A Guide to Training Dogs That Won’t Walk on Leashes

Walking your dog is typically a joyous experience, filled with excitement and exploration. However, it can be perplexing and frustrating when you encounter a dog that refuses to budge, opting instead to lie flat on the ground like a pancake. While it may be tempting to tug or jerk the leash to get them moving, this can do more harm than good. Not only does it encourage resistance and determination, but it can also cause lasting damage to their neck muscles, nerves, thyroid gland, and trachea. Thankfully, positive reinforcement training offers a more effective approach to leash training stubborn dogs.

Understanding the Reasons

Before embarking on leash training, it’s crucial to understand why your dog exhibits this behavior. The refusal to walk on a leash can be attributed to three primary reasons.

1. Discomfort or Pain

Dogs with underlying health issues may find exercise uncomfortable or painful. To rule out this possibility, carefully examine your dog for any signs of injury. Check their paws for sharp objects or inspect their collar to ensure it is correctly fitted and not causing discomfort. If your dog limps or displays signs of discomfort, consult a veterinarian. Painful conditions like arthritis or Canine Hip Dysplasia could be the culprit. Additionally, impairments affecting a dog’s sight or hearing may also contribute to their aversion to walks. It’s crucial not to force them to walk until potential health concerns are addressed, as walking in pain will only worsen the situation.

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2. Anxiety

Some dogs are naturally more anxious and sensitive than others. For these canines, the outside world can be overwhelming. Noises, smells, and unexpected encounters can send them into a state of distress, halting their movement. In such cases, an online reactivity class can help alleviate their stress and anxiety, giving them the confidence they need to venture outside.

3. Lack of Training

Wearing a collar and leash is not a natural behavior for dogs, especially puppies. Younger dogs often lack the confidence of their older counterparts and prefer the safety and familiarity of home. Positive reinforcement training can strengthen the bond between you and your puppy while building their confidence. One strategy is to reward your dog with their favorite treats or kibble, such as Now Fresh, during the walk.

Engaging Exercises to Get Your Dog Moving

For dogs that are nervous or uncomfortable on walks, it’s essential to gradually acclimate them to the things that trigger their fear.

1. Introduce the Collar and Leash

If your dog shows resistance to the collar and leash, their fear of the equipment may be hindering progress. Start by familiarizing them with the collar and leash at home, allowing them to become comfortable with the sensation and weight. Once they are at ease, encourage them to take a few steps towards you while wearing the collar and leash.

2. Encourage Forward Movement

This exercise reinforces the idea that moving forward is rewarding and diverts your dog’s attention from external distractions. Begin indoors, rewarding your dog with treats for every step they take towards you. Gradually transition to outdoor environments, encouraging exploration in the yard while continuing to reward their progress. Attach the leash to the collar without pulling, focusing instead on positive reinforcement. As your dog becomes more relaxed and accustomed to walking with you, gradually increase the distance and duration of your walks.

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3. Overcoming Anxiety

If your dog seems comfortable with the collar and leash but still refuses to walk, it’s likely due to fear or anxiety. For example, a passing garbage truck may trigger their aversion. To address this, adjust your walking schedule to avoid such triggers. If there’s a specific object causing fear, sprinkle a trail of treats along the path to entice and reward your dog as they move past it. Engage your dog’s focus by having them sit before pointing them in the right direction, effectively redirecting their attention away from the perceived threat.


Understanding your dog’s behavior is key to transforming their reluctance into a positive response. It’s crucial to address any potential health issues before attempting to leash train a dog that won’t walk. By utilizing positive reinforcement techniques and patiently addressing their fears and anxieties, you can help your dog accept the collar and leash, enabling them to enjoy their walks to the fullest.

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