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Why Does My Dog Hate Walks? 7 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Written by: Genevieve Dugal

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

Shiba Inu resisting to walk

Why Does My Dog Hate Walks? 7 Vet-Reviewed Reasons


Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo


Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Taking your beloved pup for a walk should be a pleasurable experience for both of you, right? So, what do you do when your lovely—and stubborn—canine friend appears to hate it? There are various reasons that your dog might not like going for walks, but with a bit of understanding and plenty of patience, you may be able to turn those reluctant strolls into pleasant excursions.

Let’s explore the most common reasons that your dog doesn’t seem to enjoy your daily walks as much as you do.

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The 7 Reasons Why Your Dog Hate Walks

1. Pain

Nurse helping vet examining stomach of labrador retriever dog
Image Credit: Dragon Images, Shutterstock

If your dog is extremely reluctant to go for a walk, your first move should be to consult with your vet. Indeed, a dog that suddenly starts hating walks when they used to enjoy them could indicate that they’re in pain, maybe because of an underlying medical issue. Pain or discomfort caused by infections, conditions like osteoarthritis or joint disorders, and of course, injuries can make walking painful and unpleasant for your pet. In fact, even overgrown toenails can impact a dog’s willingness to walk.

Schedule a visit to the vet to rule out any medical issues. If your dog is diagnosed with a medical condition, your vet can recommend appropriate treatment options to alleviate their discomfort and make walking enjoyable again.

2. Anxiety or Fear

Just like us, our canine companions can feel anxious, especially when certain things during walks make them uneasy. For example, if a dog gets scared by a loud truck or a barking dog behind a fence, they might start to dislike going for walks because they connect it with those scary moments. These experiences can leave a lasting impact, causing the dog to associate walks with stress, fear, and anxiety.

Gradually desensitize your pup to the triggers that cause anxiety. Start by exposing them to the trigger at a distance where they feel comfortable, and gradually decrease the distance over time as they become more relaxed. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, can also help your dog associate walks with positive experiences.

3.  Negative Associations

Dog pulling away from owner
Image Credit: Maria Sbytova, Shutterstock

This is closely related with anxiety or fear but often in more specific instances. If your dog has had unpleasant experiences during walks, such as encountering aggressive canines or experiencing discomfort due to extreme weather conditions, they may develop negative associations with outdoor walking. This may be especially true of certain routes or weather conditions. So, your dog might not hate walks all the time, just walks in certain areas or times of the day.

Counter-conditioning can help your dog develop positive associations with walks. Pairing walks with enjoyable experiences, such as tasty treats or fun activities, can help replace negative associations with positive ones over time.

4. Uncomfortable Gear

Sometimes, a dog dislikes going out for a walk because they find their leash, harness, or collar uncomfortable. Indeed, ill-fitting or restrictive gear can cause discomfort and make your dog resistant to wearing them. It’s also possible that your pup doesn’t have much experience with leash walking yet due to particular circumstances. For example, a rescue dog may never have been walked due to their past experiences, so it may take more time for them to get comfortable with being on a leash.

Invest in high-quality, properly fitting gear that is comfortable for your dog. Allow them to get used to wearing the gear around the house before introducing it on walks. Positive reinforcement and rewards can also help your dog associate wearing the gear with positive experiences.

5. Overstimulation

dog owners meeting at the park for a dog group
Image Credit: Daniel Megias, Shutterstock

A dog may find walks overwhelming due to excessive stimulation from sights, sounds, and smells. This can lead to stress and reluctance to go on walks. Moreover, pups that move from a rural setting to a city environment might find the noise and crowds around them particularly challenging to navigate.

Choose quiet routes with little foot and vehicle traffic, especially if your dog is easily overwhelmed. Gradually expose them to busier environments, using positive reinforcement to help them feel more comfortable.

6. Lack of Proper Socialization

Dogs that haven’t received adequate training or socialization may show signs of fear or anxiety during walks, particularly when encountering other dogs or unfamiliar people. If puppies miss out on crucial socialization during their early development, they might grow up feeling apprehensive about going for walks. It’s crucial for puppies to be gently introduced to new situations, environments, and individuals in short, positive sessions before they reach 3 months old. Without this exposure, they may feel overwhelmed by unfamiliar experiences and struggle to see the world as a welcoming place.

Enroll your best buddy in obedience classes, or work with a professional trainer to improve their obedience skills and socialization. Gradually expose them to different environments, people, and animals in a controlled and positive manner to build their confidence and comfort levels.

7. Boredom

labrador retriever dog lying on the floor looking sad or sick
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

This is uncommon, but your pup might just be too bored to go for a walk! If your dog seems to find walks boring or monotonous, you’ll need to spice things up for them.

Make walks more engaging and exciting for your dog by varying the route, incorporating interactive toys or games, and allowing them to explore new smells and environments. You can also engage with your pup during walks by playing games like fetch or practicing obedience commands.

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How to Get You and Your Dog Moving

If you find yourself thinking, “I hate walking my dog,” it’s time to change that mindset and make walks enjoyable for both of you.

Here are tips to make walking with your pup a breeze:
  • Exercise them more. It may be a tip you’ve read over and over again, but it’s been scientifically proven more than once: Exercise is a powerful stress reliever, and it’s not just beneficial for humans. A 2015 Finnish study investigating environmental factors linked to canine anxiety revealed that the frequency of daily walks correlates with fearfulness in dogs. Those with short daily walks tended to exhibit more fear of loud noises, strangers, and sudden stimuli compared to those with long walks. The researchers concluded that exercise could serve as a form of stress resilience, potentially leading to fewer fearful reactions in dogs.
  • Start slow but keep steady. If your dog is reluctant to walk, start with short, low-pressure walks, and gradually increase the duration and intensity as they become more comfortable.
  • Bribe your pup. Reward your dog with plenty of treats, praise, and affection during walks to reinforce good behavior and make the experience enjoyable.
  • Make it fun for both of you. Try new routes, bring their favorite toys, or join a dog-walking group. There are many ways to turn every walk into a game to increase your pup’s interest and keep their brain active.
  • Listen to your dog. Pay attention to your dog’s body language and cues during walks. If they seem stressed or uncomfortable, take a break or change the environment to help them feel more at ease.
  • Always be gentle and patient. If you remain consistent in your efforts and respect your dog’s pace, you will probably eventually succeed in transforming walking into a joyful experience for both of you.

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Understanding the reasons for your dog’s aversion to walks and applying the right solutions can transform your reluctant pup into a happy, playful explorer. But if your faithful companion seems to take a long time to enjoy walks, don’t stress. It may take time and patience for them to feel comfortable. That said, first make an appointment with your vet to ensure that this hatred of walking is not related to something more serious.

Stay consistent and persistent in your approach, and before you know it, your dog might even start bringing the leash to you when they’re ready for an adventure!

Featured Image Credit: katsunori, Shutterstock

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