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Ask A Vet: My Dog Doesn’t Want To Go For Walks, But Needs Exercise. What Do I Do?

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All living things need to move. It is a fundamental of life science that “form follows function”. It is a scienctific way of saying “use it or lose it”. Walking your dog is a great idea for you both.  But what if you want to walk and your dog doesn’t?

First, make sure that there is no medical reason that your dog refuses to walk.  Diseases, like heart problems or arthritis, (among others) can make your dog reluctant to go on walks with you. It is important to tell your vet that you intend to start walking for exercise with your dog and get the clean bill of health (just like with any exercise program) before you start. If there is any issue that would prohibit the activity, get started on the treatment plan so you can get to walking!

Keep in mind how dogs work (and how people work to some degree). Your dog does not know that walking is an opportunity to be healthier and spend some quality time together, so introduce the idea slowly. Keep it positive with small goals and lots of praise and healthy treats. Set short term, easily attainable milestones, like walking as far as the mailbox and stop for petting and a treat. Your dog willl adore having your undivided attention.

Never drag him on the leash. Leash time must be pleasant.  Coax  and entice him to step forward with you.  If you can only get a few steps along, that’s ok. Reward what you got and build on it. It might take days to get out of the yard, but don’t lose patience. If at any point, he refuses completely, go back to last spot he happily stepped forward and reward even leaning in the direction you want. Find something to praise him for so he will work for it.

Dogs love predictable schedules. Maybe walk at his dinner time and take the bowl and ration with you.  Feed him pieces along the way to motivate his steps or set a goal and when you reach it, he gets the bowl. Baby steps are the key.

Walking is a wonderful way to build up muscles, stamina and your bond with your dog!

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