Why Does My Dog Refuse To Move On Walks?

fearful dogs Jul 17, 2023
dog refusing to walk

Do you have a dog who sometimes lies down, sits, or plants their paws and refuses to move forward on walks? Or maybe even tries to run home? We've had the question, "Why does my dog do this?" come up several times in our free Facebook support group, so I decided it was time to write a blog on it! 

Dogs balk on walks for lots of reasons. To decipher why your dog is balking, think about what results from their behavior. What do they get out of it? This is a clue to what need the behavior is meeting for your dog. While there is a probably an endless list of possibly reasons for refusing to move on walks, here are a few common ones I've encountered repeatedly with client dogs: 


Reason For Refusing To Walk #1: Avoid Or Delay Moving (Possibly In A Particular Direction)

This reason is really an umbrella for several more specific reasons for refusing to walk. Many of our client dogs are fearful, and they appear to be balking on walks in order to delay or avoid moving farther from home, or toward or past an area that they find scary for some reason. On the flip side, some dogs seem to try to delay going home, in which case prolonging the outing might be their "why" for refusing to move. Finally, if your dog might be fatigued or in pain, they might be trying to delay or avoid the additional pain or discomfort of continuing to walk, no matter the direction. 


Reason For Refusing To Walk #2: Food And/Or Attention From You

Do you give your dog attention when they refuse to move on walks? Maybe you try to lure them with treats to get them moving again? Some dogs quickly learn that stopping and refusing to walk will produce treats.

My dog Juno was fearful when she was younger, and balked on walks to try to avoid going toward locations she found scary. I didn't want to push her, so I always let her go back in the direction she wanted to. However, over time she generalized this behavior and started planting her paws when she wanted to stop and sniff something a little longer. At that point I started using treats to get her moving again- and she learned this new use of the balking behavior quickly. She'd plant her paws and wag her tail with a big grin on her face, waiting for her reward for balking! So I'd effectively trained her to refuse to walk in order to get treats. 


Reason For Refusing To Walk #3: Social Interaction With Other People Or Dogs

If you have a social dog, getting to interact with other walkers or their dogs could be an important reinforcer for them. If your dog tends to refuse to move when a person or dog is approaching, and then they sometimes get to go say "hi" to them, this could be their "why" for balking on walks. 

 In our next installment, I'll talk about what to do to decrease balking on walks, for dogs who are uncomfortable moving far from home.  

  If you found these tips helpful, or if you have important pointers that have helped you, we'd like to hear from you! You can comment below this blog, shoot us an email ([email protected]), or message us on Facebook or Instagram.