Ask an Expert - Walk-time Woes
Q: I recently rescued a dog that I don’t believe was ever taken for walks. She walks really, really slowly, and wants to stop and sniff everywhere. If I gently pull on the lead, she comes to a dead and determined stop and refuses to be budged (pretty good for a 10-pound dog!). I’ve tried using treats to lure her into following along, to no avail. She insists upon doing her own thing, so, frustrated, I finally carry her, defeating the purpose of our walk. What can I do to get her to walk?—Anchored in Anchorage
A:Rescue dogs can bring great joy to their new owners and it gives them another chance for a full and happy life. Your little dog may just need some time adjusting to a new way of life. Being a small dog, she may have been carried everywhere by her previous owner. As sniffing is how our dogs interpret the world around them, she may need the freedom to be a real dog.
Meanwhile, remember that when we pull our dogs, whether by the leash or the collar, they will often stop in their tracks. Keep the leash relaxed as much as possible so there is no tension on the collar.
Try working with her inside first. With her leash on, in the house, where she is likely more comfortable, feed her treats and a portion of her dinner by hand, and also have some playtime with toys. Then take the most exciting treats and toys with you and begin to explore the outdoors.
Initiate some play rather than being so concerned about the actual walk at first. Play a little, and give the ultimate reward of “go sniff.” This gives her a chance to check out the animal world of who’s been here or there. Then encourage her back with a squeaky or a wonderful smelly treat, and take a few steps down the street in play mode. Walk forward then turn and walk the other way three or four steps at a time to start. Repeat until she begins walking a little further each time.
The walk should be an enjoyable experience for you both, and sometimes we have to take some tiny steps on our street before we ever get to the next block. She will also pick up your feeling of frustration, so it’s very important to stay positive, patient, and upbeat with her.