I’m A Veterinarian: Here’s Why Your Dog Won’t Walk On Grass

yellow lab looking at grass with concern

Most dogs love being outside in the yard, running and playing. Some dogs, however, may shy away from these activities because of the surface they usually occur on: grass! While we humans may think running around on the grass feels nice, our dogs may not always feel that way.

Dogs may refuse to walk on grass due to discomfort with its texture, unfamiliarity, or past negative experiences.

Some dislike the sensation on their paws, while others might associate grass with fear or have allergies causing irritation.

Sudden avoidance can be linked to chemical treatments on the grass or paw injuries. Addressing this involves positive reinforcement to build good associations with grass, using paw protection if necessary, and consulting a trainer for severe cases.

To get to the root of the problem, let’s take a closer look at each explanation.

Reason 1: They Hate The Feeling

The answer could be as simple as your dog doesn’t like the feeling of the grass! Not every dog may like the grass like this pup:

Dogs are very sensory animals – they take in everything in their environment using all their senses, and tactile sense with paws is crucial to their assessment of their environment.
A dog’s paw is incredibly sensitive, and the feeling of grass between their toes may be off putting. Most dogs may start this way as puppies and get used to the feeling through positive exposure to grassy areas, but some dogs can be more stubborn and carry the aversion throughout their life.
Studies have even shown that some dogs can potentially have sensory processing disorders that affect the way their brain interprets the signals from the nerves in their feet. Whether your dog is sensitive or stubborn, they may be avoiding grass just because they don’t like it!

Reason 2: Your Dog Isn’t Used To Grass

If your dog is a young puppy or rescue dog, they may not understand what grass is!

Puppies, like humans, aren’t born with all the knowledge and skills needed to survive. Puppies need socialization, (along with plenty of training) and an often-overlooked part of socialization is the feeling of different surfaces to walk on.

For rescue dogs, grass could also be a mystery. As sad as it is, many of our shelters and rescues are understaffed and overfilled. Many dogs don’t get the luxury of playtime in a grassy yard and spend most of their days on gravel, concrete, or fake grass.

This is especially true for dogs that entered the system as puppies and grew up not knowing grass.

Reason 3: They Don’t Like The Temperature Or Texture Of The Grass

For dogs that usually don’t mind playing around on the grass in perfect weather conditions, they may not want to walk or play on the grass if the grass is too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry.

Wet grass can feel chilly even in warm weather, and it can be slippery. Grass that is too dry can become prickly and feel unpleasant on the paw pads. Grass that is too cold or too hot can cause discomfort or even injury to the paw pads.

Reason 4: Your Dog Has A Negative Association With The Grass

A dog learns much about its world by association. When something negative or traumatic happens to a dog, they may not fully understand what’s happening. As a result, they may associate their surroundings with the negative emotion they felt in the moment.

For example, if a dog was playing on grass when some unexpected fireworks went off or a large group of kids ran through, they may see or feel grass and immediately flashback to those emotions.

This could relate to the actual feeling of the grass itself, or it could be the specific area of grass they were in.

Reason 5: They Have An Allergy To The Grass

Like us, dogs can be born with or develop allergies.

A dog that is allergic to grass will exhibit many of the same symptoms that a human will. Your dog may be itchy, sneezy, experience hair loss around their paws and bellies, and/or have red, watery eyes.

A strong indication that a dog is allergic to grass if they are gnawing at their paws, especially after they’ve walked on the grass.

Paws are coming into contact with the entire environment and the interdigitary region (in between the paw pad) is very sensitive. Allergens get trapped in this area (along with moisture) and can cause the pup to lick. Licking and biting will then in tune create an infection between the pads secondary to these allergens.

Wiping the paws when coming in and out of the home from outside can help remove some of the allergens that instigate the itch.

My Dog Suddenly Won’t Go on Grass

If your dog has had no issue walking on grass for their entire life, it can be a frustrating mystery when they suddenly decide they don’t want to walk on grass anymore. This next section discusses reasons that a dog may develop an aversion to grass later in life.

Reason 1: The Grass Has Been Treated With Chemicals

Pesticides, herbicides and even fertilizers can all be beneficial to the beauty of our yard, but these same substances could toxic if ingested.

Even if you use pet safe treatments, the smell or feel of the substance could be uninviting for your dog to step on. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and if the grass smells “off” in any way they may suddenly refuse to walk on the grass.

Even if the chemical scent is no longer noticeable to us, it’s likely that our pups can still smell it.

Reason 2: Something Is Wrong With Their Paws

Unless we are using boots or paw protectors with our dogs whenever we walk them, there is a small risk that our pups could sustain an injury such as a cut, burn, or puncture when we walk them.

Dogs are good at hiding their pain, and not good at expressing it in ways we understand. If your dog has a sudden aversion to stepping in the yard, check their paw pads for injuries. The feeling of the grass may irritate the wound making it painful to walk in the grass.

Reason 3: Something Else In The Environment Is Bothering Them

A dog that is suddenly avoiding grass or quickly steps away from it for seemingly no reason may actually be responding to something else in the environment. This could be a smell, sight, or sound that we humans may not have noticed yet.

I struggle with red ant hills in my yard, and occasionally I’ll see my dogs suddenly run out of the grass because the ants are hidden within it and biting at their paws.

If your dog suddenly moves off of the grass and away from the area, it could be that something in that area has caused them some anxiety or fear.

Why Won’t My Dog Pee in Grass?

Sometimes dogs have no issue walking on the grass, but they refuse to use the bathroom on the grass. Many times this is just personal preference for the dog, especially if they were never trained to potty on grass before.

It could also be due to the grass being an uncomfortable temperature or causing “splash back” of urine, having an aversive smell that deters the dog from wanting to potty there, or simply because the dog has smelled something better elsewhere and wants to mark there instead of on the grass.

How to Train Your Dog to Walk on Grass

Because the nature of dog ownership usually requires dogs to potty and exercise outside, it can be very important to help your dog get over their aversion to grass.

Using positive reinforcement training methods and rewarding your dog whenever they walk or potty on the grass is key to helping them overcome this issue.

If your dog is not wanting to walk on the grass due to a traumatic event, a local dog trainer will be able to help you come up with a training plan that involves changing the negative association into a positive one.

You should never force your dog to walk in the grass, and if your pup continues to struggle with it you can also try boots or other paw protection measures that reduce their contact with the grass.

Closing Thoughts

Dogs can be sensitive creatures, and there are many reasons a dog might choose to avoid grass!

By examining the reasons your dog may be avoiding grass you can make the best decision on how to address and correct the behavior.



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