Our dogs might seem almost human to us, but they still have powerful animal needs for plenty of daily exercise. If you struggle to lead your pup on a leash, consider these common reasons and learn how to leash train a dog for successful walks!
Dog owners know that giving our dogs plenty of exercise is necessary for everyone's happiness as well as our sanity.
Both puppies and adult dogs do best with at least 30-60 minutes of exercise each day - giant breeds tend to need more, while the tiny legs of smaller breeds tire out much more quickly.
Whether you're smack in the middle of new puppy training, or your dog suddenly doesn't want to walk as long, struggling to walk your dog on a leash can be super-frustrating.
Learn more below about the common causes of difficult leash walking and how to train a dog to walk on a leash no matter their age or temperament.
Doggie Health Benefits: Important Reasons to Walk the Dog
Like humans, dogs thrive when exercised daily and will begin to suffer if they're chronically under-exercised.
Here are 5 reasons it's crucial to walk your dog every day:
- Physical and Mental Stimulation. Without stimulation, our pups end up with a ton of pent-up energy and boredom, which leads to destructive behaviors and excessive anxiety.
- Weight Maintenance. A well-exercised dog will maintain a healthy weight when paired with a good-quality, portion-controlled diet.
- Builds Social Skills. Walking out in the world exposes your pup to other dogs, people, and environments, which all help them build confidence, keep an open mind, and learn that not all strangers are bad!
- Deepens Training Skills. Practice makes perfect, so they say. Walking your dog while using training techniques helps solidify your dog's skills.
- Strengthens Your Bond. Training your dog and having fun together helps the bond with your best pal grow stronger.
Find 30 minutes each day to take your four-legged pal out and teach your dog to go for a walk!
5 Reasons Why Your Dog Won't Leash Walk
#1 Lack of Experience
When do puppies start walking?
- We can start to leash train our pups around four weeks old, though some may not begin until much later.
- Puppies love to move, and for many young dogs, their first few times leash walking is a bumpy ride - don't worry, they'll pick up the ropes fairly quickly with some leash training.
- Even grown adult doggos may lack leash experience - rescue pups come from various scenarios of neglect and inexperience doing what we consider the spice of every dog's life, leash walks!
#2 Fear and Social Anxiety
Doggos are highly-emotional, edging onto the side of sensitivity. This sensitivity helps them to bond closely with us, but it also makes some pups a little fearful of the world outside their familiar home.
If your dog doesn't head outside often or has had a traumatic experience with another dog, person, or unfamiliar outside object, they may become nervous and start to avoid going on their daily walks.
#3 Bad Collars or Leashes
Sometimes the reason your dog isn't walking is a simple one - their leash or collar is painful or uncomfortable around their next.
- A particularly heavy or thick leash may be too much for a smaller-sized dog.
- Prong and choke collars cause your dog some discomfort and pain as the collar pulls on the skin.
- These collars may give your pup a negative association with walks, making them refuse to move when one is around their neck.
#4 Unknown Pain or Injury
Our dogs can't tell us when they're hurting, which unfortunately means from time to time they may be walking around with undiagnosed pain or injury that we haven't discovered yet.
Dogs may refuse or struggle to walk when suffering from an acute injury, like a pulled muscle, or age-related joint stiffness and pain.
#5 Reluctance to Leave the Party
If you have special guests at home and you're trying to leash up or take your canine home from the dog park, your dog may be hesitating to leave because he's simply having way too much fun!
Lead Training: How to Get Your Dog to Walk on A Leash
The goal with training isn't just to get your dog to walk - we want your dog walking on a leash without pulling from either party. First, let's figure out how to cope with the obstacles above.
Solution #1: Inexperienced Dogs
New pups or adult dogs that haven't leash-walked before should get used to the leash and collar before you attempt a walk.
- Place the collar and lead around your dog's neck and let them hang out inside with it on to get used to the sensation and weight.
- Be sure to supervise your dog during the process to ensure they don't get the leash caught and hurt themselves or damage your furniture.
After a few minutes:
- Try holding the leash in your hand with no tension, and call your dog to you in a pleasant tone.
- Reward with treats for good behavior and repeat the process as you move to different areas of your house before moving outside.
- Walk your pup up bed ramps, then stairs, and throughout the house.
- From there, walk in a small yard with the lead and treats, and move to the big outside world once you feel sufficiently practiced.
By rewarding your pup for wearing its collar and lead, they'll associate the lead with a positive reward and become happier and happier as you pull it out to wear.
Solution #2: Fear and Anxiety Around Walking
The biggest thing to remember when dealing with a dog's fear and anxiety is to take things slowly - if you try to push too hard, too quickly, it will backfire and lead to even more stress for your dog around the activity.
- If your pup is scared, stay away from the dog park, especially if your dog barks at other dogs and shows other aggressive behaviors. The dog park will be way too overwhelming for a fearful dog and make them even less enthused about the idea of leaving the house.
- Desensitize the doggo with slow, controlled exposure - try taking your dog outside in less busy hours when fewer people and animals are around, especially if you live in a busy city with plenty of sounds, smells, and sights.
- Bring your dog around one other leashed dog and allow them to get used to small bits of socialization.
- Whenever your dog shows any positive behavior towards a walk, give them positive verbal feedback with a cue word and a treat.
- Offer your pup some treats and give them freely whenever loud noises or intense stimuli happen so that your dog learns to associate those experiences more positively.
Solution #3: Uncomfortable Leads
It's essential to choose a suitable collar and leash size relative to your dog's size.
- A small breed can get away with a slim collar, whereas large breeds have larger necks and larger collar and leash needs.
- Ask the pet store associates to find the lightest options that will be safe for your pup to increase their comfort.
- Instead of a pronged training collar, try a harness to prevent pulling that may hurt your pup.
Solution #4: Check for Pain
If your dog appears to be in some pain on walks, check their entire body over for a potential case of injury. Don't be afraid to enlist a licensed vet's professional help, who may quickly find an issue when the cause is unclear or serious.
Solution #5: Training By Ignoring
If your dog is having fun and doesn't want to listen to you, getting cross may fuel the fire, as they love the attention.
- When your pup is acting up, stop, walk away, and ignore them until they stop the bad behaviors.
- Use treats to reward the pup when he steps away from the fun, no matter how minor the move.
- Continue using rewards for positive behavior and ignore them when they exhibit negative behaviors.
Final Notes: When Hesitant Behaviors Become Aggressive
Leash training your dog is something you can work on and yield excellent results at home - it can work for almost any dog that refuses to go for a walk.
In some cases, dogs begin to adopt aggressive behaviors to avoid the leash, which can endanger the safety of both you and your doggo.
If your dog is becoming aggressive, consult a dog trainer who can assess their temperament and build a plan to adapt their behaviors. A dog trainer can teach you practical techniques to redirect the aggressive behavior before it becomes even worse.