Help! My dog refuses to walk: Tips for the Reluctant Walker

Help! My dog refuses to walk: Tips for the Reluctant Walker

We have a reluctant walker. We often joke that the weather has to be ‘just so’ for our dogs to go out and enjoy an on-lead walk- not too hot, not too cold and certainly not dark or rainy! But what can we do when our dog refuses to walk?

Your first steps:  

dog refuses to walk

Firstly, consider what is stopping your dog from wanting to go out and walk. If this is unusual behaviour, check that they are in good health and not in any pain. Book in a check- up with your vet just to be sure if you are in any doubt.

New whippet owner

When you have ruled out health issues, consider their ‘equipment’ and any possible environmental reasons for their reluctance. With our dog it is usually weather, being too tired, or the dark. For other dogs this could be anxiety related to traffic, people, dogs or other fears.  Refusal to walk could also be a physical discomfort. A new lead or collar that feels strange for example.

Top-tips to encourage movement:

health checks for dogs

So, if there is no physical or health reason for your dog’s refusal to walk, here are some ideas to try to encourage movement. They are all based on positive training and have been the most successful strategies for us to date, gleaned from trainers, friends and research. Please do bear in mind that these are not ‘cure-all’ and we are not experts. At times we don’t succeed and simply listen to his signals and leave him be. You may wish to check out this resource at that gives you some tips on walking your dog

Get a good harness:

the reluctant walker

Our boys most definitely walk better and appear calmer when we use a two point harness as opposed to a collar around their neck. Our favourite dog harnesses (not just for whippets) here. Once your dog becomes comfortable on a harness, you may find it enjoys it so much it begins to pull. It’s recommended that you opt for a no-pull harnesses when it comes to walking powerful breeds to discourage any sudden jerks on your lead.

The silly voice:

new whippet owner

Using a silly voice can get your dog excited and therefore distract them, sometimes get them moving with you. Try mixing it up between a squeaky and a deep voice but always maintain a happy tone to make the walk a positive experience.

Give them space:

GPS for dogs

If you have been able to identify an anxiety trigger, for example other dogs, try and make sure that you give your dog space and deal with their fears positively. We used the The Dog Guardian to gain strategies for our reactive dog. He has some excellent advice for many training issues.

Changing direction and pace:

This is so simple but really works. Sometimes simply changing direction or pace can be a welcome distraction from the refusal. Combine with a light jog and a silly voice to really get going- this often gets Jarvis very excited and moving nicely!

The tasty treats or a toy:

handmade dog treats online

Be careful with this one- the treat needs to be for moving rather than stopping, so offer a tasty treat, or a favourite toy, when your dog is walking nicely alongside you. Use the command ‘good walk’ or similar to reinforce the desired behaviour.


GPS for dogs

Just allowing your dog to sit or stand still for a minute or two may give them the time and desire to get moving again. Allow them plenty of sniffing time too.

Listening to their signals:

scent games for dogs

We used to worry incessantly if our dog didn’t get two long walks each day, come rain or shine. Now we do try and listen to the signals he is giving and will just go for a short toilet trip in poor weather and build in rest time. On these less active days we top up slightly less physical exercise with some brain work and scent based games in the house.  

When your dog refuses to walk:

What have been your most successful ways of encouraging a reluctant walker? Please share them in the comments below.

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