be overwhelming for them, so it will take some time for them to get used to their new home.

It’s important to not put pressure on the young puppy and to let them take as much time as they need, before taking them outside the home.

Before taking them outside the house, you could try the following:

  • Have play time in a safe environment, like a garden. This will allow them to enjoy the outdoors in the comfort of their own home, and will let them experience outside sounds, like cars passing by, voices, other dogs barking and wildlife.
  • Have friends and family over. This will help your puppy socialise with other humans and be in a social setting that may be experienced when walking outside the home.
  • Introduce them to other dogs in the garden. This could be a friend’s dog, or a neighbour’s dog, and will give them a chance to socialise and play with olders dogs. Puppies will learn a tremendous amount very quickly while playing with other dogs, so it’s highly recommended. This will help prepare them for other encounters with dogs outside the house when walking.

When you feel your puppy is ready to explore outside the home, we suggest taking them for a short walk. This could be to the end of the road or a quick walk around the block. Reward them with plenty of treats throughout the walk and give them lots of praise.

If they are having fun, you can increase the length of the walk next time around.

Should I drag my puppy on a walk?

No, you should not drag your puppy on a walk.

Forcing your puppy to walk by pulling and dragging on the leash can result in injury to the neck and will harm their sensitive knees, elbows and legs. This could create a negative association with not only you, but the leash and the thought of leaving the home to go on walks.

Dragging and forcing your puppy to go on walks will only make the process more difficult for you and your puppy.

If you are struggling to walk your puppy, you should look at other ways to help them as described in this article, than force.

Conclusion: Why does my puppy refuse to walk with me?

Puppies refusing to walk is a very common issue and one that is to be expected when you buy a puppy, as they are very small, innocent and new to the world.

It’s important to let your puppy take as much time as it needs, and with the right principles, guidance and training, will help boost your puppy’s confidence in taking its next big step outdoors outside the home!

Never force your puppy to do something it’s not comfortable with, as this will only likely create a negative association of both you and the activity, so take it slowly and help guide them in a positive manner.

Why does my puppy refuse to walk with me
Why Does My Puppy Refuse To Walk With Me? By Miniature Friends

Happy walking!

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