Dear Bark: Why doesn’t my puppy like walks? About two months ago, I got a puppy. He loves to play inside the house, and to sit in front of our house. However, he doesn’t enjoy going on walks around the neighborhood. I often wind up picking him up and carrying him, but even that freaks him out. He seems more inclined to walk when the rest of the family is around, but not when it’s just the two of us. What can I do to get him going à deux?
—Help My Walk-Resistant Puppy!
It’s not at all unusual for puppies to resist going on walks. While most dogs get more enthusiastic about them as they get older, there are 7 things you can do when your puppy doesn't want to walk to help your puppy get moving.
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Equipment. Sometimes, a dog's resistance to walks relates to equipment. Many puppies freeze up a little when they wear a leash and collar because they’re not used to them. To help alleviate this little roadblock to happy walks, make sure that any collar or harness you’re using fits well and is the right size. Puppy-size pups need puppy-size leashes and collars; for very small puppies, a cat leash may be the best option. Help him get accustomed to the walking gear by putting it on him inside the house. Play or do a little bit of training with yummy treats while he’s suited up.
Expectations. Make the walk manageable by setting reasonable expectations. Encourage him to go a short distance (even a few houses down the block), then return. Don’t push the pace—let him amble as slowly as he likes. Many puppies’ walking skills improve with short, positive experiences; walks that are too long or too fast can overwhelm them.
Coming home. Some dogs find walks a bit intimidating, perhaps because everything is new. One way to get him used to walking near your home is to drive the two of you a few houses away and then encourage him to walk home with you. Many dogs, especially puppies, are more enthusiastic walkers when the route is taking them to a familiar place instead of away from that familiar place. (Don’t try this if he dislikes riding in the car.)
Hidden treasures. Another way to help your pup become more enthusiastic about walking is to hide a toy or stuffed Kong along the route so he has the wonderful experience of finding a treasure! Do this periodically, varying the location, direction and distance so you don’t end up with a dog who’s only interested in going one way.
Social outings. That your puppy is more enthusiastic when the whole family is together leads me to think that he’s pretty social. Perhaps he doesn’t like to leave anyone behind, or is just more playful in a larger group. Try walking him with another person and another puppy to see if that makes him more eager to get moving. If it does, it may translate to greater willingness to walk when it’s just the two of you.
Reverse psychology. Ask him to stay, then release with “Okay!” and see if he bounds forward. Many dogs are very enthusiastic to move at the end of a stay. If this works with him, you can use the technique a couple of times on a walk (but not too often, or it may stop being effective).
Patience. The most important thing I can recommend is that you be very patient. While they may not be a satisfying for you, short, pressure-free walks will go a long way toward making him a more willing walker. (Pushing him may cause him to be fearful, which is definitely not the goal.)
I hope that your future includes many happy walks together!