Dear Doctor: The dog now refuses to go for walks


Q. Five years ago my wife and I rescued and adopted an abused and abandoned Labradoodle. Today she is a therapy dog and a Canine Good Citizen, a designation given by the American Kennel Club for dogs who can pass a 10-item test designed to rate such things as how politely a dog moves through a crowd or greets a friendly stranger. To say we are proud of her progress and happy that we were able to provide her with a loving home is an understatement. But last year she began to refuse to go for walks. It was during a heat spell so I attributed it to discomfort. Sure enough, the problem seemed to pass in the fall and winter. But it resumed this past summer and continued even after the worst of the heat. It doesn’t seem to be an issue of arthritis or other physical ailment. While she does need some assistance getting into the car and is not able to jump up on the bed, x-rays have shown only minor arthritis. Furthermore, pain killers, acupuncture, and even CBD did nothing to get her to willingly walk outside. Might this be some mental or emotional issue going back to her past?

Jonathan Heilbrunn
Matawan, New Jersey


Dear Mr. Heilbrunn,

A. Before you decide that the problem is not medical, you might want to take your dog to an orthopedic surgeon for a full evaluation. For some dogs, what looks like mild arthritis on x-ray may be very painful. (The reverse is true too. Dogs with severe-looking arthritis on x-ray may not be in much, if any, pain. This is why we say “treat the dog and not the x-ray.”) The fact that your pet can’t get into the car easily is suggestive that there’s an orthopedic issue hindering her mobility.

But if medical issues are fully ruled out, you might want to consider the possibility that your dog has developed noise phobia. The warm weather brings with it a lot of scary sounds — fireworks, storms, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, bicycles, cars passing with radios blaring…. And since your dog has now had two summers to become more sensitized, she may have carried over her fear into the colder weather.

This is just a hunch, not a bet. An animal behaviorist can help you work backwards to see what the problem is if in fact your dog is physically fine.


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