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Dog Stops Walking & Won't Move! Reasons & What to Do

You may encounter a time when you and your dog are taking a walk on a beautiful day, but they stop suddenly and refuse to move. Today, our Carlsbad vets discuss why your dog may stop on a walk, and what you can do.

Reasons Why Dogs Stop Walking & Refuse To Move

Have you ever gone on a stroll with your dog and they suddenly stop walking and won't move? First, know you aren't alone. While our Carlsbad vets hear questions from pet owners about this issue often enough, it can be frustrating and hard to manage. This is especially true if you don't understand why they are stopping or what to do. In this post, we share some reasons why your dog may have stopped walking and how you can get them moving again. 

They are Suffering From Joint Pain

Dogs may sometimes stop walking if they are experiencing long-term pain in their joints. Hip dysplasia and arthritis are both common causes of joint pain in senior dogs. These conditions can prove very painful for dogs, which means it's important to be able to recognize symptoms of joint pain, such as favoring one leg over the other when stopped or letting out a whimper or yelp before stopping. 

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from pain in their joints, the best thing you can do is call your vet and book an exam. Your vet will conduct a comprehensive wellness examination to determine the underlying cause and prescribe a treatment plan. 

Your Dog Has Been Injured

If your dog doesn't want to walk, it may be because they have been injured. Injuries may be minor or severe, from a hurt nail or paw pad, to something more serious such as an open wound or foreign object stuck in a limb. 

If your dog has been injured, stop walking immediately and examine their legs and paw pads for injuries. If you're able to find the source of the wound, take pictures and call your vet to schedule an appointment. You'll likely be given first-aid instructions to follow. If you can't find the source of the injury, you still need to contact your vet to get advice and arrange an appointment. 

Meanwhile, you may prevent the injury from worsening by calling a friend or family member to pick you and your dog up. 

They Are Scared of Something

If a pooch is afraid of something in their surroundings, they may refuse to walk or keep moving. Young puppies who are going through their fear period and adult dogs walking in an unfamiliar environment commonly experience this (especially true if they tend to be fearful or anxious or have a history of trauma). 

Symptoms of fear in dogs include held-back ears, crouched body posture, tucked under the tail, and/or heavy or abnormal breathing. 

The first thing to do when addressing this issue is to find the source of their fear. This can include noises, a trash can, a sign, a scent you didn't notice, or another dog walking by. If the source is a specific smell or sight, they may stop in the same spot every time you walk by it. 

After you've discovered the source of your dog's fear, you can start desensitizing your dog to the trigger (if it's safe) and help them build their confidence. While the precise steps needed to desensitize your dog can differ by the fear, here are some basic actions you can take:

  • Determine the source of the fear and build resistance
  • Offer rewards (without rewarding negative behaviors)
  • Use commands to redirect your dog's attention 

If you understand your dog stops walking out of fear, contact your vet to schedule an appointment. Your veterinarian can help by offering specific tips and advice on how you can appropriately manage your dog's fear safely and efficiently. 

Not Enough Leash Training

Another common reason why your dog may refuse to keep walking is that they aren't used to going for walks on a leash or haven't gone for a leash walk before.

If this is the case, you need to keep in mind that this could be an overwhelming or frightening experience for your pooch, so it's best to start them out slowly, introducing the process gradually. Begin by showing them one piece of equipment at a time, letting them sniff and get to know the gear as you pass them treats. Do not skip this step because it could result in negative associations with walks and the associated equipment.

Then you can start putting the collar on them for brief periods at a time, gradually increasing time intervals, starting with a few seconds and increasing the time until they are used to it. 

It's also essential to select a properly fitting and weighted collar for your dog, by carefully reading the size guidelines and recommendations on the packaging. However, for training purposes, a lighter collar and leash are typically best. 

Before taking your dog for a walk on a leash, let them wander around your home with the collar on for several days, so they get used to the feeling. Then you can start taking your dog for leashed walks in your home. Gradually, you can introduce your dog to outdoor walks in areas such as a fenced backyard or an enclosed dog run. 

Don't forget to reward good behaviors with treats and to move at your dog's pace. If you need help leash training your dog, don't hesitate to contact your vet for advice.

Other Possible Reasons Why Your Dog Doesn't Want to Walk

If you don't think the above situations apply to your dog, here are some other potential causes:

  • Your pooch is fatigued or tired
  • It's too hot or cold outside for your dog
  • Your dog's walking gear (leash, collar) is uncomfortable for them
  • They want to keep walking more
  • Your dog needs to get more exercise and stimulation out of their walks
  • Their walks are too long for them

Ways to Get Your Dog Moving

Here are some additional tips and ways you can help your dog start moving again:

  • Start walking faster when going through interesting locations
  • Choose one specific side for your dog to walk on to prevent pulling
  • Spice up your usual walk and take other routes
  • Stop walking and restrict their access to objects they are interested in (this will help them realize the only way to walk is with you).
  • Implement proper leash training
  • Reward good walking behaviors

If your dog stops walking and won't move, it's always a good idea to call your vet to get advice and book a physical examination because many of the potential causes are due to an underlying medical condition or even a veterinary emergency

It's also key to note that if your dog stops walking, you shouldn't bribe them to keep moving or drag them as it could motivate this negative behavior or make it worse. It's also very important that you don't yell at or punish your dog because there could be many factors causing this issue. This is why we say "when in doubt contact your vet".

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your dog developed a habit of stopping mid-walk? Contact our Carlsbad vets to have your pup examined and cared for.

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