Dog Will Not Walk on a Leash

By Deborah Taylor-French Mutt Monday: Best DIY Dog Training Video for Barking

Reader’s Question

Do you have any tips on how to encourage a dog to walk on a harness + lead? We have adopted two strays . . . they are never on leads, but for the long-term they need to learn this skill. One of them, when I put a harness and lead on him, he just sits down and will not move. He is very small.

Any suggestions – I have tried treats, cuddling, praise etc., but he just sits there.

Many thanks for your help.

Reply from Deborah

Oh, I had a dog like that. She would do everything I ask, except walk on a leash.

The instant I snapped on a leash, she sat down!

First Be Certain Your Dog is Healthy

  •  Rule out inherited knee or hip problems
  • Rule out heat sensitivity or hot sidewalks
  • Rule out illness, a sick dog does not want to walk
I think it's nap time.
I don’t feel like walking.

Dog Leader Tip

I suggest you try clicker training.

Be sure he loves those treats and then cut them or break them into bean-sized pieces.

Watch this Kikopup Youtube video on how to load a clicker.

  • Once you have your dog going ape to please you, try simple commands and behaviors he already knows like sit, down, stay.
  • Then leave his harness on the floor in another room.
  • Start a short clicker training session and have your dog walk with you into the room and around the leash.
  • Keep repeating short sessions, ignoring the harness but getting closer.
  • Gradually, add clicks and treats while he sniffs or touches the harness, then do the same with the leash.
  • Play short games, such as harness and leash dragging.
  • Only after he loves all this attention, hold the leash and let him lead you around the house, the yard, then out and down the street. If he does not want to walk anywhere, toss a treat and follow holding the lead.
  • Only when your dog has mastered all these steps, pat your knee and have your dog take a few steps with you on the lead. Do this inside, in a hallway or some quiet, non distracting place.

Please write again when he loves his walking gear.

Thanks for asking a GREAT question.


PS. For a good explanation on how to get a puppy or dog comfortable with a leash watch this video.

Be patient, consistent and persistent.

I suggest reading Training Answers: Why does my puppy lay down on walks. Click on the link below.

Cat in harness with leash
Cat in harness with leash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2 thoughts on “Dog Will Not Walk on a Leash

  1. Great tips! When I got Pierson, he was the same way. I put the leash on him when he was in the house or yard and just let him do what he wanted. When he saw I wasn’t going to use the leash to force him to go anywhere he got up and moved around on his own, dragging the leash behind him. I rewarded him with treats and praise. After just a couple of days of supervised leash dragging, I picked up the other end and walked with him around the house and yard. A few days after that he was ready for me to walk him.


    1. Thanks for your personal story of Pierson and his less than happy first minutes on a leash. So wonderful that you understood and gave the dog plenty of time to find out that the leash did not hurt. I am sure a leash feels odd the first time snapped, so I’m sympathetic to dogs and puppies.

      That very first dog I adopted at 8 years had very little training. I was lucky she weighed only 9 pounds, so we carried her at all times near the street or large dogs.

      Amazingly, she loved hiking trails and could walk for hours. But on hot days or in direct sun, we always kept her from overheating by backpacking her into the wilderness.


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