How to Leash Train a Dog or Puppy Who Doesn’t Want to Walk

How to Leash Train a Dog Who Doesn't Want to Walk

When my parents brought home a puppy when I was in middle school, we all immediately fell in love with her.

She was a bundle of fluff with lots of energy who loved to play and cuddle.

She was a dream to welcome into our family until we took her outside for her first walk.

She was fine with the leash after we let her sniff it and she didn’t react to having her collar clipped on.

As soon as we walked out to our driveway, she stuck her front paws straight out and leaned back.

We tried to coax her forward with kissing sounds, treats, and even by sitting down on the ground. She didn’t care.

To this day, we still have photos of her refusing to walk. I’ve never experienced that problem with a puppy since.

It’s a little shocking to deal with, but it’s not impossible to get around.

Read on to learn how to leash train a dog that won’t walk, so your dog can get outside and start enjoying the outdoors.

How to Train a Puppy

How to leash train puppy scared of leash wants to play pulls won't move

No matter what you’re training a puppy to do, you have to start slowly and gently.

Everything is new to them, so they won’t know what’s safe and what’s not.

First, you’ll need to familiarize them.

Lay the leash and collar out on the floor for them to sniff. Don’t let them chew on it, but if they can interact with the leash and collar on their own terms, they won’t be afraid of them[1].

Use training treats teach puppy to walk on leash

Training treats can help your puppy associate “leash” with “good times”

Next, keep your session short.

Start indoors by walking them around a room or around your home.

The benefit of starting inside is that they’re already familiar with the environment and won’t get overly excited.

Once your puppy is used to the leash inside, take them outside for a short five or ten minute walk.

When they tire out, it’s okay to carry them.

They’ll build endurance for longer walks as they grow older.

Why Your Puppy Won’t Walk

There are a few reasons why puppies don’t enjoy being walked on a leash, so it’s different for every pup.

They’re Not Used to It

If you brought your puppy home from a breeder, they may not practice familiarizing their litters with leashes.

Let your puppy hang out with the leash on the floor or walk them around the home until the leash is no big deal for them.

They’re Scared of the Tugging

Puppy training collar scared of tugging unfamiliar with leash training

It takes time to get used to being stopped by an object around your neck!

Your puppy may have wanted to run ahead on their first big walk, but become scared after the leash tugged on their neck.

That’s a normal reaction and there’s an easy solution.

Walk at their pace around your home or outside.

It’ll be a slow walk, but the more they walk without being tugged, the more comfortable they’ll be with the leash.

They Want to Play

Your puppy may not walk because they want to play with the leash instead.

The family dog that was brought home when I was younger wouldn’t walk, but loved to tug on the leash like a rope toy.

We stopped this habit by telling her, “No” and making her sit still whenever she played with it[2].

How to Train an Adult DogHow to leash train unwilling adult dog doesn't want to go for a walk

Training an adult dog to walk is much like training a puppy.

Make sure they know the leash is safe and not there to hurt them by letting them interact with it before clipping it to their collar.

Walk them around the house until they’re comfortable with the leash, which means they don’t chew or tug on it.

Then you can move on to walking around your yard and gradually making your way around your neighborhood.

Why Your Adult Dog Won’t Walk

Adult dogs sometimes struggle with not wanting to walk either.

Their reasons are very different from those of a puppy, so if your dog is over a year or two old, they might fall into this category.

Their Collar is Too Tight

Collar too tight uncomfortable leash training tips unwilling dog

Think about a time when your hair got tugged, pulled, or caught in something.

It’s no fun and can be painful to experience!

Your dog may be uncomfortable if their collar is too tight.

Even if they aren’t tugging, the gradual turning of their collar as they walk could be pulling on their fur.

A harness may make leash training more comfortable for your pup.

They Have Underlying Health Concerns

Dogs have an instinct to not show pain which comes from the pack mentality that weak members were left behind for the sake of the remaining wolves.

Your dog may have sprained a leg muscle, damaged their paw, or have some other internal health concern going on.

If you notice them limping or being less active than normal[3], it’d be good to have them checked at the vet.

They’re in an Unknown Environment

You might have just adopted your dog from a shelter or pound, which means your home and neighborhood are completely new.

The newness can be scary for some dogs, which translates into them not wanting to leave their home territory.

Practice walking them around your yard until they feel comfortable and gradually introduce them to extended lengths of your neighborhood.

They Were Abused

Abused dog afraid of leash submissive behavior diagram

An abused dog may exhibit these behaviors when they see a leash
Photo by mcordoway (CC BY 2.0)

Adopted dogs sometimes come from abusive situations

You may not know the extent of the abuse, but they may see the leash and recognize it as something that used to hurt them.

If your dog shies away from the leash or whimpers when it comes near, leave it on the floor near their toys.

That will show them that they’re in charge and can approach it when they’re comfortable. As time goes on, they’ll learn that the leash is harmless.

Then you can practice walking them around your home and your yard before going out for longer walks.

You can also contact the business where you adopted your dog and ask them if they saw the same fear.

They may have some pointers for your dog’s specific trauma experience or connect you with a vet who does.

The Weather is Bad

Dog won't walk bad weather doggy rain coat jacket inclement weather pet protectionHumans can throw on rain boots and a jacket when the weather is bad and still be good to walk outside.

Most dogs don’t have that luxury or don’t want to.

Instead, they experience wet paws, being splashed, and feel the rainfall on their fur.

That’s not an enjoyable experience, so consider what the weather was like when you last tried to walk your dog.

Think about things like:

  • If the pavement was hot
  • If it was raining
  • If it was very windy

Try walking them again when the weather is pleasant, or consider getting them things like dog booties or a jacket to protect them from the elements.

Conclusion

There are many different reasons why dogs don’t want to walk.

Take the time to watch your dog carefully to observe what’s going on around them and how they act when they refuse to walk.

Have patience and work with them over time to train them to walk and they’ll learn that it’s a safe and fun activity to enjoy doing with you.

Resources

  1. https://www.dogingtonpost.com/ask-the-trainer-my-dog-is-afraid-of-the-leash/
  2. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/teach-your-puppy-these-5-basic-commands/
  3. https://www.ccspca.com/blog-spca/hospital/lethargic-dog/
About the author

Emily Pierce

Emily Pierce is a self-published novelist, award winning short story writer, and freelancer. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking and making clothes for dogs.