My Dog Lays Down and Refuses to Move! Help!

If you’ve ever had an active dog before, you know just how busy these pets can get. They seem to be always running and goofing around, much to the amusement of their owners. Sometimes, they can even decide to chew on your furniture and set you back a few dollars in repairs. 

So when such a dog lays down and refuses to move, it can be alarming. You may wonder whether they are just sad or suffering from a twisted stomach. This is particularly an issue if this behavior persists for days or weeks on end. 

Fortunately, this is the kind of stuff we specialize in. In this post, we are going to talk about what this behavior means, why your dog is exhibiting it, and what you can do to help them overcome the situation. As you read this, though, remember that we are not veterinarians, and you should never use the information we provide as a replacement for professional vet advice. 

What Does It Mean When A Dog Doesn’t Want to Move?

Your dog can refuse to move for a variety of reasons. In most cases, they could just be tired, anxious, or aren’t comfortable with a recent change. This is particularly common among young dogs that you just brought home.

However, this behavior could also mean that your dog is uncomfortable or is trying to manipulate you. In some cases, it could even be an indication of illness or paralysis. Not to worry, though – this is rare and is usually characterized by a consistent refusal to move and not just a one-time thing.

Ultimately, different dogs refuse to move for different reasons. As such, it’s up to you to monitor what triggers this behavior in your dog and whether they usually snap out of it eventually. More importantly, ensure you talk to your vet if you notice that your dog consistently refuses to move. 

Why Does a Dog Lay Down and Refuse to Move?

There are several reasons why a dog could be refusing to move and choosing to lay down instead. These include:

1. They are trying to avoid something

When a dog doesn’t want to do what you want them to, it can lay down, refuse to move, and start pouting. You will even notice that their tails drop between their legs, and their ears are pulled back when they do this. This is a sure-fire sign that they are not enjoying an activity and want to get out of it. This behavior is particularly common during obedience training. 

2. They are not comfortable going where you’re taking them.

Young dogs are usually attached to their homes and their environs. As such, taking them on a walk far away from these can make them stop walking and lay down. This is because they are scared of the new places you’re taking them to.

3. They are trying to manipulate you.

If you always give your dog a treat when they lay down and refuse to move, they will do this whenever they want one. 

4. They are naturally less active than other dogs.

Dogs don’t all have the same levels of energy – some are more active than others. As such, some breeds are more likely to lay down and refuse to move. A good example is bulldogs.

5. They are tired

If your dog has been over-exercising lately, it’s normal for them to get too tired to move and to choose to lay down instead. 

6. They are experiencing discomfort.

Another reason that your dog could be refusing to move is that they are uncomfortable. This could be due to sore hips, back pain, or muscle aches – things that only your vet can help alleviate. In some cases, your dog could even be experiencing growing pains, especially if they are young, large, and fast-growing. 

Another common cause of discomfort among dogs is using uncomfortable harnesses. These could be ill-fitting, scratchy, or both. If you put one of these harnesses on your dog, you will notice that they lay down and stop moving immediately. 

To check whether this is the situation your dog is facing, check whether your dog’s armpits are rubbed raw. Uncomfortable harnesses aside, though, extreme temperature changes, injured nails, and burnt paws can also make dogs stop moving and lay down. This can happen even in the middle of an ongoing walk. 

7. They are superstitious.

As silly as it may seem, sometimes dogs stop at a spot and lay there because they witnessed something interesting there and hope to see it again. For instance, they may have found a sweet biscuit there and hope to find another one.

8. They want to explore the area.

Sometimes dogs stop moving so that they can smell a bush they like or see squirrels playing in the area – they are just fickle like that. 

9. They are sick

In some cases, a dog that refuses to get up and move could be sick, especially if this behavior is accompanied by other symptoms like diarrhea and nausea. Some common diseases that are associated with a general unwillingness to move to include:

● Parvovirus – spread through feces; this infection has symptoms like lethargy, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It’s usually treated using antibiotics and fluids

● Distemper – symptoms of this infection include coughing, lethargy, fever, and discharge from the eyes and nose. It is usually treated using anticonvulsants, fluids, and antibiotics

● Diabetes mellitus – this disease presents itself in dogs through symptoms like changes in appetite, lethargy, thirst, and excessive urination. To treat it, you’ll have to adjust your dog’s diet and give them regular insulin injections

● Tumors – when these develop near your dog’s spine, they can make them paralyzed 

● Tick bites – when ticks bite your dog, they can release a toxin into its bloodstream that causes vomiting, slow movement, and even paralysis

● Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD) – It can cause paralysis in the hind legs of dogs that have long bodies, such as those of the Dachshund breed

How Do You Help a Dog that Doesn’t Want to Move?

All’s not lost for a dog that refuses to move – there are things you can do to help them. These include:

1. Don’t let your dog get away with avoidance

If your dog seems okay but usually refuses to move or lays down completely during obedience training or walks, don’t let them have their way. Doing so only reinforces this behavior and makes it harder to get rid of. Instead, continue with the activity as if you haven’t noticed anything.

So if you are walking your dog and they lay down, continue walking and tag on their leash. While it may seem brutal at first, it’s effective – once they notice you are moving along, they will get up and follow you. On the other hand, if you ask them to sit and they lay down instead or refuse to do anything, you can counter them with a sharp “NO” and repeat your previous command.

To make your dog understand how serious you are, you can even take a step away from them and tug on their leash a little bit. Whatever you do, though, don’t offer your dog a treat when they refuse to move – this will only further reinforce this behavior. Ultimately, it requires a lot of time and effort to train avoidance behaviors in dogs.

2. Be patient with your dog when it’s stressed.

Whether your dog has had a stressful week or is struggling to adapt to a new walking route, try to be patient with them. You can do this by giving them a reassuring pep talk when you get to new locations or giving them a few minutes to get their bearings before moving on. You can even toss them a treat once they start walking again.

3. Pay attention to someone or something else.

When you switch from paying attention to your dog to doing something else, it can take the pressure off of them and encourage them to start walking again. That’s why pretending to take a phone call is usually effective at this time – it makes your dog feel that their actions aren’t that important. 

4. Pretend to walk away

When you tie your dog’s leash on a post or give it to someone else and start walking away, your dog may be motivated to follow you behind. Just ensure you always have someone watching your dog during such activity – this will ensure they don’t get hurt. 

5. Toss a treat in the direction you want your dog to go

This is an effective way to get your dog up and moving. Generally, the more they like the treat, the more effective this technique is. A similar way to get your dog moving would be to kneel next to them with their favorite treat and use it to coerce them to walk towards you. 

And whenever they get close to you, you can move farther away. This is similar to a technique some parents use to get their toddlers to walk. 

6. Ensure your dog’s harness/collar/leash is comfortable

To keep your dog from experiencing discomfort, always invest in harnesses/collars/leashes made of comfortable material. Also, always ensure that they aren’t tightly secured to your dog – they should leave enough space to fit two of your fingers. Finally, regularly check your dog for signs of friction and adjust the fitting correctly or replace the product altogether. 

7. Look out for other signs of illness. 

If you notice that your dog is constantly refusing to move, you should look out for signs of illness such as vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. While they may seem unrelated, they could point to bigger health issues. If you notice any of them, take your dog to see the vet immediately. 

Final Thoughts

No matter how naturally active they are, something can happen that makes your dog lay down and refuse to move. But even when this happens, it’s not the end of the world. As we’ve discussed in this article, it’s possible to get to the root cause of this behavior and even help your dog overcome it. So don’t panic the next time your dog does this – we’ve equipped you with all the information you need to handle the situation with grace.   


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!