Going on walks is truly one of a dog’s favorite things. Seeing new people, hanging out with other dogs, patrolling the territory and checking out new smells ― a little adventure. Going outside also often entails playtime, or training, which are things all dogs enjoy. Not to mention, walks are necessary for a dog to comfortably do its business, when needed. But what if your dog suddenly doesn’t seem that interested in walks, anymore? Why your dog won’t go on walks could be due to a number of reasons, and most can be helped in various ways.

The purpose of a walk

While regular walks are vital to the cardiovascular health of your dog ― and yourself ― there’s more to it than just physical exercise. Dogs are intelligent, curious creatures, and need stimulation of all kinds to stay happy. We tend to take them on the same route every day, which is good, in its own way. Dogs need variation, but also love routine, which is essential to their wellbeing. It offers a sense of familiarity and a chance to keep track of who or what has passed through in your dog’s absence. But taking your dog on a surprise trip every now and then, especially through highly dog-trafficked areas, can offer them a whole new kind of excitement. Taking your dog on a brand new route may leave them just as tuckered out as a long walk would, due to all the news smells, sights, and sensations.

A walk is also a time for socializing. Your dog may seem in their own world a lot of the time, nose close to the ground or eyes on something in the distance, but it’s definitely a social activity. Your dog may not be too fond of you staring at your phone the whole time, or walking with a pair of headphones in ― they want to excitedly share this experience with you. In other words, going for a walk is just as much about bonding and spending time together, as it is for exercise and bathroom visits.

Physical illness or discomfort

When a dog won’t go on walks, or seems reluctant or scared of it in some way, it’s a sign worth noting. Of course, dogs are also occasionally just tired and lazy, like people can be; sometimes, they just don’t feel like it. But if this happens repeatedly, or often, something else may be the cause of this refusal.

A common reason a dog won’t go on walks is physical discomfort. Maybe your dog has joint pain somewhere, or some kind of cut or inflammation in their paw pads. Check to see if a claw has been injured, or if your dog has stepped on something, or sprained their ankle. Even things that don’t relate to movement can cause lethargy and fatigue, like a toothache, constipation, or physical illness. Imagine how excited you would be to go for a walk if you were running a fever or suffering from arthritis. Especially in older dogs, joint pain can be a cause for disinterest, even dread, toward walks.

If you can’t find any physical reasons for your dog’s walk-reluctance, have them checked out by a veterinarian. They’ll do a thorough examination, and will help you treat your dog if they find the root of the problem of why your dog won’t go on walks.

A walk is a necessary, social activity. But what if your dog suddenly doesn’t want to?

Depression in dogs

Physical causes are often the reason for a dog refusing something as basic and enjoyable as a walk, but sometimes it can be due to other things. Much like with people, the problem may be mental, in which case, it can be harder to spot. The truth is, dogs can suffer from mental health issues like depression and anxiety, albeit not in a way as complex as humans do. It’s still a very real problem that can lead to other, serious conditions if left untreated.

A common sign of depression is lethargy, as well as apathy and a general lack of interest in things your dog would normally enjoy. They may eat less, play less, withdraw from socializing, and yes, even refuse walks. If your vet has ruled out any physical ailments for why your dog won’t go on walks, depression may be the cause of your dog’s unwillingness to take a nice stroll with you outside. Especially if your dog’s mood has changed rather suddenly, try to think of any major changes that may have happened recently to trigger this behavior. Therein you’ll usually find the best ways to treat this kind of problem.

Stress and anxiety

Another reason your dog won’t go on walks could be stress, or anxiety. Much like with depression, this kind of issue may be triggered by sudden, drastic changes. Not all dogs show this type of distress the same way. An anxious dog may show signs of restlessness, such as barking, digging, or chasing their own tail. If you can’t think of any big changes that may have caused your dog’s apprehensive behavior, maybe something has happened during a previous walk? Is there a new dog in town, one that has intimidated yours on a previous occasion? Does your dog perhaps avoid or seem hesitant about certain spots or areas during your walks? Much like humans, dogs will avoid uncomfortable or scary things, if possible.

If your dog is a puppy, or has shown this kind of behavior for a very long time, it may simply be a case of them feeling overwhelmed. The world can be big and scary for a little pup, and it’s important to show patience and understanding while getting them used to it all.

As with any other health or behavioral issue, always consult a professional. Have a vet make sure that there are no physical causes for your dog’s anxiety, such as pain or parasites (worms can be enough to make your dog go nuts, after all). Finding the root of your dog’s anxiety is the only way you’ll be able to treat it. One important thing to remember, however, is that forcing your dog into a scary situation is not in their best interest. If they show reluctance to heading down a certain street, don’t drag them along kicking and screaming. Instead, try to make it a calm, comforting experience. Your dog trusts you implicitly to keep them safe.

Be patient and understanding if your dog won’t go on walks

It’s easy to get frustrated with our dogs, if they refuse to cooperate with something as simple and basic as a daily walk. Especially since we love our pups so dearly, it can make us feel powerless to see them so disinterested and unhappy. But a dog’s behavior is never without reason, and with the right help and resources, you’ll be able to offer the support they need.