Going on daily walks with your canine companion is a definite highlight for many pet parents. But, the excitement you feel when you think about exploring the great outdoors with Fido can quickly turn to distress when you notice your dog acting scared. And that leads to dog owners asking themselves – why is my dog suddenly scared to go on walks?
Dogs are scared to go on walks due to inadequate socialization, sound sensitivity, and change of scenery factors. Inexperience with leash walking and unpleasant experiences in the past are also likely causes. Other plausible reasons can also include puppy inexperience, fear of thunderstorms, and illness or pain.
If your dog has developed a sudden dislike for its daily dose exercise, there is likely a logical reason behind it. Stay with us as we explain why canines can sometimes develop an apprehension for going outside and what you can do to help your pet.
Reasons Your Dog Is Scared To Go On Walks
Like all living things, canines are just as prone to feeling emotions like anxiety or fear. While the source of your canine’s apprehension may differ, your pet will exhibit the symptoms of distress, such as panting or walking crouched low to the ground.
Likewise, if you want your pup to get back to normal and revisit its love for frolicking outdoors, you’ll need to get to the root cause of its fear of walks. That’s where this section can help.
1. Inadequate Socialization
Puppies need socialization to grow into well-adjusted adults. Socialization is the method of preparing your pup for its life ahead. That includes teaching it to be comfortable with new people, places, activities, animals, etc. Typically, socialization should begin when the pup is three weeks of age.
Pups are generally only separated from their mothers after eight weeks of age, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start socializing your pet as soon as you bring it home. The socialization period lasts from 3 weeks to 14 weeks for canines.
If you miss the mark and don’t socialize your pup during this time, likely, your pet won’t take very well to new experiences, people, and places – even when it’s an adult. That’s why one of the more common reasons for canines being scared to go on walks is inadequate socialization.
2. Sound Sensitivity
Another reason your pet might be afraid to go on walks is sound sensitivity or fear of loud noises. Certain canine senses are more powerful than humans. Likewise, dogs can pick up higher frequencies when it comes to sounds. That means sounds that aren’t strange to you can be frightening for your pet.
Additionally, there’s no specific way of saying which sound might have spooked your pet; however, the following are generally to blame.
● Construction sounds
● Lawnmowers or loud cars
● Sounds of other animals
If you’ve figured out the sound that scares your pet, you can slowly tempt your pet to go outside when you’re sure the coast will be clear. However, if your canine doesn’t seem to want to go out at all, despite the promise of treats, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a canine behaviorist who may solve the issue through desensitization.
3. Change of Scenery
If you’ve recently changed houses or even your pet’s regular walking area, it’s possible your dogs reluctance to go outside has to do with a change of location.
Nonetheless, you can coax your dog to get used to its surroundings by taking it to the backyard instead of outdoors.
Then, once your dog is comfortable with the surroundings and related sights, sounds, and scents – you can try taking your furbaby out the door to the world outside.
4. Not Used To Leash Walking
All the movies we see growing up as kids lead us to think dogs and leashes are as natural as air and breathing. Unfortunately, the reality is nowhere as simple. If you’ve had your furball since it was a tiny dog, you’re going to have to work on getting it used to leash-walking.
However, you can slowly but surely train your pet to accept the leash with positive reinforcement. The process may take a while, but it’s a necessity that you can’t do without.
Taking your dog outside without a leash is dangerous – for you and your pet. Plus, if your canine happens to have a high prey drive, you can expect to go running off after critters without much warning.
Consequently, you can introduce leash-walking to your dog’s life in increments. Start with four to five minutes and gradually increase the leash-wearing time until your canine’s comfortable with the idea.
For the more rambunctious canines who like pulling on their leash a little too much, you have the option of investing in a harness. This will keep your dog safe from self-inflicted injuries.
5. Previous Experiences
Even though dogs have short-term memories, they’re capable of having associative memories too. So, for example, if your pet had a negative experience with walking or going outdoors – that’s going to stay with it for a long time or until you take measures to replace the bad memories with good ones.
More often than not, this is a problem pet parents encounter with shelter pets who may have been mistreated at some point in their lives.
If your adopted canine isn’t comfortable with the idea of walks, then a negative associative memory might the culprit behind it. In such situations, it’s best not to force your pet to submit to going outside because it can make the problem worse and lead to issues like fear aggression.
Instead, a better option is to take your hound to a veterinary behaviorist who will be able to help your pet break out of its negative association and think about going outside without fear or anxiety.
We’ve already mentioned socialization helps dogs get used to strange and new encounters with people, other pets, and surroundings. That’s why one of the reasons your little furball doesn’t like venturing out on walks is inexperience.
This is generally a problem for dog owners with little puppies who’re still trying to get their heads around their new lives. Think about it like this, bringing the puppy to your home is a massive change for the little guy, which will take some getting used to.
But, if you keep adding to the pile your pet has to deal with – the situation can get a little unbearable for your little canine. However, here’s the tricky bit – there’s no cure for inexperience except experience.
An excellent way to handle the situation is to wait for your pup to acclimate to its new home before choosing to take out on walks. Or better yet, try and get your puppy to bond with you before attempting to go on walks.
You can do this by spending time with your furbaby while playing games and snuggling with it. It’s also a good idea to gently groom it because pups tend to equate the behavior with their mother or someone they trust.
7. Fear Of Thunderstorms
Fear of thunder can be tied to sound sensitivity, but we’re dealing with this separately because dogs can have what experts like to call ‘thunder phobia.’
What’s more, your canine may be able to tell when a storm’s about to hit-making its anxiety seem a little strange to you. Pet experts suggest that dogs can sense the change in weather that precedes the actual storm, like changes in air pressure, etc. That’s one reason why your pet will refuse to leave the house if it senses a thunderstorm is in the making.
In such cases, it’s best to wait until your pet seems comfortable with stepping outside. Thankfully, thunderstorms last about an average of thirty minutes – after which your dog may not have a problem going on its daily walk.
8. Illness or Pain
Humans tend to seek comfort and peace when they’re feeling less than brilliant. Likewise, your canine will either prefer to spend time in its own company or refuse to step outside if it’s feeling under the weather.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to be reluctant to do some of their favorite things (like going on walks) when they’re suffering from an illness or are experiencing pain.
While it’s not always easy to identify pain or illness in dogs – you can figure out your canine’s condition by looking out for the following symptoms:
● Seeking solitude or disappearing for long periods
● Reluctance to be touched
● Whining or wincing when walking
● Reluctance to move
● Low energy drive
● Reduced appetite
● Rapid breathing with increased heart rate
If your dog is displaying one or more of these conditions along with refusing to go on walks – take it to the vet to figure out what’s bugging your furry best friend.
Should You Force A Dog To Walk
It’s never a good idea to force your dog to do something it’s reluctant with. Additionally, forcing your canine to walk without understanding the reason behind your dog’s anxiety or fear can make the situation worse.
For instance, it might provoke your pet to act out, or it can also lead to complications like fear aggression.
It’s best to try and figure out why your dog is behaving the way it is and work to eliminate the underlying concern. Once that’s done, your pet will likely have no problem going out for walks.
Should You Drag A Dog That Won’t Walk
If your dog starts to imitate a mule and refuses to walk – never try to drag it or force it to move. Instead, try and coax your pet in the right direction with treats. Canines will do almost anything for their favorite treat because of their scavenger instincts.
Another trick is to kneel on the ground while facing forward and shake the treat bag while tapping the ground and pointing forward. Finally, be sure to reward your canine’s behavior when it listens to you to link its behavior with the promise of a treat.
How Do You Get A Fearful Dog To Walk On A Leash
If your adopted dog is fearful of the leash, you may have to take a few peremptory steps before thinking about working with the leash—the first step in trust-building requires you to get your pet to trust you.
The next step is rewarding your pet with treats to learn to be comfortable with your presence. And finally, once trust has been established, spend time with your canine doing stuff it enjoys – like playing fetch, etc.
Once you’ve managed to do all this – your pet won’t mind trying out the leash. But, note to use the leash for short periods when your dog is still getting used to wearing it.
What To Do When A Dog Suddenly Doesn’t Want To Go On Walks
If your canine is suddenly uneasy about going on walks, the first order of business is to figure out what’s causing your pet to behave this way. Identifying the cause will help you eliminate the reason for your pet’s anxiety and will help your pup feel comfortable with stepping outside again.
Things To Consider
Before we sign off, here are a few pointers that may help you on your quest to make Fido comfortable with walks once again.
Never Punish Canines For Not Doing What You Want
Be its reluctance to go outside or to follow any other command – never punish your pet when it doesn’t listen to you. Not only can this make your pet’s condition worse, but it can also negatively affect your bond.
Additionally, punishing your pet won’t help it understand where it went wrong. Finally, your pet may take your adverse reaction and associate it with going outside – which will only add to its overall apprehension for walks.
Punishment In Any Form Is Out Of The Question
First-time dog owners may think that punishment may stop their canine from undesirable behavior, but the truth is quite the opposite. Punishing your canine for not acting a certain way can affect its bond and trust in you.
Aside from that, canines have associative memories – meaning it’s likely your pet will be even more reluctant to adopt a behavior if it associates punishment with it.
Tempt Your Pet To Overcome Its Fear
You can counter-condition your canine to like going outside – slowly but surely – by associating the action with the activities it loves.
For instance, you can try leaving a trail of treats to make Fido follow you outdoors. Setting up your pet’s food and water bowl a little further away from your home entrance can also help your pet relax outdoors.
Note, however, that if your pet feels uncomfortable at any time and wants to return indoors – you have to allow it to do so. This will only help ease your pup’s fear by helping it understand returning home is always an option.