So, your puppy doesn’t want to walk…Nope your puppy isn’t broken! Don’t panic here at Zigzag we hear of this all the time, it’s a common problem but probably not one owners expect, whoever heard of a dog that doesn’t like walking right? but rest assured it’s really not that unusual for puppies to put the brakes on when you try to take them out for a walk. 

The good news is most dogs get more enthusiastic about walks as they get older. In the meantime, we’ve got you covered with some things you can try to get your puppy moving, and make walkies more fun for everyone!

In this article, we’ll help you figure out why your puppy might not want to go for a walk, how you can encourage your puppy to walk with you and how to prevent a puppy from refusing to walk in the future.

Lead walking and going for a walk are skills that you’ll need to practice with your puppy. They actually don’t come pre programmed to do either of those things they have to learn how much fun it is. Luckily for you we have a step by step programme within our Zigzag puppy training app. We also have a team of puppy coaches on hand 7 days a week to problem solve any of your puppy walking woes.

whippet on lead
Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

Why doesn’t my puppy want to walk?

Really? Your puppy doesn’t want to walk? We’ve got you, there are a few reasons why your puppy won’t walk, and no, your puppy isn’t being stubborn. There’s usually a good reason for puppies putting the brakes on rather than walking! 

Your puppy may be scared of their collar and lead

Here at Zigzag, we always suggest you use a harness for your puppy, and get them used to having their harness put on and taken off in the early days. If the first time you want to walk your puppy is the first time you put their collar or harness on, it can be quite overwhelming and your puppy may shut down and refuse to walk. Get your puppy used to their harness and their lead way in advance of needing walks outside.

Puppies who won’t walk can be scared of the outside world

When your puppy is young, they have no life experience and have to learn about the world through the socialisation process. Sometimes a puppy won’t walk because they’re scared.

We all know how important Puppy socialisation is, it teaches your puppy all about bikes, cars, trains and all the different sounds of the wider world, but it does take time. Be patient and kind so your puppy has positive socialisation experiences and their confidence will flourish.

Puppies stop on walks to have a think

When your puppy is first learning about the world, they will often sit down to think about their surroundings. This stage of learning is important because they’re figuring out the world around them and wondering if the thing they’re going towards is rewarding or punishing, and is a survival mechanism. If your puppy doesn’t want to walk, they might just be taking it all in, so be patient.

Puppies go through a lot of changes which can cause them to be more sensitive on walks at certain times

Puppies have several sensitive or fear periods, where it can feel like they suddenly become total scaredy cats, and while fine the week before on walks, will refuse to walk this week. It can feel frustrating, we know, but puppies really do have big feelings! 

Your puppy may be tired and not want to walk

Your puppy only has a limited amount of energy, will likely be more tired at certain times of the day, and should only be exercised a certain amount, depending on their age. So the reason your puppy won’t walk might just be because they’re tired! 

dog with harness on
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

How to get my puppy to walk with me? 

In order to get a puppy to walk well on the lead and enjoy their walks, try the following:

Practice having their harness put on and taken off

Wearing a harness, or having a collar put on for the first time can be quite strange for a puppy. Dogs don’t come pre-programmed to feel happy about restrictive equipment, so practice with lots of treats so that your puppy gets used to wearing it. Having a puppy who doesn’t want to walk can often be because they haven’t got used to their equipment in advance.

Teach leadwalking at home and in the garden first

Practising lead walking should be done first at home as that’s where your puppy will learn best. Getting your puppy used to walking next to you in a calm environment will mean when you start to walk them outside, they’ll have rehearsed that behaviour well and understand a little that walking next to you = fabulous rewards.

Let them sniff on walks

Going out for walks and going to new places will be FULL of smells for your puppy. Not only are there the general smells in the environment which we won’t be able to smell, there’s also the smells that other dogs have left. Your puppy will want to check their peemails on walks, and leave their own too!

Don’t drag them if they sit down

It can be tempting to try and tug on your puppy’s lead if they stop and sit down or freeze up on a walk. Doing this will likely make your puppy freeze and shut down more and will make the stopping on walks worse in the long run, not better! Your lead is a safety line and shouldn’t be used to pull your puppy around.

Wait until they decide to move again and reward that forward motion. What a brave puppy!

Carry them to the end of the road then start your walk

To your puppy home is literally where the heart is, and it’s their safe space. A lot of sitting down and refusing to walk is because we walk them away from home, and they’d much rather be at home, than being a bit frightened of new things outside. 

labrador puppy on floor
Photo by Anders Ipsen on Unsplash

How to stop it from happening in the future?

To stop your puppy from sitting down or stopping on walks in the future try the following:

Train things other than leadwalking when you go for walks

I know it sounds odd, but the more comfortable you can get them in the outside environment the less they will be scared and then stop or sit down. By teaching them different behaviours like recall on a lead, and their sit and down positions you’re creating positive associations to the outside world and building their confidence.

Let them have fun on walks 

Ask yourself what your dog is learning when you march them up the street, how about playing more training games on walks and let them have some fun?

Practice more leadwalking in places that they are comfortable with

This might be your garden or in a park that they know well. Extend the number of steps of leadwalking you get them to do before treating. This means when you take them outside of the house they’ll be able to do more steps.

Try a longer lead

Using a long line of around 3 metres means you won’t be tempted to pull on your puppy when they don’t walk. It’s also great for teaching a puppy to heel, because it’s not about the lead, it’s just about rewarding your pup for being in the right position. Your puppy won’t feel any lead pressure and you can concentrate on walking and treating at the same time. 

Using a longer lead on walks also means you can walk forward and reward your puppy for catching you up.

Reward in motion so that your puppy won’t stop for a treat

Keep your puppy moving as you’re feeding them a treat so that they don’t stop to eat the treat and get stuck where they are. Peanut butter on a spoon or a tube of liver paste can be perfect for this.

Reward following more on walks

Too often, we withdraw rewards too soon. Your puppy has to learn what you want them to do with positive reinforcement training, so don’t be stingy with the treats. Use something really tasty that they enjoy and reward them more.

Use the car to take them out for walks

If they are comfortable in the car, then popping them in their car carrier, and driving to a park can cause less of an issue with refusing to walk. You could also try driving a few streets away and then walking them home. 

We know how hard it is when a puppy doesn’t want to walk, it happens to everyone at some stage, but it can be easily fixed by giving your puppy confidence in the outside world, being patient and rewarding bravery and forward motion. Don’t try and push your puppy, stick within what your puppy is comfortable with. At first you might not get further than the end of your drive but this is fine, you’ll be off on those long hikes before you know it. 

Perhaps you’d like to learn more and read about when you can take your puppy for a walk

To access a personalised puppy programme with a team of puppy coaches on hand to help, download a free trial of the Zigzag puppy training app today.