When you last took your dog out for a walk, perhaps you noticed she suddenly seemed to be running or walking sideways. Or maybe you were watching your dog play in the yard and noticed the same thing. Should you be alarmed? Should you seek medical attention? Not necessarily.
Although sometimes there are medical reasons for a dog to walk sideways (often called “crabbing” or “sidewinding”), there are other far more normal reasons for this odd behavior. Taking your dog to the vet to get checked out is always a good idea, but before you do, consider a few of the non-medical causes of sideways walking and a few possible workarounds.
Non-Medical Reasons Why Dogs Walk Sideways
It is Just the Way They Move
Sometimes dogs simply learn to walk on two legs growing up. Many learn as pups (probably from an older dog) and never grow out of it. Some breeds may even be more prone to sideways walking, especially if they have a shorter body length than other dogs. This causes their back legs and front legs to often interfere with each other. Breeds that are most commonly known for sideways walking are:
- German Shepherds
- Cocker Spaniels
- Border Collies
Some May Still Be Growing
How old is your dog? A year, maybe two? Younger? It could very well be that their legs are still growing. Just like a teenager may be temporarily uncoordinated as their body continues to grow, so happens with puppies and young dogs.
As with breeds that have short bodies and long legs, a puppy’s growing legs will often get tangled up with each other. To avoid this, they will move their back legs to the side to avoid tripping over their own paws.
Odds are, if this is the cause of your dog’s “crabbing”, the behavior will fade as they grow into adulthood and gain control over their limbs. Sometimes, though, they don’t grow out of it and may be a “crabber” for the rest of their life.
Their Dominant Side is Taking Control
Most people are aware they have a dominant arm or leg, meaning that one side is stronger or more flexible than the other. This is also true for most dogs. What happens is while the dog is trotting or running, the dominant side pushes off the ground with a stronger force, which will move their body sideways, making it look like they are running sideways.
In truth, this is completely normal. Once they slow down, the dominant side will dial back a bit and the dog’s gait will return to normal.
Their Collar or Harness is Irritating Them
Underneath all the fuzz and fur, many dogs have super sensitive skin. If a collar or harness is causing irritation, they could be walking sideways to try to get away from it. Depending on how long this has been the issue, their skin my also show evidence of chafing or a rash developing.
If you notice that your dog is only walking sideways when they have their collar or harness on, you should inspect it and make sure it isn’t causing irritation. If it is, replace it with new gear that is easier on their skin. Also avoid using their collar or harness until their skin heals. Feel free to review our list of the best dog training collars to combat this issue.
Medical Reasons Why Dogs Walk Sideways
As we previously mentioned, sideways walking is usually nothing to worry about. But in rare cases there may be a medical issue causing your dog to have an odd gait. Some medical issues that may be the root cause of sideways walking include:
- Structural imbalances
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Hip dysplasia (a malformation of the hip ball and socket joint)
- Vestibular disease (commonly found in older dogs)
- Orthopedic issues
- Anal gland issues
- Ear infections
- Undetected pain (if a paw or leg is causing them pain, they may be walking sideways to avoid it)
If you suspect any of these, or just want to rule them out, please call your vet to make an appointment. Since your dog is unable to definitively tell you want is wrong, it is always a safe bet to get your dog examined than to assume nothing wrong.
Reach Out to Paw Pals Pet Sitting For More Information
Just because your dog walks sideways, it does not mean there is something wrong with her. If their behavior is sudden and you are worried, check with your vet to rule out any possible medical issues. For more information, or to inquire about professional dog walking services, contact Paw Pals Pet Sitting online today.