Your dog used to love walks. But now when your dog sees its leash, it cowers.

What’s going on? Why doesn’t your dog want to go for walks anymore – and what can you do about it?

Dogs can be hesitant to go out for walks for a lot of reasons, ranging from medical issues to psychological ones. Luckily, there are ways to make walking a more pleasant experience for you both.

Why is my dog suddenly scared of walks?

Like a lot of dog behavior, dogs can get scared of walks for many reasons. You’re going to have to narrow it down, depending on whether it could be a physical issue, an environmental problem, or purely behavioral or psychological. Here are some of the most common reasons a dog might be scared of a walk:

Your Dog Had Something Bad Happen To It

While on a walk, perhaps your dog ran into another, aggressive dog and almost got into an altercation. Or, maybe it hurt its foot. Either way, it could be reacting to the fact that it had a less than optimal experience before. It has no way of guaranteeing that it’s not going to have a negative experience again, so it’s going to refrain from going out. If you don’t always walk your dog, you should check in with the other dog walkers in the family. If you hire someone to walk your dog, you might want to ask if they noticed something unusual. Dogs can be very idiosyncratic. It could be something the dog walker thought was harmless at the time, such as a loud car passing by too close.

It’s Too Hot or Too Cold

Dogs get their feet burned very easily on sidewalks and asphalt. Plus, they can get cold much faster, because their stomachs are low to the ground. If it’s hot or cold out, your dog could hate going out because it’s simply uncomfortable. You should check hot sidewalks by placing your own feet on them; if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them. If it’s cold out, consider putting a little jacket on your dog. Effective, efficient, and adorable.

Your Dog is Experiencing Pain or Discomfort

As dogs start to age, they often get joint issues and mobility problems. And they can get this quite early. If your dog appears to be very tired or limping after a walk, this is most likely the issue. Your dog may start getting hesitant to walk because it hurts them to do so, even if they seem active inside of the home. You can counter this by taking them for shorter, but more frequent walks, which they will often need as they get older regardless. You may also want to inquire with your vet, as they can give you joint supplements and pain management shots, both of which may have your dog acting like a puppy again.

There’s a Storm (or Other Weather Event) Coming

Sometimes you can’t tell that there’s a storm coming but your dogs can. Dogs sense changes in the pressure in the air, which often leads them to understand weather patterns a little better than we do. Your dog could sense that there’s a big storm, tornado, or even something like an earthquake coming. If your dog has suddenly become scared of walks and it seems very dramatic, it could be that it doesn’t want to go outside when a major weather event is on the horizon.

There Are Wild Animals About

Dogs can sense wild animals such as bears and coyotes. If your dog is refusing to go out at night, it could have a very good reason. Likewise, if you’re ever walking in the dark and your dog’s hackles raise or it refuses to go down a certain street, it could be something like a wolf or a wild cat. Dogs will b able to sense these wild animals and will try to protect both you and themselves — so you should listen to your dog if it’s refusing to go out and you can’t figure out why.

You Aren’t Jazzed About the Walk Either

Occasionally, a dog may just pick up on the fact that you don’t like walks. It could be that you love walking with your dog but that you often do it early in the morning before work or after work when you’re tired. So you could be frustrated in general, tired because of work, and give off the general “vibe” that you don’t like the walk. You might even find yourself absent-mindedly yanking your dog if it’s taking too long or dragging it if it’s focused on something. Concentrate on your own behavior; your dog walks should be a bonding time, not obligatory.

Your Dog is Experiencing a Medical Issue

Most people take their dogs out not just for exercise but to go to the bathroom.

If your dog is constipated or is trying to push out a kidney stone, for instance, it might start associating walks with having to go to the bathroom, and may associate the entire experience with pain and negativity.

When your dog is in your yard, or on a walk, try to observe whether it’s having problems going to the bathroom. This is always a major medical issue that has to be addressed as soon as possible. Issues with the urinary tract and issues with constipation can become serious very fast and require medical intervention.

Your Dog Actually Hates Its Leash

You might want to try with a different leash or collar. If you only collar your dog during walks, it’s possible that your dog hates its collar; it may have gotten dirty or it may be pulling on its fur. Likewise, it may either associate its leash with negativity (such as not being able to go where it wants to go) or its leash might have gotten the scent of another dog on it (such as at the dog park) and it may be reacting to its presence.

Bottom line: There’s a reason your dog suddenly hates walks. But because it can’t communicate why to you, you may need to investigate further.

What to do when a dog suddenly doesn’t want to go on walks?

Your goal is to make the experience of a walk calm, consistent, and pleasant.

  • Check the environment, first. Make sure that it isn’t too hot or too cold outside and check the weather radar; if a storm is coming, that could be the answer.
  • Make sure your dog isn’t injured. Inspect your dog’s paws and manipulate their joints, watching to see if your dog has any negative reactions, whining, or yelping.
  • Put the leash on with an upbeat attitude. Don’t try to drag your dog out or get frustrated that they are reluctant; this will just make the situation worse.
  • Let your dog walk around the house with the leash for a little while. This will help you determine whether your dog actually hates the leash rather than the walk.
  • Take your dog outside for just a little while at a time. Encourage your dog to step out of the house with a high-value treat rather than trying to pick it up or drag it.
  • While outside in your front yard or another calm area, sit with your dog. Don’t immediately start walking; this will tell you whether your dog hates being outside.
  • Start walking a block at a time with your dog. Don’t try to go too far or too long, in case your dog is having joint or mobility issues you might not know about.

If it still doesn’t work, it’s time to go to the vet.

How to get my dog to enjoy walks?

Some dogs, oddly, just seem to hate walks. There can be a variety of reasons. It may be that the walk is unpleasant, your dog is just a lazy homebody, or there’s another issue — such as your dog being afraid of other dogs in the neighborhood. Regardless, all dogs should be walked. It’s good for them both mentally and physically.

Here’s how you can get your dog to enjoy walks again:

  • Choose the right time of day. If it’s too hot or too cold, your dog may simply not like the walk.
  • Start off with a very short, calm walk. You can build up to longer walks once your dog has stopped feeling so anxious.
  • Take your dog to the quiet area of the neighborhood. You may even want to drive to a local park or somewhere that you know will be empty.
  • Give your dog high-value treats as you walk. Every time you’ve covered a new block, give your pup a treat; this will help encourage them forward.
  • Remain upbeat and positive throughout the walk. You don’t want your dog feeling anxious or afraid because they think the walk is irritating to you.
  • Try someone else. If this still doesn’t work, have someone else walk your dog. If they react fine, then it could be some other issue (such as fear).

If your dog still hates walks, consult with a vet regarding any potential physical issues. If there aren’t any that you can determine, a behaviorist may be able to help.

Why is my dog suddenly scared to go outside?

There are a lot of reasons why a dog could be scared of going outside. Some of them are valid, some aren’t. 

If a dog has a negative experience outside, it may be nervous for some time. Dogs don’t really understand things the way that people do; if they have a chance encounter with an angry dog, for instance, they can’t be “reassured” verbally that the dog isn’t still out there, waiting for them. Dogs may also not want to go outside because it’s unpleasant (hot or cold) because the weather is bad (rainy or humid) or because a storm is on the approach. Dogs instinctively avoid exposure to rain, for the most part, because it’s dangerous in the wild.

However, if your dog is scared to go outside, there usually is a reason – even if it’s a “bad” reason. You can train your dog to like going outside again through positive reinforcement. Importantly, your dog has to have a good time when it goes outside. The more it connects going outside with a nice time, the better. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.