I have a 5 month old puggle named George who is very active and sweet. We have been taking him to Sirius puppy training and I know he's smart because he already knows a bunch of commands but he has one bad habit. During our walks, he will often sit or lay down and refuse to move. Sometimes he does this when crossing the street in downtown Novato which isn't safe and I have to pick him up. How can I break him of this habit? -Danni in Novato
More information is needed to pinpoint the cause of George's pit stops but usually there are two areas that this behavior may stem from, either physical or behavioral. Some physical reasons he may "park it" would be if he is worn out, say you're walking very long distances. Puppies are balls of energy but often don't have stamina to trek for long distances. Another factor may be the environment, if he does this only on certain surfaces it may be that his foot pads are sensitive or if it is a hot day, it could be that he is overheating. Novato can get quite warm in summer so please read Summer safety: Recognizing and treating heat stroke in dogs to see if he is showing signs of heat stress. Lastly, it is possible that distance walking is causing him some kind of pain, for example if he has a luxating patella. Monitor him closely to see exactly what conditions he tends to stop walking in and if you suspect any kind of physical problem, he should be seen by a vet to rule out a problem.
The other cause might be behavioral. Puppies learn how the world works by associating consequences, either ones they like or don't like, with the behavior that happened right before the consequence. If you're leaving puppy class, George sits down and gets to continue playing with a buddy, he may learn that refusing to move means more play time. Alternately, if the last time you walked down that block it was to go to the Vet who gave them shots and took their temperature, the puppy may try to avoid heading that direction to avoid experiencing that again. You mention that you pick him up when he does this, for safety you have to, but if he wants to be carried either because he's tired or just wants cuddle time, that could be reward enough that he's decided to try that behavior.
The good news is that George's habit of stopping on walks can be changed. If it is physical, your vet will give recommendations on treatments and exercise guidelines. If it is behavioral, your puppy class instructor will have some good tips and exercises for you to try. There will be a future article in this column that addresses dogs who "park it" on walks so stay tuned and good luck with your new puppy.
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