Why Does My Dog Walk Backwards? 5 Possible Reasons

Dogs can strut, pace, hop, or jump their way around. But why does my dog walk backwards instead?

Backward walking can be a harmless habit or a sign of an underlying problem. It’s important to check for the signs to see if something is wrong with your pet.

why does my dog walk backwards

Below, I discuss the possibilities as to why your dog has started to walk backward. When in doubt, you should consult a veterinarian for professional advice.

Reasons why your dog walks backwards

dogs walking backwards
Photo by Racool studio on Freepik.com

If your dog is walking backward all of a sudden, the following reasons may explain why:

1.    You reinforced the behavior.

A possible reason why dogs walk backwards is that they were trained or encouraged to do so. It’s possible that your pet did it before and it solicited a reaction.

Over time, your canine will realize that walking backward gets your attention. The pooch may do it repeatedly to please you or trigger any form of reaction.

Moreover, it’s not natural for dogs to walk backwards. It’s actually a vulnerable move because they can’t see what’s behind it.

If you introduced this behavior to your dog, there’s nothing to worry about. Still, you should also know about the next points just in case your dog suffers from it in the future.

2.    Your dog is afraid.

Walking backward with a tucked tail is a sign that your dog is scared. It’s possible that your pet saw, heard, or smell something that reminded them of a negative experience.

Moreover, a nervous dog can easily get scared of strangers, loud sounds, sudden movements, and so on. A canine’s fear can be so intense that it will shiver while walking backward.

Aside from that, scared dogs will whimper, cower, pant, and pace. You may also notice heightened salivation and attempts to hide.

It’s important to help your dog calm down during these stressful situations. This is to prevent the situation from escalating or ending up in aggression.

Overall, the best solution here is to desensitize your dog to whatever it’s scared of. Aside from fixing its backward walking stance, desensitization will also save your pooch from unnecessary stress.

3.    Your dog is injured.

Injuries sustained while running or falling from a high surface can cause backward walking in dogs. It’s possible that by walking this way, the pooch can remove the pressure from the part that aches.

Aside from that, senior dogs that suffer from arthritis are more prone to exhibit this behavior. If their front leg joints hurt, the old dog will start to walk backward to ease the pain.

You may also notice your pet limping and whimpering whenever it tries to walk. Some dogs will be reluctant to move in general.

It’s important to get your dog checked if it’s walking backward and in pain. This way, the injury won’t worsen and it will be treated right away.

For old dogs with arthritis, life-long care to manage the symptoms is the best course of action. Once your dog is free of the pain, it will start to walk normally again.

4.    Your dog has hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the hip bone of the canine didn’t develop properly. With this, the hip joint becomes loose or completely unattached.

A dog suffering from hip dysplasia will wobble back and forth. It may also appear as if the canine is walking backward.

As the condition worsens or unravels, the dog will start to exhibit lameness on its rear legs. This will make the canine reluctant to move or stand up.

If not addressed right away, hip dysplasia will cause muscle atrophy in the canine’s hind legs. This means that the legs will lose muscles and appear abnormally thin.

When this happens, the front legs of your dog will compensate. Excessive wear and tear on the front legs will increase the risk of arthritis and joint pain.

Overall, hip dysplasia is a genetic disease. This means that there’s no cure for the condition, but it can be managed with treatments.

5.    Your dog has neurological issues.

If your dog walks backward uncontrollably, it might be suffering from a neurological condition. Here are some of the potential conditions that may cause this unusual behavior:

  • Seizures. During a seizure, an epileptic dog may appear as if it’s walking backward before falling to the ground. Overall, a canine may exhibit various movements during a seizure.
  • Spinal cord diseases. Problems with the spinal cord can also cause uncontrollable backward walking in canines. This can affect dogs of any age and breed.
  • Cognitive decline. General cognitive decline in older dogs can result in different behaviors. Affected dogs may start to walk backward, wobble, have poor coordination, and more. This condition is often progressive and considered typical of an old canine.

Why is my dog walking backward through doors?

why does my dog walk backwards through doorways
Photo by Danil Lysov on Pexels.com

Dogs may walk backward through doors to keep their eye on whoever is behind them. This can be a sign of trauma, especially for rescued canines.

Your pooch does this to ensure that whatever is on the other side of the door won’t hurt them. It can be a person, an object, or another animal.

Aside from physical abuse, dogs may also walk backward on doors during storms and loud noises. And if your dog had an unpleasant experience with one of your doors, they may specifically walk backward on it. 

Why does my dog back up when I try to pet him?

Fear is the main reason why dogs would move backward when you try to pet them. It’s possible that the canine had a negative experience with such a gesture before.

This is much so if the person trying to pet the dog is a stranger. Take note that dogs don’t have the same level of friendliness toward new people they meet.

Instead of trying to pet the dog, let the pooch get near you at its own pace. Pet only when the dog is relaxed around your presence.

Why does my dog walk like he’s drunk?

Drunk walking can be due to a condition in dogs called vestibular ataxia. This happens when the canine suffered from ear infections, tumors, hypothyroidism, damaged eardrum, and more.

Aside from wobbling, ataxia can also trigger head tilting, widespread legs while standing, and rapid eye movement even when awake. Dogs with this condition will also prefer to sleep on hard surfaces since it’s more stable.

The good news is that vestibular ataxia is rarely life-threatening. It can clear up on its own in a matter of weeks.

However, idiopathic ataxia may not go away. Since the cause is unknown, there’s little a veterinarian can do to treat the condition.

Why is my dog walking weird on his back legs?

A dog walking weirdly on its back legs might be dealing with hip dysplasia. This condition causes the hip joint to disengage, which will lead to walking and posture problems.

Aside from that, nerve damage and muscle atrophy can also be to blame. It’s important to have your dog examined to diagnose the real cause of its unusual walking appearance.


Why does my dog walk backwards? It can be due to fear, joint pain, injury, hip dysplasia, or a neurological condition.

If it’s not going away, you should consult a veterinarian. This way, your dog will receive treatment if need be.


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