Help! My dog is refusing to go on a walk!
(Q) My rescue dog, Susie, loves her walks and is always eager to go. However, I recently took her on a walk around the scarecrow trail in our area, which took her down some paths she hadn't been before. Since then I have had terrible trouble getting her out for walks. She is either reluctant to go out of the front door, or it's difficult getting her to the end of the driveway. Sometimes, she will just drop and refuse to go any further; other times she will go just so far and then turn around to come home.
Recently on a walk she wobbled and went down, and had difficulty getting up. After a drink she got up and made it home. However, it happened again at home. Our vet said Susie might have a back problem and gave her medication, and advised no exercise for two weeks.
(A) Vet Roberta Baxter says: There are several possible causes of your dog's problem. I don't think it is behavioural; it sounds more like a problem with exercise tolerance. Possibly, Susie felt so unable to keep going on your longer scarecrow trail walk that she has become afraid of being too far from home and not feeling well.
Problems with exercise tolerance can result from musculoskeletal problems such as joint pain and arthritis, and also from heart or breathing problems, which can cause weakness and collapse. Further investigation may be needed to identify the underlying problem so it can be managed effectively.
In general, your best approach to any such issue would be to keep her exercise levels within her capabilities. Three short walks a day are always better than one long one.
It would also be a good idea to help her shed any excess weight, as this will improve her mobility and heart and lung function, and thus her strength. Try measuring her food and splitting it into several small meals, rather than one big one.
Ask your vet for advice on her target weight and appropriate nutrition to achieve this. Also consider whether other forms of exercise, such as hydrotherapy, could be appropriate. Once you know what is causing her problem, you will be best placed to plan how to deal with it in the long term.