Walking our dogs is a necessary part of being a responsible pet owner, and we work hard to make sure our pups are getting the physical and mental exercise they need to be happy and healthy. While we hope that each and every walk we take is a pleasant one, that might not always be the case. Sometimes things happen that are out of our control, but other times it’s our own pups that are the cause of our frustration.
One of the more frustrating things our dogs may do on walks is abruptly laying down. While this is one of the most common things a dog may do on a walk, there are also many reasons why a dog may do it.
The most likely reason a dog will lay down on a walk is because they are still in training. Dogs may also lay down if they are hot, sick, injured, or afraid. Poorly fitted equipment or something within the dog’s environment could also cause a dog to lay down while on a walk.
Below we’ll look at possible reasons why your dog may be laying down while you are walking him, and why it’s usually a concern.
We’ll also discuss tips for how you can stop your dog from laying down on a walk, reasons why your dog specifically lays down when he sees another dog on a walk and why he lays down when you go to put his leash on for a walk.
Reason #1: Training Issue
Dogs who are still in the middle of leash training will often lay down near the beginning of a walk or when they first encounter resistance on the leash.
This is usually because the dog or puppy does not understand the pressure from the leash, or because they were previously allowed to go where they pleased and are now confused as to why they are no longer allowed to do that.
It can sometimes be referred to as the equivalent of a “temper tantrum” by owners, but it is really more just a lack of understanding on the dog’s part.
Collars, leashes, and the act of walking on a leash are all very foreign concepts to your dog, so it can take time before they understand how they work. We also often rely on a lot of these pieces of equipment to aid us when first teaching our dogs (especially large dogs) how to politely walk on a leash, so in my experience, this is a common issue many owners face.
If your pup was only recently introduced to these things, they may be laying down out of frustration or a misunderstanding, similar to how you may “give up” if you do not understand something difficult when first learning how to do something new.
It is up to us to help teach our dogs how to properly (and politely!) walk on a leash so that they do not feel like they are not understanding what we are asking them to do.
Reason #2: Injury Or Illness
If your dog normally walks quite nicely on leash and has never had any issue with going on walks in the past, but they are suddenly laying down when asked to go on a walk and/or they are laying down periodically throughout your regular walk, then they could be suffering from an injury or are feeling unwell.
This is especially true if they are displaying other signs of illness or stress, such as panting, crying, body tension, lethargy, limping, or other abnormal behaviors.
If your dog starts out the walk normally, but suddenly lays down mid-walk, you should do a once-over to make sure they didn’t step on something or that their leg isn’t caught up in their leash. More than once I’ve thought my dogs had done something drastic to their paw from the fuss they were making, only to find a small thorn in their pad that was quickly and easily removed, and we could carry on with our walk!
If you notice no external injuries but your dog is still behaving oddly, then it could be he ate something he shouldn’t have, or he is suffering from gastrointestinal distress (which can also occur if your dog ate a large meal too soon before a walk).
As Not A Bully’s advising veterinarian, Dr. Nita Patel explains “If you are noticing an increase in respiratory effort either in the chest or abdomen or heavy panting, these are signs of pain response in dogs.”
If your dog is continuously laying down on the walk and is showing other signs of illness such as dry heaves, attempting to vomit but being unable to, tremors, or drooling, you should get him to an emergency room immediately.
Dr. Nita Patel also adds that “as dogs age and arthritic changes set in, they may tire more easily and not want to walk as much as before.” So, make sure you’re not pushing your senior dog too hard on your daily walks.
If you don’t suspect your pup ate anything or is in need of immediate veterinary attention, but you are still concerned about an underlying illness or injury, you should schedule a checkup with your veterinarian just in case.
Reason #3: Temperature
Unlike people, who can wear shoes and who can adjust their body temperature by changing their clothing, dogs don’t have that option. So, if it’s too hot or too cold, your dog is stuck dealing with it and can only protest by putting their foot down (or rather, paw down) and refusing to walk.
With colder temperatures or when walking your dog in the rain, you can bundle your pup up in sweaters, jackets, and boots and may opt to postpone a walk or cut one short if you see your dog shivering, thus preventing a lay down.
But for warmer temperatures, it can be a lot harder to tell if it’s too hot to walk your dog.
Individual dogs also have different tolerances for higher temperatures, and the type of coat they have can also impact this, as well as whether it’s a dry heat, a humid heat, and what type of environment they are walking in.
This is why it’s so important to check the temperature (both the air temperature and the temperature of the ground) before taking your pup for a walk. While dogs do have sweat glands, they aren’t very effective, and a dog can quickly overheat with minimal physical activity.
So, a dog may lay down at the beginning of a walk once they feel how hot it is outside, or if they start to feel like they are getting too hot mid-walk.
As Dr. Nita Patel told us, it is always important to consider not only the outside ambient temperature but also the temperature of the ground or pavement. Typically the ground can be 10-20 degrees hotter than the temperature and can be extremely painful and uncomfortable for pets to walk on.
Dogs may seek out shade before laying down, or they may lay down where they stand. It may be next to impossible to get them up again, and if they do get up they may choose to run to try and get away from the heat, especially if the ground is hot and burning their feet.
Reason #4: Equipment Issue
Have you ever tried walking around in a pair of shoes that were two sizes too small? You probably had to give up and sit down at some point! Poorly fitted equipment, or equipment that wasn’t properly introduced to your dog can cause your dog to lay down on a walk due to discomfort.
If the equipment, like a harness, is too tight around the armpits or chest, it can prevent your dog from comfortably moving their shoulders and legs forward, and they may opt instead to lay down. If the equipment is extremely tight and causes pinching, the pain could also cause them to lay down in an effort to escape the pain.
On the other hand, if the equipment is too loose, your dog may trip over it, or it may slide uncomfortably around their body and they may lay down out of confusion or to avoid being caught up on it. If the equipment has any kind of barb, spike, or prong, your dog may also lay down to avoid the pressure or pain.
For equipment that is not properly introduced, dogs may also lay down when asked to walk to try and remove the equipment as they do not understand what it is or what its purpose is.
This is true of ANY piece of equipment, including your standard leash and collar. Equipment issues can often go hand-in-hand with training issues when a dog lays down on a walk and refuses to move, so if this is the case then equipment fit should also be looked at in addition to training issues.
Reason #5: Attention Seeking Behavior
Attention seeking behaviors in dogs often go along with other training and behavioral issues, and if you suspect that your dog laying down on a walk is due to attention seeking then it’s likely your dog is also displaying these types of behavior in other parts of their life, too.
Dogs are intelligent, and they can quickly pick up on how to get what they want if we don’t set boundaries with them and teach them appropriate behaviors and more polite ways of asking for things.
When walking my dogs I often see other dogs lay down on walks when they are denied something they wanted, such as going to greet the dog across the road or grabbing that discarded burrito that you just walked past.
Unlike the “temper tantrums” that were described under Reason #1, this type of protest could reasonably be described as a temper tantrum when put into human terms, though the root cause still stems from the dog coming to the wrong conclusions from something the owner unknowingly did or reinforced.
These “tantrums” stem from the owner previously giving in to the dog’s demands and allowing the dog to go greet every dog, grab every burrito off the ground, and dictate every moment of the owner’s waking life. These are all natural things for a dog to do, and they will do them unless they are taught other, more polite ways of getting what they want.
Unfortunately, as a trainer, I’ve witnessed that many owners are unaware of just how perceptive our dogs are of us, and how much influence our actions (or lack of action) have on their behavior and understanding.
Through unintentional reinforcement from their owners, these types of dogs have just discovered that the easiest way to get what they want is to just lay down on the walk and not move until their owner gives in and allows them to do as they please.
Reason #6: Anxious Or Fearful
Dogs who are anxious or fearful will usually try to flee a situation first, but if that method is unavailable (which is usually the case when they are attached to a leash while out on a walk), then an anxious or fearful dog may “shut down” instead, and will opt to drop to the ground and try to make themselves seem as small as possible, or they will tune out mentally and emotionally and ignore any attempts from their owners to get them up and moving again.
In the dog training world, this is called “pancaking” and you can usually discern it from other behaviors due to the positioning of their legs and their overall body posture. If they are tense, with the legs pulled in closely to their body, you are more likely seeing a fear or pain response, as opposed to attention-seeking behavior, which will present with more casual body language, like lying on their side or even rolling onto their backs.
A mild form of this behavior is seen in puppies who are still in the socialization period and are experiencing the world around them, and who are still developing good “bounce back” behaviors from things that make them anxious or fearful. They may lay down suddenly while out on the walk and stop moving when they see something scary or when confronted by a stranger or large object.
For older dogs, the behavior often stems from traumatic past experiences, and can be much more severe and stressful. It may require the intervention of an experienced trainer as the dog may be so anxious or afraid while out on the walks that they appear as if they are trying to melt themselves into the ground.
Reason #7: Environment
This reason is very specific to the unique situation that you and your dog find yourselves in, but your pup may have their own preferences and may not be interested in walking on the grass, snow, or gravel.
Or it could be that the light is bothering your dog, or the wind is causing too much movement. Your dog’s senses could be overstimulated and overloaded. There could be too many people in the area or there could be too many different sights, sounds, or smells causing them to look around and lay down.
One possible way a dog may react to becoming overwhelmed is to just lay down where they are at and stay there until they are assured by their owner that they are safe, or until whatever is overwhelming them moves along.
Dogs who lay down while on a walk in relation to their environment often get up as soon as whatever made them lay down moves along, and it’s usually a very short-term issue that does not need any further training, but as I said above it is very specific to the individual dog and situation so if this is occurring with your pup it may be worth a consultation with a trainer.
Reason #8: Your Dog Just Doesn’t Want To Go For A Walk
Sometimes, the reason your dog lays down on the walk is as simple as your dog just isn’t in the mood for a walk. You don’t always want to go to the gym, do you? Sometimes you’d much rather play a game with your kids in the backyard or go for a hike with your dogs in the woods.
Dogs can get bored of the same routine, so if you are sticking to the same walk every day, your dog laying down might be their way of protesting and wanting to do something else.
Or, if something negative occurred during your previous walk, your dog may be laying down because they are wary that whatever occurred may happen again. You may have to use some words of encouragement, or treats to get your dog to go for their walk and your pup may be a bit skittish while out on this walk but as long as nothing occurs during this outing they will most likely not lay down again.
Is It Bad If My Dog Keeps Laying Down On Walks?
It’s usually bad if your dog lays down on a walk because it can be frustrating and annoying as an owner, and it can cause issues with training beyond the walk.
Depending on what you as an owner do when your dog lays down and refuses to get up, it can create issues with boundaries, attention seeking behaviors, impulse control, fear, and negative associations with equipment, walks, people, things within the environment, and even with you as an owner.
Depending on the reason as to why your dog is laying down, there could also be a cause for concern for underlying health or behavioral issues.
If your dog only lays down once or twice on a walk and you can easily determine the cause to be something like your dog is tired or they had a small injury to their foot, then it’s probably nothing to be concerned about in the long-term.
But if your dog is continuously laying down while on walks or you notice other odd behaviors, reach out to a trainer or your veterinarian to determine the best course of action to help your pup out.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Laying Down On Walks?
In order to stop your dog from laying down on walks, you must first determine the root cause as to why they are laying down in the first place.
But once you know what you’re dealing with what’s next?
Check For Illnesses
If the underlying issue is a medical one, then you should reach out to your vet unless the issue is just a minor external injury such as a thorn in the paw (though care should still be taken to make sure there is no infection after the thorn is removed).
Visit A Trainer
If it’s a training issue, it’s best to reach out to a local dog trainer rather than attempt to fix the issue yourself, as I find it often just leads to frustration on both the owner’s end and the dog’s end, especially if the laying down has been an ongoing issue.
Leash walking in general can take quite a bit of time and patience to properly teach a dog. A trainer who utilizes reward-based methods and positive reinforcement can help you create long-lasting results and lead to happier walks with no interruptions.
Check The Harness
If the equipment is to blame then you may need to change your equipment or adjust the sizing. A good rule of thumb is that there should be two fingers width between the equipment and your dog’s skin, though this can vary depending on the type of equipment, your dog, and the width of your fingers.
Most pet supply stores can help you properly fit and adjust equipment, as can a good trainer and it’s not uncommon for clients to hire me just to make the equipment fitting process easier for both them and their dog.
This can be achieved by properly and safely introducing equipment and making any interaction with the equipment a positive one so that your dog is less likely to be resistant to the equipment and will walk forward instead of laying down in protest.
Be Aware Of The Environment
If your dog is laying down due to an environmental issue such as temperature or terrain, then change the time of day you are walking or provide your dog with protective gear.
Certain routes might also be making your dog anxious, perhaps it’s a noisy street or a neighborhood dog that’s too loud. Whatever the case may be changing your course or avoiding that particular street might be the best thing you can do for your dog.
Make Your Walks More Fun
Last but not least, if your dog seems uninterested in walking, switch up your routine by taking a different route or going for a hike instead of your normal neighborhood walk.
Making sure your walks are always fun and exciting will keep your dog interested in the walk itself. Using treats, and keeping the focus on your dog throughout the walk whether that’s through a short game, or simply engaging with them can help turn each walk into quality time with your canine friend.
Why Does My Dog Lay Down When He Sees Another Dog On A Walk?
Dogs communicate primarily through body language, so your dog laying down on a walk when they see another dog is their way of communicating visually to the other dog. Dogs also have a social hierarchy, though many people misunderstand a lot of what goes on in a dog’s social circle.
What the dog laying down is saying depends a lot on the rest of the body language being displayed by both dogs, but the two most likely messages being communicated are either ones of fear or ones of play or a friendly interaction.
Dogs who are fearful may lay down on the ground, stiffen up, and avoid eye contact with the other dog. If the other dog approaches, the one on the ground may scramble to try and get away, they may attempt to show appeasement gestures, or they may switch tactics and show defensive aggression if they feel like they are trapped.
A lot is dependent on the body language and communication of the approaching dog, so if your dog is laying down and showing any kind of stressed body language, make sure you are paying close attention and perhaps ask the owner with the approaching dog to divert their approach. If they are unable or unwilling to, try to get your dog to stand up and off the ground and then get them moving past the other dog.
The other message that could be communicated when a dog lays down when they see another dog on a walk is that of a playful or friendly interaction.
Dogs who lay down either fully or partially (such as when they go into a play bow) and are displaying loose body language, soft eyes, curved body language, or other friendly body language, to another approaching dog may be instigating play or at least signaling that they are friendly and interested in striking up a conversation.
Depending on the owner’s preferences, the owners can allow the dogs to interact for a bit or they can get their greetings out of the way and then move along. However, unless the dogs know each other, on-leash greetings are not generally suggested as they can get out of control quickly and the restriction of the leash can inhibit proper communication between the dogs, leading to misunderstandings.
If one dog is playful but the other dog does not seem as responsive, it’s best to just move along.
Why Does My Dog Lay Down When I Go To Put His Leash On For A Walk?
If your dog or puppy only lays down when you go to put her leash on for a walk, it could be because she’s had a negative experience with the leash previously, or that she was never properly introduced to her leash or walking equipment in the first place.
Dogs don’t naturally understand what a collar, leash, or any other piece of walking equipment is, so it’s important to create a positive association with them before attempting to take them for a walk. If we try to rush the process, we risk creating a negative association that can last for a long time.
Ill-fitting equipment can also cause a dog to lay down and try to avoid the leash or other piece of equipment when you try to put them on for the walk, as your pup remembers that it hurts.
Any negative association your dog has with any part of the walk, or any object or person associated with their walks may cause them to lay down when they see the leash, as that brings up memories of that previous negative experience. Changing those negative associations can take time, patience, and lots of counter conditioning.
As Dr. Nita Patel explained to us “Positive reinforcement with treats and praise when the harness or leash is applied can be very reassuring and comforting.”
If you suspect that this is the reason why your dog is laying down when you bring out the leash or other piece of equipment that signals a walk is coming, reach out to a local trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement training. They can help you create a plan to help change your dog’s reaction to the leash.
Understanding why our dogs might lay down on walks, or any of their strange walking habits, is an important part of dog ownership, as it’s likely to happen unless we educate ourselves on how it can happen and what we can do to help prevent it.
However, it’s not always so straightforward.
I lived in Vegas for a few years where temperatures could average over 110 degrees, even in the early morning or late hours of the night. One client’s dog received such significant burns that he developed a fear response to the leash! He had been classically conditioned to fear the leash, as a result of the burns, however he didn’t refuse to stand on concrete. In other words, he associated the burns with the leash, not the hot concrete.
This is a great example of how we don’t always know why our dogs respond the way that they do and it can take some patience and thoughtfulness to piece everything together. Feel free to comment below if you’re not sure or ask one of our professional dog trainers.