What To Do If Your Dog Is Afraid To Walk Far From Home

fearful dogs Jul 24, 2023
Dog scared to walk

Do you have a fearful dog who is reluctant to walk more than a short distance from home? This is a pretty common problem, but it can usually be addressed with good positive reinforcement training. 

Last week I talked about some of the many reasons why a dog might stop on a walk and refuse to move forward. This week, the focus is on those dogs who appear to be balking because they don't want to move farther away from home. Here are some tips for overcoming this challenge:  


Tip #1 For Dogs Who Don't Want To Leave Home: Make Sure Your Dog Isn't In Pain

If your dog seems reluctant to walk very far, you'll want to rule out possible medical causes. Tell your vet about what's going on and ask for an exam. This is especially important if your dog used to go for longer walks happily, but now is lagging and unenthusiastic on walks. 


Tip #2 For Dogs Who Don't Want To Leave Home: Stop Walking So Far

If your dog doesn't want to walk far from home, your first step in increasing their comfort with walking is, counterintuitively, to stop trying to make them walk so far.  If your dog balks in order to delay walking farther, they're probably not enjoying the walk at that point.  If you'd like them to eventually enjoy long walks, start by making their walks a positive experience- which means not trying to force them to go farther than they're willing to go. 

So how far SHOULD you try to walk? Only walk a far as your dog will go with you happily- without the use of treats to lure them forward. If you have to use food or leash pressure to keep your dog moving, you've gone too far. Work closer to home for now. 


Tip #3 For Dogs Who Don't Want To Leave Home: Let Your Dog Lead The Way

It can be very helpful when training a fearful dog to enjoy walks, to let them lead the way and walk in front of you.  Watch them closely and try to walk in the direction and at the pace that they choose. It's easiest to honor your dog's choices when you are following them, rather than trying to get them to follow you. 


Tip #4 For Dogs Who Don't Want To Leave Home: Make The Walk Fun

Bring your dog's favorite treats and toys on the walk, and use them liberally. Avoid using the treats to lure your dog in a particular direction, but you can use treats in training games, or to encourage sniffing by scattering treats in the grass. 


Tip #5 For Dogs Who Don't Want To Leave Home: Head Home At The First Sign Of Decreased Enthusiasm

Ideally, don't wait until your dog is clearly anxious and pulling toward home to head back. Watch for smaller signs of lessened enthusiasm, like a decreased pace or starting to lag, more stops, and scanning the environment. Turn toward home and see if they'd like to go that direction.  

  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.