My Dog is Giving My Dog Walker a Complex. Why?
May 27, 2016 4:33 PM   Subscribe

The next entry in my series of newbie dog questions. My newish rescue dog Huggy is difficult about walks in general, but is now making our friendly dogwalker insane by refusing to walk. She clearly likes her, so what gives?

Huggy is not the most enthusiastic of dog exercisers ever, but she genuinely enjoys her walks. She *is* extremely stubborn and superstitious when walking. For instance, she refuses to turn left when she comes out of my apartment building. Right is fine. Straight is fine. But if I try to take her left, she plops down and imitates a dog skin rug. So she's a little odd.

I have a wonderful dog walker (Sally) who comes once a day to walk Huggy and has done so since I first fostered her. Huggy clearly likes Sally just fine. Her poor little butt stub wiggles with glee when she sees Sally (the "humans" who had her before me docked her tail). But for the last week, she refuses to walk for Sally.

She's enthusiastic when Sally arrives. She happily gets her collar on and goes outside with Sally but then she gets ten feet and plops herself down in dog skin rug pose and stays that way until it's time to go back in the house. Last night I had a long workshop at the office so I asked Sally to swing by an extra time for Huggy and when I arrived home I saw poor Sally standing there listening to podcasts while my dog blocked the sidewalk and cheerfully smiled at passers by. She didn't look unhappy, just immobile. When she saw me, she scrambled up and I was able to take her on a normal walk.

(By "normal walk" I mean an obsessive patrol of every cat spot in the neighborhood. But that's a different story.)

Huggy has a history of abuse, old injury and arthritis. She's also pretty lazy by nature. (It isn't just Sally, by the way. My boss, who is Huggy's Literal Favourite Human, tried walking her once and she did exactly the same thing.) So should I be worried about this? I don't mind paying poor Sally to hang out on the sidewalk and keep the dog company, but I'm afraid she may soon quit because my dog is giving her a complex. Next week, Huggy will board with her while I'm away a few days for work. And I think we're both a little afraid she will not walk at all for four days.

I've started obedience training with her and she does very well with games like "look at me" and does pretty well with the recall command. But monster level stubborn is a little advanced for where we are in the lessons. Any advice?
posted by frumiousb to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
Maybe you and Sally can try a walk together?

If Huggy likes fetching, tugging games or can do a dog park, that can always mix up the exercise routine. Worse case, a few days of no walking shouldn't hurt.

Good luck in training.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 4:44 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would question whether walking is causing her an increase in arthritic pain. It may hurt to do it. If she checks out ok with the Vet she might just be a non walker.

I wish my dog was a little more like your dog.
posted by cairnoflore at 4:47 PM on May 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

As she is a rescue dog, my guess is that the last time she allowed someone not her owner to lead her away from her house she ended up at the shelter, and she is not about to make that mistake again.
posted by jamjam at 5:00 PM on May 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

I should have said, by the way, that she saw her vet just last week who thought she was responding well to the treatment for arthritis. So it shouldn't be more pain.
posted by frumiousb at 5:18 PM on May 27, 2016

I would try walking with Sally a few times. She might just associate walking with a thing that she can do with you because she trusts you and you're da boss.
posted by bleep at 5:36 PM on May 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's hot? I've had dogs who preferred not to walk in the heat and went crumpledog as its their only way to tell you.

Other suggestion is that she doesn't want to leave the apt because she's waiting on you to come home and is unwilling to leave without you. My dog who is obsessed with me will do stuff like this.
posted by fshgrl at 5:48 PM on May 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Is Huggy food motivated at all? What happens when Sally offers a really good treat? Will Huggy walk to her to get it?
posted by Sara C. at 5:56 PM on May 27, 2016

My dog is very similar (also a rescue), and I don't have any helpful hints (we've tried group walks with us and the walker, that's fine, but we never got him to graduate to walking with just the walker even with extremely good bribes). He does, however, walk perfectly well with walkers/boarding facility staff who aren't taking him out from our apartment.

So, don't despair about the boarding, it may be totally fine. I'm looking forward to any hints on the walking from the apartment situation other people may have!
posted by snaw at 5:57 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

What sort of equipment are you using? Try getting a training harness with a ring between the shoulders and one under the neck, and then get a leash with clasps on either end. If she refuses to turn a certain way, you can use the leash part in the front to guide her. When she refuses to walk, tension from the harness ring on the back will put pressure on her chest and compel her to move.

It could be just she's not used to being walked, and you have to train her. Your trainer should have some good tips.
posted by Leontine at 6:33 PM on May 27, 2016

My dog is not even particularly old or in poor shape (but she has gotten less vigorous exercise in the past year or so for Reasons) but when the temperatures spike upwards like it has lately she becomes very much less enthusiastic about midday walks and it can be difficult to get her to Get To The Point rather than just laying down and rolling a bit and then attempting to take a nap in the warm grass.
posted by drlith at 7:17 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh Huggy! I forgot how cute you are until I clicked on the link to your photo! So, so handsome!

A couple of ideas - 1. fshgrl mentioned heat. If Huggy has sensitive feet, cement in the summer may be too hot for her.

2. Leash or harness? If you are using a leash, maybe she has bad memories of this, or maybe she doesn't like having something around her neck. A harness might work. I use a "Ruffwear" brand harness. (No photo on hand but here's a cute shot of my pups at the dog park.)

3. Pain - Most dogs are stoic - they don't want to show their pain or whine about it. It could be her arthritis is making it painful for her to walk. Massages help (hip area especially) and I have a small supply of Rimadyl on hand if my older dog has a flare up of his arthritis or he over does it at the dog park.

If nothing else, now that HUggy knows and likes the game of "Find it", you or your dog walker could play this outside four a block or two.

Good luck!
posted by mulcahy at 8:47 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think it might be helpful to think of Huggy as a trauma survivor who may have PTSD. The abuse she endured is quite serious and she is no doubt, going to have some stuff going on that makes her behavior different from what we are all used to considering "normal" dog behavior. I'm sure your dog walker, if she's any good, is aware of this and she won't give up on Huggy. Try to be very, very patient with Huggy. She has been through so much and she is no doubt walking on eggshells trying to please you, the person she sees as her pack leader. I don't find it surprising she won't leave home without you. She has had so little experience of the world, tied in one place for much of her life. It must be overwhelming. I too think the best idea is for you to go on walks with the dog walker and Huggy for awhile. Keep a close eye out for any limping or other signs she may be in pain, hip dysplasia often presents as a very "swishy" butt when walking. But I think, given time and consistency, Huggy will take her walks with no hesitation and even look forward to them with joy. Dogs are resilient.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:43 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Maybe have a wagon on hand for those times. She may just enjoy a ride more than a walk.
posted by JJ86 at 5:42 AM on May 28, 2016

As a dogwalker in NYC I looked after a dog that was a terrible walker. You'd be lucky to get him to the kerb to pee before he wanted to turn tail back into the apartment. Then one day I tried running with him instead. Different and very happy dog. If she's up to it, see if she'll run.
posted by merocet at 1:03 PM on May 28, 2016

So, thanks for your advice. The trainer was here yesterday, and she had the following remarks:

Huggy is very very smart. She makes her way through the training exercise at a pace which exceeds most dogs. She's learned every command effortlessly. However, this is not so good for overall obedience, because she has worked out that nobody will hurt her to force her to do anything, and we can't lift her if she doesn't want to walk somewhere.

Because of her hip/leg issues and the history of abuse, she believes compelling her (with a new lead or otherwise) would be a very bad idea. (The vet also instructed me to never force her to walk.)

Her advice is to take her literally. If she sits and won't move, Sally should take her in and play with her a bit indoors, then leave. If she sits on me and refuses to turn a certain way more than once in a walk, turn around and take her home. She said Huggy is smart enough to work out that a walk will be curtailed if she's stubborn if everyone is consistent about it. We're also working on making the "let's go" command a constant in her life. She already knows it, but she doesn't consistently obey it.

And finally, snaw, she agreed with your observation. She thinks once Huggy is boarding with Sally, then she will walk with no problem since the environment will be different. We will see.
posted by frumiousb at 4:38 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

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