Ahimsa Dog Training, Seattle

What to Do When a Dog Refuses to Walk

Is your dog a stubborn Donkey Dog? A lot of dogs pull forward on leash, but some dogs and many puppies pull *backward* or refuse to walk. This happens to French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs all the time! Pulling harder or luring with a treat only makes the problem worse, so what should you do to help your dog or puppy get moving?!

Many of the techniques in my Leash Walking article are still valid, here are some tips just for leash laggers:

  1. Check with your vet to make sure there’s not a health issue going on that is causing your dog to stop walking (growing pains, arthritis, etc.)
  2. Circle around your dog, then walk in the direction you wanted to go. That sometimes gets them up and moving.
  3. Teach Touch (hand to nose) and ask your dog to touch to get him to move. Reward by tossing the treat in the direction you want to walk.
  4. Don’t bring out a treat to lure your dog forward, as that rewards your dog’s stopping behavior.
  5. Just wait. When your dog does move, click and toss a treat in the direction you want to walk.
  6. Teach “Let’s Go” by saying it just before your dog is about to walk anyway. You can make this extra fun by clicking when your dog does move and rewarding with treats or toys.
  7. Use Silky Leash. Teach your dog that light pressure on the leash means to go in that direction using the Silky Leash technique.
  8. Don’t pull with constant pressure on the dog. That just causes your dog to go in the opposite directions. Traditional force-based trainers actually use a similar technique to teach dogs to stay!
  9. Use reverse psychology: tell your dog to “Stay,” wait for a little bit, and then suddenly say, “okay!” and move on. Reward for moving.

The methods I described above assumed that the dog was not fearful, just didn’t want to go forward. If you have a fearful dog, I would teach the Let’s Go cue, but I would also work on desensitizing their fear, so they have less reason to pull back. We have classes for fear and also sell three useful books: Behavior Adjustment Training, Cautious Canine and Help for Your Fearful Dog.

What tips do you have to share? Please post in the comments below. Thanks in advance!

Written by Grisha Stewart, Ahimsa Dog Training, Seattle [Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon] Tweet This Post!
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16 Responses to “What to Do When a Dog Refuses to Walk”

  1. Jamie Cordes Says:

    Hoping you can help me… I’ve got a 120lb Akita mix who is very willfull. For the last six months (new home) he’s been great, twice daily walks, play in the park – he just really loved his walks! Then, I went out of town for 2 weeks, and while I was gone, my house/dog sitter tried to walk him, and he refused (by getting to end of driveway and lying down). When I returned home, this behavior continued. He will only go to the park now… any other path and it’s a no-go. At 120lbs, if he doesn’t want to move, there isn’t much I can do about it. I’ve continued the routine, but we never make it 50 ft from the house, and we just return. He seems generally afraid (his curly tail goes down, and he won’t look me in the eye) although I can’t imagine why… he’s absolutely the alpha male of the neighborhood and has left his mark EVERYWHERE. Any ideas? He’s pretty chunky, so I need to keep him walking and the park isn’t always accessible! Thanks so much for your time, ~Jamie (and Chewie)

  2. Grisha Says:

    Keep in mind that every consequence has the chance to reward, punish, or not have any effect on the dog’s behavior. If you return home when he plops down, chances are, you’re reinforcing that. If you return home while he’s still walking out at a good pace, you could reinforce that, instead. I’d start out with some loops. As in, 20 feet forward, treat, and then return to the starting place. Then wait a 20-30 seconds and do it again, maybe going 22 feet that time or 25. Then the next loop is 30 feet, and so on. Don’t do too many in a row.

    One variation might be to set out (in advance) a string of uber-tasty treats, about 5 feet apart, starting with 25 feet out and going maybe to 60 or 70 feet. That way, they get the reward there, and you walk back empty-handed. Repeat to the next treat, etc. Worth a try! It may be better if those treats are a surprise (i.e., your dog won’t start to get dependent on them), so you’ll have to experiment. Either way, expect to do this for several sessions.

    Meanwhile, lower the calories at home so you’re not making Chewie fat. Exercise in the house (fetch, tug, etc.) As long as you’re walking, he’s exercising, even if you’re walking in circles. So take your time with expanding those little loops.

    Other possibilities are what I’ve already said in this article. Targeting (dog touching nose to your hand) is a great way to get them to move and get over their fears. If all else fails, get a positive reinforcement trainer to come out to the house to help you.

  3. lynne Says:

    Our 5 year old yorkie will only walk to the end of our driveway to the curb, and pee. If I gently prod her forward she will go a few more feet very quickly, poo, and then turn around to go back to the house. She only will walk in the direction of the house. Sometimes she will just sit in the street and run in between our legs to avoid walking. She does not like treats very much. My husband just carries her back to the house. I do walk her on a leash but as soon as she’s done her business she tugs and pulls to get back. We had a dog trainer come to the house, but the dog still refused to walk. She only likes to go in one direction, back home. Even if we carry her and place her a few blocks from the house, she will turn herself towards the house and walk very quickly ahead of us ,pulling on th leash to get back.

    She was always a reluctant walker. About a month ago, she woke up in the morning with a limp,lifting her right front paw in the air. We took her to the vet who could not find anything wrong. We have been giving her rimydal and she seems to be walking fine,but she is still very stubborn and even attempts to avoid going out by putting her rump firmly on the floor and trying to walk away from the lease which has a soft adjustable thin collar.

    The vet wants to take x rays, but she is no longer limping.
    Any suggestions would be really appreciated. My husband feels the dog just doesn’t like to be walked

  4. Dana Says:

    Jamie–sounds like you and I are in similar situations. Teddy will only willfully walk a few paths near our home. In new places, he walks fine, but when we are around our neighborhood, he refuses to walk in certain directions, down certain streets. I feel like I’ve tried everything :/

  5. Kara Main-Hester Says:

    We see this a lot at the shelter with either puppies or dogs that are new. We find that it often helps to use a buddy system. Get another dog and walker and allow the confident dog to lead the way for the “newbie.” It’s simple, but it works very well. -Kara

  6. Nick Says:

    Hi I need some solid advice. I have a two month old Brt and she is great.playing in the yard, no mess in the house,just barely biting my 11 month son during play.. Until I need to walk her. Her ladyship just wants home. Shell do her business and stop/ sit / lie down. I tried luring/ calling / jumping around like an idiot- so far to no avail. She is Very well bred and vet went ballistic when he saw her. So it must be me.what could I be doing wrong?

  7. Grisha Says:

    Thanks, Kara!! Great idea!!!

  8. Grisha Says:

    Your dog may be a little fearful. Your puppy class instructor can probably help teach you some positive ways to get the dog to be more confident (and move). Do some research on BAT (if you’re in our puppy class, there is info in the free training manual) and if you can get the ‘Give Your Puppy a Choice’ DVD, do so. We have it in our online store and our ‘real’ store in Seattle.

    In addition to the tips above, you can also think of going home as a reward. As she’s walking away, you can say, ‘yes, good girl,’ and let her go home. Repeat.

  9. maxine coates Says:

    I have a three legged labrador that is just under a year and a half, we rescued her from a shelter and have had her for six months. She is a great dog and has excelled with her training. The only problem is she has never been good walking with a lead, as she has three legs she finds it much easier walking fast so always has walked fast and pulling on lead. We now have a lead with a head collar which our local dog trainer advised, she now walks at a much better pace and has stopped pulling. She loves going for walks, she walks fine on leash with a head collar and when we get to the park she is excellent off lead. The problem is when we are ready to go home, she refuses to go back on lead. She’ll lie down when she see’s the lead and refuses to move. She’ll take a couple of steps and lie down again, it can take over 30 minutes to get home which only should take 5. I know shes not tired as we sit in the shade before leaving the park, she’s also in no pain as i took her to the vet. She’ll walk fine by my side off lead but i wont risk that when we are near busy roads. We have many walks we can go on as im lucky to be surrounded with countryside and parks but only ever go to the closest park as there isn’t many roads so she can walk off lead home. It’s almost like she is telling me she is the boss and will only walk home on her terms which means no lead but like i said we have no other problems with her, she is very well trained, never trying to be top dog.
    I have tried taking her tennis ball which she loves, I’ve tried treats, I’ve tried walking with other dogs but nothing works with her lead on!!
    Please help!!

  10. Kristie Says:

    Hello I have a 7 mo old beagle/ rat terrier mix puppy that we just brought home last week. The first few days she did just fine walking and goin potty, but now she just doesn’t want to budge at all when I take her out, and doesn’t want to potty she just wants to come back home. Then after I take her out she ends up peeing on the floor. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I don’t want to force her to walk but at the same time she needs to for excercise and restroom relief? What should I do?

  11. Richard Evans Says:

    I have a 9 month old, Olde English Bulldogge. I got him when he was a little over 3 months old, but he never has been a walker. However, I started to walk him and we were walking up to 2 miles a day. One day whn he was 7/8 months he was limping, so the vet told me not to walk him. Since then he refuses to walk..drag him and as soon as he sees a green patch he will flop. Before, I used a choke collar and had no problems, but our puppy trainer and almost every one said to use a harness. These 2 situations presented almost at the same time. Ever since, if I “get mad” and force him to walk, he will, although I will have to continuously pull him to catch up and command HEEL. It has become a not joyful moment when I walk him after dinner. What can I do?

    Thank you.

  12. Sherry Schwarcz Says:

    My nine month old sighthound has been putting on the breaks when we walk in the direction of home. She usually walks well on the way out and to the dog park. However it can take up to an hour to get home from what should be a 15 minute walk. Needless to say this is getting worse and I am trying the silky leash indoors but that takes time. In the meantime, I am dreading the walks that I know she needs for stimulation and exercise. I don’t want to exacerbate the problem by taking her out for short walks only but I am nearly at the end of my leash.

  13. Grisha Says:

    Try doing more training with her favorite treats or toys on the way home, or setting up little ‘search stations’ where she looks for some treats you have dropped. Giving her some fun activities on the way home should help. Also try the leash skills in the video at http://functionalrewards.com/more/using-a-leash-in-bat/

  14. Grisha Says:

    Richard – I’m really glad you’re using a harness. Try using the techniques at http://functionalrewards.com/more/using-a-leash-in-bat/ (there’s also a link to a handout at the bottom). We also have a whole blog post on making walks more fun: http://ahimsadogtraining.com/blog/leash-walking/

  15. Sue Says:

    Hi my Scottie dog is 9 months old and has just been in season and she has started to do the same thing lying down on the way home and refusing food to walk and I feel terrible as I have to use the traffic control strap to lift her to make her walk as she’s to heavy to carry she has is also terriblely social and wants to meet and greet every dog she sees is this normal I don’t let her off the lead as she just wouldn’t come back and I’m scared she’ll go to dogs that aren’t nice and get hurt she just never backs down and even though a dog barks at her in not so nice bark she’ll still approach again to play how can I stop this?

  16. Ana Says:


    I have 3,5 month old Staffy, and we have a problem with house breaking. The thing is, we go to work in the morning around 8 and come back at 4, so she is home alone 8 hours 5 days a week. I know that she should at least be taken out side at noon, but its really not possible. Do you have any advice, how to organize eating schedule, or drinking water schedule in order to help her learn. The thing is I am aware that she can hold as much hours as she is old, but it would be a peaty if she is 9 months old and still pee on a dipper :(. What to do, I dont want to give her away

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