Lately I've had lots of new puppy clients signing up for private lessons and group classes. It's just that time of year. So hand in hand with nervous new fur parents are the countless questions; which I do love to answer!
The one I've been hearing the most is why does my puppy lie down on walks?
It's actually rare when I don't hear this one so please know that this is a common puppy behaviour and there's nothing to panic about. And there could be a few reasons why.
#1 - Your puppy could be frightened
#2 - Your puppy might not like his/her collar, leash, harness, etc.
#3 - Your puppy might be tired (walks can really cause them to crash quickly depending on the age and muscle a dog has)
#4 - Your puppy might not want to go in the direction you are going or at the speed you are walking
#5 - Your puppy might have a growth sprut and is more tired than usual or sore
#6 - And rarely but not to be ruled out: your puppy could have an injury but this is easy to rule out if he/she is walking/running around normally at home or off leash
There could be a few more reasons but those are the most likely culprits in my experience. So now that begs the question: What should you do?
First off I would like to recommend that your puppy be on a harness and not a collar (especially any device that tightens). All of my puppies without exception wear an Easywalk harness or Sensation harness. Sophia Yin has a great article on dog training equipment and her recommendations that can be found here.
Secondly it's important to take shorter walks and maybe more frequent than longer ones. The length depends on the dog, breed, outside temperature, etc. Large breed puppies like Newfoundlands will get tired very quickly.
And finally try to stay exciting when your puppy lies down. Teach him/her how to hand target or chase a toy. Get the movement going again but don't get into a tug of war with the leash as it will just increase the dog's urge to pull in the opposite direction. If your puppy is truly tired then take him/her home. If he/she is scared then spend some time in that spot, maybe share a few cookies and let your puppy assess where he/she is.
Contacting a good positive reinforcement trainer can help as well. They can provide guidance on what your individual puppy needs and can help you teach him/her.
Whatever you do don't give up on going for walks. They are a very important part of socialization and your pup does need to learn to walk on leash. Try to make your walk a relationship building experience between you and your new puppy. Don't Army march down the street but stop smell the flowers, play games and talk to your new furkid!
As a personal aside when Marco was a baby he became like a dying fish whenever I attached his collar, harness or leash. It took him 2 months to accept that these pieces of equipment were necessary! So we took really short walks for training/socialization purposes, practiced in the basement to eliminate distractions and did most of our exercising off leash in a designated park. I am happy to report that after 4 months of age he walked like a champ on leash.