Has the vet recently given you the green light to start taking your puppy for a walk but they refuse? This post is dedicated to all those people who, like you, have the following doubt: "What do I do if my puppy does not want to walk?"
Has the vet recently given you the green light to take your dog outside for walks, but they don’t want to go? This post is for everyone who, like you, is asking: “What should I do if my puppy doesn’t want to go for a walk?”.
Behaviour that should signal that your puppy does not want to go for a walk
It’s very normal for puppies to be reluctant to go for a walk the first few times that you take them outside. The novelty is overwhelming. Some dogs are more daring by nature and need less time to adapt than others. However, if your dog is more timid, they will need time and patience to get used to all the new stimuli in the street. That’s totally normal, and nothing to worry about. However, there are certain behaviours that will alert you to the fact that your puppy does not want to go for a walk. They are:
- Your puppy seems very frightened of noises in the street: they constantly try to run away, they are very disturbed and frequently pulls on the lead to go home, or asks insistently to be picked up. In these cases, it's important to assess the level of fear and tension shown by the puppy. If it’s too high you’ll need to take him to a dog trainer or animal behaviourist as a matter of urgency, to help them manage their anxiety.
- Your dog is aggressive whenever you try to put their collar or lead on at home: some dogs adopt aggressive behaviour as an avoidance strategy in situations that they find uncomfortable. If this is the case for your puppy, you should consult with a dog trainer as soon as possible who will assess your dog’s temperament but also teach you to redirect the aggressive behaviour into more acceptable behaviours. Canine aggression will not go away by itself; it may actually get worse as the dog discovers that their aggressive strategy is effective in “saving” themselves from things that they don’t like.
- Your puppy doesn’t want to go for a walk because he is scared of strangers: some puppies with socialisation problems can display excessive fear of strangers. Going out for a walk is unpleasant for them, because they encounter lots of strangers who might even approach them to try to stroke them. In that case, you should contact an animal behaviourist or dog trainer as soon as possible to treat the fear of strangers. The puppy stage is the best time to work on that behaviour and encourage the dog to react positively to contact with strangers.
- Your dog expresses extreme fear when confronted with other dogs: the puppy phase is also the most important socialisation stage in your dog’s life. That’s why it’s important to teach him to interact with other dogs in the right way. You could sign up to a puppy socialisation class or a basic dog training course. It’s essential to establish good foundations in puppyhood so that your dog grows up to be a well-balanced animal in adulthood.
Acceptable behaviour when your puppy doesn’t want to go for a walk
We’ve looked at the warning signs to bear in mind if your puppy refuses to go out for a walk. But there are also a series of behaviours that fall into the category of “normal” which you don’t need to be concerned about.
- Your puppy stops every two or three steps: it’s normal, on the first few walks, for your dog to stop, sit and even refuse to continue walking. As we’ve said before, the novelty of being outside can be overwhelming. The important thing is not to display any anxiety. Be patient, respect their pace and, if necessary, motivate them to continue walking and exploring the street by offering a toy or edible treat.
- Your puppy won’t urinate or defecate in outside: many dog owners worry because their dogs seem to wait until they get back home in order to empty their bladders. This is absolutely normal. Bear in mind that a puppy will not do their business in public until they feel secure in their new surroundings. Again, be patient and remember to reward your puppy when they finally urinates or defecates outside the house.
Before despairing with the worry of “My puppy doesn’t want to go for walks – what should I do?”, remember that your puppy is on a constant journey of discovery, and that the outside world contains a lot of new stimuli which can be worrying: loud traffic noise, people rushing around, other dogs, smoke, unknown smells, etc. If they need some time to explore that new world, we should understand that and adapt to the pace of the walk that they set.
How to teach a dog to walk
Teaching a dog to walk is not usually a big problem. Getting them to walk calmly without pulling on the lead, however, is another matter. In fact, some owners go from thinking “My puppy doesn’t want to go for walks” to the problem of “My puppy cannot walk calmly and always pulls on the lead”. Let’s take a look at some basic advice to train your dog to walk properly:
- Getting used to the collar or harness and the lead: With puppies, it’s important to train them to get used to wearing a collar or lead before going outside for the first time. To do that, try putting the collar or harness on your dog in the house for short periods of time. Always give your puppy a reward when you put it on. In that way, your dog will associate the harness or collar with a positive experience.
- Getting used to stimuli: Dogs that live in urban environments, particularly, have to deal with a multitude of sound, smell, touch and even taste sensations in the street. Smoke, cars, children playing in the park, scooters, bicycles, motorbikes, noisy buses, etc. are a lot to them all at once. In order to make sure that your puppy is not overwhelmed by all of this stimulation. (something that’s at the heart of the concern which this post hopes to address: “My dog doesn’t want to go for walks”), and that they start to associate these new sensations with something positive, we recommend that before your puppy has all their vaccinations and is ready to go and walk in the street, pick them up and let them observe the world from the safety of your arms. That will help them to become used to the environment. Once the vet has cleared your puppy to be taken out for walks, start with short walks, in quiet areas and at quiet times: for example, don’t take them on a walk near a school at the end of the school day.
- ALWAYS take edible treats or toys with you to offer your dog during the walk whenever there is a loud noise, or a car, bike or scooter passes by too close. The idea is that your dog will associate those things with a positive experience.
- Don’t take your puppy to a dog park on the first day
- At first, don’t force your puppy to do anything that they don’t want to unless you want to be back where you started, once again asking “My puppy doesn’t want to go for walks – what should I do?”. Remember that every animal goes at their own pace.
- Don’t pull on the lead: Lastly, it is important to teach your puppy, from the outset, to walk calmly without pulling on the lead. Stop every time your dog pulls on the lead don’t let them continue: don’t yank on the lead as you might hurt them. Just stop moving. The lead must represent a clear boundary for your dog. Call them back to where you have stopped, and give them a treat when they return to you. Once your puppy is back at your side, start walking again. If they pull on the lead again, repeat the process.