Why doesn’t my dog want to go on a walk?

Dog walking is an integral part of your routine as a dog owner. Alongside eating well, mental stimulation and socialisation, a walk is of the upmost importance.

Whether it’s running around the local park or letting your dog explore and find new friends and smells, a walk will be the highlight of their day – and it should also be the highlight of yours! Not walking your dog can result in weight gain, boredom, frustration, and poor social skills, so you should try to incorporate it into your daily routine.

However, sometimes you may want to go on a walk and your dog might not be so sure, and this could be down to a range of reasons of varying severity. So, if you find your pup is reluctant for a run around, here are some potential reasons why:

Sudden illness

If you find your dog resisting a walk or wanting to go home when you leave the house, it could be due to illness. Just like humans, when dogs are ill, they can be sluggish, low in energy and reluctant to get out of bed. Not wanting to go out on a walk can be a sign of something as simple as an upset tummy, or of something a lot more serious and complicated.

For example, vestibular syndrome is a short to medium term disease that can cause loss of balance, making dogs less inclined to want to go on a walk. Another dangerous illness that can take hold of a dog’s physicality is degenerative myelopathy, which impacts the spinal cord, its ability to move and the dog’s overall willingness to partake in exercise.

Even if you suspect the illness to be mild or passing, you should always seek a professional opinion to rule out any serious issues.

Allergies

Tiredness and resistance to walking could also be the sign of an allergic reaction. Dogs can be allergic to a range of stimuli such as bedding, soaps or foods, and any new purchases for your dog should be phased in to reduce the impact of any potential allergic reactions.

Symptoms can include a cough, itchy eyes, or an upset tummy, and when these symptoms appear, dogs will often become quiet and reclusive, opting to avoid walks and high-energy activities.

If you identify an allergic reaction, you should work through anything new you’ve introduced to your dog to find the source and refer to your vet to ensure they make a full recovery with the help of anti-inflammatory medicines.

Injuries

When playing, exploring, and running around, dogs can get injured, sometimes without even realising it. Particularly in both their front and hind legs, hips, and paws, dog injuries can hinder movement, limiting your dog’s ability to walk a short or long distance. Physical therapy and painkillers can help dogs recover from injuries, but in the early stages of recovery, they’re likely to want to rest and recuperate.

If you find your dog unwilling to go on a walk or limping when moving around the house, they may have picked up an injury. This isn’t your fault as an owner, dogs can get knocks and bruises all the time when they’re playing with other dogs or tearing around the park, but it’s up to humans to help them care for the problem and recover.

As with any ailment to your dog, getting professional insight from your vet should be made the number one priority.

Old age

As dogs get older, their energy levels, physical abilities, and desires change. Where they were once an excitable puppy, as they mature, they may prefer to just curl up on the sofa and have some fuss – and this is completely normal.

Often this isn’t anything to be overly concerned by, as it inevitably happens to all dogs at some point, but if it is sudden or happens earlier than you’d expect for their age, you should refer to your vet for more information.

Infection

Alongside illness and old age, infection can also take hold of your dog and reduce their desire for exercise. Whether it’s through something they’ve ingested or a cut that’s not been properly cleaned, infection can quickly make your dog unhappy, and can potentially be life threatening.

Lower energy and not wanting to go outside might be one of a few possible signs of infection in your dog. In some cases, dogs can be entirely paralyzed and unable to stand due to serious infection which won’t allow them to move at all, even if they wanted to.

If you suspect an infection, either due to injury or something more common like an ear infection, there are things that can be done to support your dog and you should quickly refer to a professional for medication and guidance.

Past trauma

If you’ve welcomed a rescue dog to your family, there may be some underlying fears and trauma that you’re not aware of. Not knowing the history of your dog can make it hard to know what they are and aren’t comfortable with, and if they’re nervous or have a bad experience with being outside, walking could present a tough challenge for them to overcome.

If your dog has a fear of certain aspects of the outdoors such as people, other dogs, cars or loud noises, they’ll be very reluctant to go on walks. As an owner, you can help your dog become more confident being outside by starting off with the garden, short walks and bringing the challenging stimuli inside to reduce their nervousness through exposure. For extreme cases, many dog behaviour therapists will be able to help nervous dogs overcome their fears and improve their quality of life!

Weight issues

If your dog is either under or overweight, this will impact their energy levels and their ability to live their life to the fullest. Underweight dogs will often be lethargic and more prone to illness, making walking a real issue. For overweight dogs, walking will make them out of breath and will be an uncomfortable experience that they’ll learn to dislike. Maintaining a healthy weight for your dog means that they’ll be able to get their much-needed exercise and live a longer, healthier life.

Weather

Extreme weather and temperatures can make your dog reluctant to go on a walk, and for good reason in some cases.

Cold and rain won’t affect all dogs, but some will refuse to go out if the conditions aren’t perfect. This is often a personality trait and does not apply across entire breeds, but it can be common in smaller dogs who are lower to the ground and more affected by wet grass and puddles. Large breeds often remain unphased by cold or wet weather. If your dog doesn’t like being out in the rain and cold, it’s usually not a cause for concern. However, they can be trained to get used to the cold weather if it’s starting to become a recurring issue and preventing walks more than a couple of times a week.

Online training resources and professional dog trainers will both be able to support you in getting your dog to tolerate and even enjoy going out in the cold and rain!

In more serious conditions, such as below freezing, it shouldn’t matter whether your dog wants to go out or not, but instead should be assessed as a health and safety risk. Thin coated dogs, young dogs, senior dogs and dogs with any illnesses should be especially looked after in below freezing weather as they may develop hypothermia or frostbite.

On the other hand, warm weather can be equally concerning for dog owners. No matter the breed, weather over 20 degrees Celsius should be cause for concern. Higher temperatures can quickly lead to dehydration, especially if their paws are on hot pavements. Some dogs aren’t as careful with the weather as others, but if your dog is reluctant to go outdoors in higher temperatures, it might be best to heed their behaviour and keep them indoors for the day.

What should you do if a dog refuses to walk?

Firstly, you should quickly identify why your dog may not want to go for a walk. This will help you to find the right solution and help your dog start enjoying the outdoors again as soon as possible.

If your dog is particularly slow or tired, it can be pinpointed to potential illness or infection. If this is the case, note any other symptoms and take your dog to the vet immediately.

If the weather is particularly warm, wait until the evening for it to cool down. Alternatively, if it’s cold, you can wait until the warmest point at midday.

If your dog appears to be limping, you should also get them to the vet as soon as possible to avoid the situation worsening.

For any other reasons that can’t be pinpointed, you should consider consulting a canine behaviourist or trainer. They will be able to quickly highlight the issue and help you work towards a solution using positive reinforcement.

No matter the reason your dog doesn’t want to go on a walk, the best thing you can do as an owner is to be gentle, patient and care for your dog. Illness, extreme temperatures, injury or traumatic past experiences can all be stressful for our canine companions and being a safe space for them is of the upmost importance.

As always, if you suspect any further underlying issues or have any more serious concerns for your dog’s welfare, you should seek a professional veterinary opinion immediately.