Why is my dog walking backwards?
Is he moon-walking to the upbeat sounds of Michael Jackson in his head, or does he know some hidden secret to which we mortal humans are not privy?
Actually, neither of these reasons is very likely, but there are some simple—and a few serious—explanations for this odd behavior.
Let’s face it, our dogs are always doing strange and often unexplainable things that baffle us as owners.
This includes taking steps in the opposite direction of forward, leaving us scratching our heads for answers.
To help put some rationale behind this bizarre behavior, in this article we will point out several potential reasons as to why your pooch is walking backwards, and explain what you can and should do—if anything—to address each of these causes.
Why Do Dogs Walk Backwards?
Have you ever sat and watched the way your dog normally walks—really watched to pick up on their walking style?
If you have, you may have noticed that dogs, as well as all members of the canine family—wolves, coyotes, foxes, etc.—have a certain method to their walking that sets them apart from both humans and their fellow four-legged creatures.
Dogs walk in a way that many zoologists have called a “semi-strut.”
What is meant by this?
It means that both limbs on one side move before they repeat the pattern on the other side.
According to experts, when dogs walk, they “first move their rear left leg forward, followed by their front left leg.”
They then repeat that process on the right side so as to catch up with the movement from the left.
Now, this whole progression of ambling happens very fast, which is probably why you haven’t noticed it before.
The “walking” movements of a dog are different than those it uses when moving in other ways.
For instance, if you are walking a dog at a very fast pace, he may need to trot in order to make up for the long strides you are taking—a gait that is similar to the walk albeit at a faster pace.
Of course, if you let your dog loose, say at a dog park, he is probably going to break into a much faster gait—a run or gallop—characterized by long, synchronized strides that take advantage of the animal’s flexible spine.
So, with all of this is mind, let’s examine some of the reasons why a dog may reverse this procedure at times and walk in the opposite direction.
Your Dog Is Nervous or Anxious
When dog’s feel anxiety—and they DO feel anxiety—they can exhibit all kinds of strange behavior.
Some dogs turn to chewing when they are feeling nervous, while other dogs, especially smaller breeds, will urinate, even if they are indoors.
Still other dogs may express this nervousness or anxiety via a slow backwards walk.
Many things can cause this type of anxiety in our four-legged friends.
Dogs that are introduced to new surroundings, for example, can get very anxious and start to walk backwards out of a mere fear of the unknown.
This nervousness is especially on display in instances when dogs encounter other dogs or humans with which they are unfamiliar.
If you have ever taken your dog on a walk and encountered either a stranger or a strange dog, you may have witnessed this apprehensive behavior.
Helping dogs to overcome anxieties such as these can be a long and difficult process, but according to experts, the more they are exposed to these unfamiliar situations the better equipped they will be to deal with them on an emotional and behavioral level.
Your Dog Is Injured
If your dog is walking backwards in the absence of any anxiety-producing stimuli, it could be a sign that he is injured in some way.
Dogs can be trained to perform a variety of tricks and obedience skills, but what they cannot do is tell us when they are injured.
Because of this, as a dog owner it is vital that you keep an eye on your pet for any signs of injury, pain or discomfort.
So what types of injuries could cause a dog to start walking backwards?
Actually, the number of potential injuries is limitless.
Chief among them, however, are joint problems.
As with their human counterparts, dogs, as they age, can develop a lot of problems with their joints.
Hip dysplasia, for example, is very common among some of the larger breeds as they age, as is arthritis.
So, too, are problems with their knees or even their paws.
Dogs that are walking backwards may be doing so as a way to try to alleviate the pain and discomfiture that goes hand-in-hand with these injuries.
Therefore, if these “walking backwards” behaviors continue with frequency, you should view them as your dog’s way of trying to communicate his pain to you, and a sign that you should take him to the vet for an orthopedic checkup.
Your Dog Is Developing Cognitive Problems
Last but certainly not least, if your dog is walking backwards (and exhibiting other strange and out of the ordinary behaviors), it could be a sign that he is experiencing cognitive decline.
This is yet another potential attribute that older dogs may share with aging human populations—a type of “doggie dementia,” if you will.
In dogs, these neurological disorders fall under the umbrella title Cognitive Canine Dysfunction Syndrome, or CCD for short.
As dogs age—or if they suffer some type of brain injury—CCD can set in and lead to a wide variety of atypical behaviors, including walking backwards.
CCD can affect the way dogs walk, eat and interact with their owners.
It can bring about symptoms that you will surely note as odd, caused by a measurable decline in their cognitive faculties.
Irritability, depression, learning difficulties, excessive licking, restlessness, walking problems and the failure to recognize once mastered commands are all signs of Cognitive Canine Dysfunction Syndrome.
If you notice any of these worrying signs and symptoms in your dog, please take him to see the vet.
Although currently there is no cure for CCD, there are medications that can help slow the progression of the disease.