Why Does My Dog Refuse to Walk With Other People?

A spooky tale (tail?) of a close call with a Hallowe’en dognapping for you today.

Over the last several months, Matt and I have had several days where we’re away from the farm, and our parents have taken turns coming to stay with the baby and the dog. Baxter knows his grandparents very well and likes them (perhaps because he knows they usually come with treats).

Baxter with his grandma - Why does my dog refuse to walk with other people?

However, Baxter does not like them enough to go for a walk with them. On days when we’re not home, Baxter will wait stoically (or stubbornly) until we return to take him for a walk.

If one of the grandparents manages to coax him outside, he will stand on the driveway and refuse to move. He won’t even take the opportunity to go to the bathroom.

This behaviour appears also if Matt and I are home and someone else tries to walk him. No way, Jose.

This is a bit frustrating because it would be very helpful to us if we didn’t have to personally fit in a walk in every day—especially after a long day away from home. (One of us always gives him a walk in the morning before we leave.)

Baxter and my daughter Ellie occasionally spend days at their grandparents’ houses. On those days, when he’s not on his home turf, Baxter happily goes for a walk.

I’d love to hear from the ThatMutt community what you think is going on with Bax.

Is he afraid his grandparents are secretly dognappers? Does he feel a duty to watch the house when we’re not home? Has he appointed himself our official welcoming committee and doesn’t want to miss our arrival? (The last two don’t make sense because he won’t walk even if we’re home… but his grandparents having a secret career as dognappers also doesn’t make sense.)

My Mom is not Cruella Deville! Why does my dog refuse to walk with other people

Also I’d really appreciate some suggestions for possible solutions.

One idea I have is an obvious one: going for walks with Bax and my Mom, so he gets more comfortable walking with her. We’d build up over a few days, and she could start to hold the leash while we walk together. And then a few days after that if Bax is walking well I’d gradually drift away as he and my Mom walk on.

The challenge with this is it requires an additional commitment of time from the grandparents when they’re already helping us out a lot with baby and dogsitting.

What do you think Baxter is thinking?

How do you think we can help him be more comfortable with different walking buddies?

Related posts:

What is my dog really telling me?

What to do when your dog refuses to walk

How to motivate a lazy dog

Julia Thomson is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating. She and her family live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada. Follow Julia on Instagram here.

20 thoughts on “Why Does My Dog Refuse to Walk With Other People?”

  1. I think your idea is a good one. I might start that approach on just getting him out to use the yard, though. He can probably survive without a walk if he has to, but he’d be a pretty sad pup if he had to go to the bathroom and didn’t feel comfortable taking the opportunity to go.

    You could also try hiring a pro to help him get used to walking with someone who isn’t you. Maybe a Wag or Rover sitter would be willing, or perhaps a trainer in your area offers those services (we have both options here). That might help get him accustomed to a different human, net you some strategies, and minimize the amount of time your parents have to invest.

    This is an interesting conundrum, though. I have never asked anyone else to come and let my dog out or take her for a walk. To tell the truth, I don’t trust any of our friends with her; she’s a lot of dog, and too much could go wrong. Of the dogs we’ve walked, one is generally pretty easy and the other is a terrible walker, to the point that I quit agreeing to walk him. He plants and refuses to move, and I can’t lift him. At least Baxter just doesn’t want to leave in the first place!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      KL, I’m like you and don’t really trust anyone to walk Remy other than my parents! He loves to walk with them and they know his “quirks” haha.

      1. My dog has my dad’s number. He’d give her anything she wanted. She is not allowed to be alone with him; she’d probably manage to charm him into signing over his bank accounts to her!

    2. I have a staffie dog ,he’s 18 months old and he won’t walk with other people, he shakes if I’m not around. I have moved 3 times though and thinking maybe that’s the cause problem, what do you think anyone?????

  2. Lindsay Stordahl

    When I was a dog walker, there was one 100 lb airedale terrier (also named Baxter!) that sometimes did NOT want to walk with me if his owners were not home. Interestingly, he would happily leave with me when his owners were home and in the doorway with us.

    If he did not want to walk with me, he’d be on his dog bed and would even growl if I approached so I could not put his leash on him. What I figured out got him moving was to ring the door bell after I was in the house already. Then he’d come charging down to see who was “there.” I’d even say, “who’s here?!” in an excited voice. That was enough to get him ready to head out. It changed his mindset.

    So … if you can think of something that might change Baxter’s mind set? Even heading out from a different door or heading for a walk from a different side of the yard. You never know!

    I also walked an English bulldog who did not want to walk with me and his reason was about being overwhelmed or scared beyond his yard. I would bring treats along and would feed him treats only when he was moving forward. I didn’t give him treats if he moved to me and stopped. That seemed to work pretty well. I also just walked him around in his yard around the house so he got some exercise but didn’t always have to leave the property.

    1. HOLY COW. Aren’t Airedales supposed to top out at around 55-60 lb?! That is a HUGE specimen. Definitely wouldn’t want him mad at me.

    2. Hmm… I’m trying to think about how to change his mindset. One thing that kind of worked for my Mom recently was she took the baby out for a walk. She invited Bax, but he didn’t want to come. So she went any way. The cat even tagged along. Baxter watched everyone from the window, and that was enough incentive to at least get him outside. He didn’t go too far, but he did go to the bathroom!

  3. If you live in the country you shouldn’t have to take him for walks. You should be able to let him outside to take care of business. You could also fence a large section of your yard just for him he wouldn’t have to be supervised all the time and he could take care of business when ever he wants. If you did this it would take alittle time for him to get use to it. It does work my sister did this with her two boxers. They are out all day while she is gone when she gets home she brings
    them on the house. The other thing you could try use hotdogs for a treat no dog will refuse a hotdog

  4. Use premack principle: use a higher likelihood behavior to reinforce a lower likelihood behavior, over time causing lower likelihood behavior to increase in likelihood. So for example, with the scenario you described. Baxter will walk with you, which I’m assuming he does happily and he enjoys (if not, use a behavior he does happily and enjoys). This is your higher likelihood behavior. Your current lower is him walking with your parents. So, breaking the behavior into small pieces, we are going to reinforce the pieces that eventually will add up to “walking with grandparents” with then you joining in. So maybe first step is grandparent puts on Baxter’s leash while you sit in a chair “reading” the paper, the moment he allows them to put on his leash, you get up and reinforce that behavior by now going on a walk (with grandparents accompanying). Once he’s associated “they put my leash on then fun walk with mum happens!” You increase criteria. They now put leash on and ask him to walk 1 step with them toward the door (while you sit in the chair pretending to read paper/watch tv/do something else), he is able to do that and you reinforce by now getting up and joining the walk. Progress through him being reinforced by your now joining in through walking through the door, going down the walk way, going through the yard and so on until a full walk can be completely done with him and the grandparents while you hang in the house waiting to reinforce the return. No one can read Baxter’s mind or motivations, but based on my experience dogs who do this tend to out of their a form of speration distress (dog is afraid to leave property for fear of further loss of owners) or an association made by the dog that certain activities on property are dependent on certain people being present (such as he believes walks or toileting on property require you or your spouse to be present for him to be allowed to do), maybe either of those may be a reason for him, maybe not, either case try the premack principle approach, making sure you break each step into small enough bits for him to be willing to do and try to then earn what he finds most reinforcing ie you joining the walk.

  5. Hi, how have you been getting on with Baxter? I have a spaniel with a similar issue. He goes for a walk with a dog walker a few days a week and if my partner and I are not home, no problems. If either of us are home (eg for an appointment), it’s complete refusal. He howls like a banshee and won’t let the walker approach him. He hangs off our ankles like a toddler and never behaves like this in any other situation. We have tried walking with him to the car, tried going in another room, tried changing the walk, and tried letting him not go on the walk but still it continues. We’ve taken to popping out to the garage before they arrive and then we watch him happily go with the walker! Is he also thinking he is being dog napped? Or is it he thinks because we are home, it’s our job?! Any suggestions to prevent him getting so stressed in this situation would be gratefully appreciated.

    1. Thank you for sharing my puzzlement! Baxter is still reluctant to walk, although he has gotten more willing to go with my Mom as she’s been at our house a bit more often. It’s funny to me that your guy happily goes along when you’re not home. It sounds like your walker takes him in the car to the walk location? Is it possible for them to walk him in your neighbourhood and see if that makes a difference? Or, could you go with the walker as well (I realize that kind of defeats the purpose of hiring someone to walk your dog)? After a few team walks, you might be able to excuse yourself.

  6. I have the opposite problem! I had a dog walker for three years then I moved and my schedule allowed for shorter days so I went without one. I moved again and now my dog refuses to go out with the dog walker while I am at work. He growls and snaps at her if she tries to get close. I had one guy here who was able to walk him (Crash, my dog, took to him immediately and is more excited to see him than me), but he has decided to go back to a normal day job. So now I’m stuck. I live in an apartment and have no yard and work long hours. I know it’s bad for him not to relieve himself for 7-9 hours, but coming home to walk him definitely isn’t feasible. Any ideas? He also refuses to walk with anyone else if I am around, but that’s not new behavior.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Gosh, that is challenging. I’m sorry to hear that. I’m assuming a dog daycare is not an option? If it were my dog, I would unfortunately probably just leave him for those 7-9 hours rather than risk him biting a dog walker, unfortunately. It sounds like he is this way with most people, and not just a few dog walkers. One thing that might be worth trying is having the dog walker ring the doorbell once she’s in the apartment. I used to be a dog walker and when I did that with one stubborn dog, he would bounce up and run to the door, eager to see who had arrived. But, you want to be very, very careful and be certain this will not trigger an aggressive/protective response from your dog. Also, I’m assuming the dog walker/s have tried using high-valued food like pieces of chicken or maybe a squeaky toy to encourage him?

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        Even if the dog walker could just get him out for a potty break vs. a real walk, then at least he wouldn’t have to hold it all day. Maybe they could spend the usual 30 mins basically sitting there with pieces of real meat waiting for him to actually approach. Then potty break and back inside. Just a thought.

  7. I found this page as I have the same problem with Milo, our border collie, who we rescued a few months ago. He will walk with my wife or me, or us together, but when my teenage daughters try to walk him he refuses to go. He is absolutely comfortable around them inside the house but if they try to walk him more than a few steps, he wrestles himself out of his collar and runs to the door. We are perplexed.

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