Although not as common as ‘pulling on leash’, it’s equally as frustrating counterpart, ‘refusing to walk on leash’, can be a problem for many dog owners.
Let’s picture this, it’s a busy work morning and you are ready to head to work. All that is left to do is a quick dog potty-walk around the block.You slip on your rubber boots as the ground is still moist from the rainfall the night before. You get your dog on leash and head out the door.
As you head down your front path, your dog gives you ‘the look’. That upwards stare that indicates This is as far as we are going today”.
You give a gentle tug and your voice escalates in pitch as you prep for a ruthless negotiation. “Come on big guy, let’s go pee-pee!” you plead. His next move although predictable still sends defeat through your body. <THUNK!>
His body hits the ground, he's fully planted, frozen in time and he’s not planning on moving unless it back the way he came from. Your options seem clear. Drag an 80lb Lab down the street and be late for work or turn around and let your now wet and full-bladdered dog back in the house and rush to work.From the hesitant puppy to stubborn senior, “pancaking”, as I like to call it, can be super frustrating. The good news is, you DO have options!
- Change the routine. Don’t always be predictable. Dogs have an incredibly accurate internal clock. Although routine can be helpful it can also worsen the anxiety of a dog anticipating the inevitable undesirable experience that is coming up. Dogs understand chained behaviours; you shower, brush your teeth, eat, get dressed, put on your shoes and THEN you walk the dog. He may even begin stressing from the time you hop in the shower. Try exiting a different door, or mixing up the time you walk. Let him drag the lead around while you eat breakfast. Be experimental.
- Give him more freedom. Try walking with a longer line/leash. Puppies will naturally follow and this is the best time to learn walking behaviours, however we don’t always get a chance to start at puppyhood. You can still go back to the basics though. Work your dog on a long line no more than 12 feet. Start with a leisure walk and reward your dog for coming back in close to you or ‘checking in’. (Do NOT use a retractable leash. These are very dangerous and send confusing messages to your dog.)
- Don’t fight. Don’t negotiate. Your dog continues to perform this behaviour because it works. If it didn’t work, he wouldn’t do it. You may think the talking, yelling, pleading and pulling are the only thing that eventually works to get your dog to move. In fact, these are likely the only reasons your dog is still engaging in the behaviour. If/when your dog pancakes, you need to stay strong, keep a small amount of pressure on the leash to the side of the dog’s body and wait. Having your dog wear a side-attachment harness such as a JWalker will make this task easier. If he gives an inch, you take it! You are leading, you are not mad, but you are not wavering. If you get a few steps, take it! Always end on a good note. You can consider it a win and head home, but only on your terms.
- Sometimes the fastest way to the end is to zig-zag or circle. Owners get caught up in the same walking circuit. Your dog knows you are walking to the park and when you try to leave, he knows you are heading home. That’s a perfect recipe for ‘pancaking’. Try changing your direction, take a diagonal detour. Keep your dog moving and guessing about what comes next and ‘pancaking’ will begin to disappear.