dog won't walk
October 6, 2010 9:15 AM   Subscribe

How can I get my dog to walk?

I have a 1 year old Shiba Inu. He's a beautiful dog with a kind heart, a playful spirit, and an easy going personality. However, when it comes to walks he is extremely difficult. Shiba Inu's are known for being stubborn. I knew that when I got the dog. Overall, he's not too bad for a shiba Inu...except for when it comes to walking consistently. This is a new occurrence. I've had him for eight months. While he's had some problems walking and stopping it's never been this bad. Here's what's happening: As soon as we walk out the door he immediately sits down on the front porch and will not move. In order to get him to move I have to either give him a treat or pick him up. The treat only gets him to move a little then he stops. Eventually he'll start to move and walk until he's found a place to go to the bathroom. Once he's finished going to the bathroom the only direction he'll walk is back towards my house. He's healthy...according to my vet. Inside the house he sprints when we play fetch. Overall, he's definitely more of a lazy dog, but not wanting to ever walk? This is something that started about 2 weeks ago. I usually walk him 3 times a day. Once in the morning, once at the end of the work day, and once before we go to bed. I've tried a squirt bottle. It worked at first but then it didn't work. I'm loosing my mind! I love this dog, but not being able to walk him has caused so much stress and frustration. Any tips or advice here are very much appreciated!
posted by ljs30 to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just a bizarre question, but have you ever tried running with him instead? He might not be as lazy as you think, just bored. I don't know if running is a possibility for you, but even a swift jog will get even the laziest, walk-hatin' dog excited for a little. So, start out with a little jog, then slow down to a walk. When you see he's getting bored, jog a little longer, then back to a walk, etc. You can eventually get down to a brisk walk. I also used to put a backpack on my stubborn Husky, and he love-love-loved it.

You could also try playing around with him and a toy. Does he fetch? If he doesn't, it's pretty easy to teach a dog to fetch. I just did the same thing last week, and my oblivious runty Jack Russell terrier mix is getting the hang of it. This is the guide I used.

Whatever you do, just try to make it fun and interesting for your pup. Shibas are so, so smart, and you really have to keep them occupied for them to not get bored/stubborn. Good luck!
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:24 AM on October 6, 2010

You want to use shaping here.

Since he already responds to treats (albeit weakly) with the behavior you want, you just need to extend the time between the behavior and the reward. Use the treat to lure him off the porch at first; Then each time, make him take a few more steps before giving the treat. Eventually, you can skip the treat altogether.

As another possibility, though, could something outside have scared him? Pets tend to react in odd, very long-term ways to what may seem to us the smallest of incidents.
posted by pla at 9:26 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had a lot of luck with an Easy Walker harness.

Another thing that has worked well for me and my stubborn bulldog: In the early days he got a treat every time we crossed from one block to another. This was easy in the city because he could always see the next block. Later we moved on to every other block, and now he does not need any encouragement. I imagine you could do this with any visible marker if you don't live in a city.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you treating him after he stops? If so, you are rewarding him for bad behavior. Give him treats while he is walking.

I also like two lights above the sea's suggestion to keep him interested.

Is it possible that his collar/harness is irritating him?
posted by muddgirl at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2010

Maybe he is associating something negative or traumatic with his walk times? I think you should consider stopping with punishment type corrections (like the squirt bottle) because it could make him associate walking with punishment. Also, if he's sitting when you do it (a good behavior that's probably normally encouraged), it could backfire and make him stop sitting altogether. Perhaps try rewarding him when he DOES walk, even if it is only one or two steps.

Here's what I would do if it's an extreme case or if it's fear related. Train him to walk and touch something (a stick with a ball at the end, your hand, or a toy). Try it inside and reward him for every touch. Then try walking a step and having him touch again. Keep going until he gets it inside, and then you can try outside.
posted by smalls at 9:29 AM on October 6, 2010

Are his feet sensitive/irritated in some way by the ground outside? My roommate's afghan hound is fussy when it comes to stepping on stuff, and would rather lie down than step on or around something in her path. I also knew a puppy (a bichon frise I think?) a few years ago who refused to walk on cement (but the grass was just fine).
posted by phunniemee at 9:30 AM on October 6, 2010

Does he have a doggie friend that you can walk with? One of my dogs was initially very unenthusiastic about walking, but when I paired him with my little power walker dog, he was happy to keep up. Now he's a first-rate walker. Recently I used him as the power walker with my friend's new, unenthusiastic walker of a dog, and she was amazed at how happy her dog was to walk with mine. One dog can gain confidence from another.
posted by HotToddy at 9:31 AM on October 6, 2010

Also - If it's not extreme, you can just try dropping the treats as you go instead of stopping to reward. If they're good enough he should end up walking along to get them and then he'll figure out that being next to you magically makes treats drop from the sky.
posted by smalls at 9:32 AM on October 6, 2010

Another idea is to get a wooden spoon with peanut butter on it and hold it at your side. Then once he gets the idea, start dropping it down at random intervals.
posted by HotToddy at 9:35 AM on October 6, 2010

Another point: I've personally known Shibas to have a lot of success with Cesar Millan's technique for walking, but I'd highly suggest you get him used to taking walks before you start with this. That's just my opinion, anyway. I use his technique for walking (although I don't use that type of leash on my smaller dog because I feel it's too harsh for her; I use the Easy Walker harness for my small dog) and it is very effective.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:36 AM on October 6, 2010

This may be a wild guess but is it darker in the morning or evening where you are? Where I am, it is now dark (pre-dawn) in the morning when I take my dog for her walk. She LOVES it (critters are still active) but some of my friends' have mentioned their dogs don't want to get up and get moving in the morning. Its not a solution but maybe a cause of the problem? Not that you can change your walk schedule to be in sync with daylight!
(I know that doesn't answer your question but with dog training, it is sometimes most helpful to figure out the root of the problem so you can devise the best way to shape a new behavior, IMHO)
posted by rachums at 9:38 AM on October 6, 2010

Recommend HotToddy's advice. Our "red dog" (we asked our vet what she was and that is what he said) would lie down instantly until we took a second dog who walks great along and in two walks she is fine now.
posted by leafwoman at 9:46 AM on October 6, 2010

Here's a couple ideas:

First, does he know how to do a true "heeling" walk, where he walks right alongside you on the left side? One way to teach a good "heel" is to have a pocketful of tiny treats (I use small-breed puppy kibble) so you can dole them out liberally (without completely negating the point of exercising!) Some people also use a treating toy (such as a Kong) stuffed with peanut butter or whatever to keep the dog moving forward and in the right position. If he's more toy-motivated than food-motivated, then bringing along a fetch toy might make it more fun.

In a related vein, is there a park near enough by that you can walk him to the park and have some more stimulating exercise time? Even if your dog and/or environment are not suitable for going off-leash, you can get a lot of fun romps in by finding a quiet area of the park and switching over from a regular leash to a long line (I'm using a 50 ft 1/4" nylon rope until our newish dog child is reliable off-leash).
posted by drlith at 9:53 AM on October 6, 2010

Treat rewards (e.g. for shaping as suggested by pla) work best when the recipient is a bit hungry. When I'm working on a new trick for our dog things go much faster if it hasn't had a meal recently. When the dog's not hungry, it's not going to be very interested in tidbits, however fancy.
posted by anadem at 10:19 AM on October 6, 2010

I am not familiar with that breed and its potential problems, but have you had a vet check him out to be sure there are no physical problems making him reluctant to walk? I have an older dog with bad hips that often is reluctant to move until her daily dose of Rimadyl kicks in. (I am not suggesting that your dog necessarily has hip dysplasia, but there could be a physical cause for his reluctance to walk).
posted by TedW at 10:26 AM on October 6, 2010

You are letting your dog be dominant here over you. This is not a good thing.

My dog used to do the exact same thing, She sat down (sometimes in the middle of a pedestrian walkway!) and refused to move. Some options:

1. Get his attention via treats. Take his attention away from what he wants to do and place it on what you want to do. Lead him forward on the walk by getting his focus on the treat. Only give him the treat after moving forward with you on the walk.

2. Make a negative sound (a quick negative hiss or a nuh-uh sounds) that you disapprove of his behavior. This also takes his attention away from sitting in place and places his attention on your. If you're ok with it, sometimes a quick jerk of the leash works well while making the negative sound. When he starts to move following the sound, always immediately praise him afterward.

3. Butt push. I don't know how large your Shiba Inu is, but it probably is about the same size as my dog (20 - 25 pounds). I have had luck literally putting my hand behind my dog's behind and pushing her forward until she walks, always praising as soon as she starts walking again.
posted by seppyk at 11:00 AM on October 6, 2010

When I read your question, I made a little bet with myself that you had cats.

My guess is that something bad happened at home while you were walking your dog a couple of weeks ago, and now your dog wants to stay home all the time to keep it from happening again.

I guessed cats (plural) because cats are very territorial, especially in the presence of other cats, and will try to capture as much territory as they can in a mutual space by marking it in some way.

But neither one could probably do that in certain spaces ordinarily controlled by your dog, such as his bed, toy box, food and water dish, etc., as long as the dog was present.

I am imagining that two weeks ago while you were on a walk with your dog, one or both of the cats saw the opportunity and marked something that upset your dog, possibly even peeing on his bed or sleeping area, as a worst case scenario.
posted by jamjam at 11:13 AM on October 6, 2010

My hunch is that he's going through a stage. I know many dogs who try to escape the yard around 4 months -- if you can manage to contain them for the 6 weeks it takes for them to grow out of it, they often don't think of leaving again.

With stubborn dogs, I've had great success with clicker training.
posted by MeiraV at 8:33 PM on October 6, 2010

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