I have a dog, and every day when I go to work, he follows me. He never walks in front of me or even beside me. Instead, he always falls behind me and does his business there on the sidewalk, which makes it my responsibility to pick up after him all the time.
He is so weird! I say aloud as I watch him walk away from me down my street before turning left around the corner at the end of our block. Why does my dog walk behind me? Does he not like being in front of the pack, or is there something else going on?
Here’s The Short Answer to Why Your Dog Walks Behind You:
The reasons why dogs walk behind someone are vast and often complex, but it’s common for the dog to be walking behind you because it is being submissive. This behavior can also happen if they are tired, want to sniff around, are scared, or feeling threatened. Further experience with this behavior may have been trained when a dog was taken outside on a leash and rewarded with treats when they walked behind the trainer to indicate that they are “obedient dog.”
In this blog post, we will explore why your dog walks behind you and what it could mean.
Why Does My Dog Walk Behind Me?
1. They Are Being Submissive
As pack animals, dogs have a strong mentality to be submissive and walk behind their leaders not out of fear but out of respect.
Pay attention to your dog’s body language when they’re following you. If they have their ears back, are walking with a lowered head and tail tucked between the legs, or curled up around you – these can all be signs of submission.
Most of the time, this behavior is perfectly normal. However, in some cases, this behavior can go too far until the point where your dog becomes anxious and distressed all the time. At worst, if the dog feels threatened enough to lash out, they can bite or everyone else around them in an aggressive frenzy.
2. Your Dog Walks Behind You Out of Habit
This behavior can also happen if a pup has been trained to be obedient when on leash; these pups would walk behind their dog owners while being rewarded with dog treats, so it became an early habit.
In some cases, your dog may have learned this through observing other animals or even children who walked behind adults during walks outside!
3. Your Dog Wants to Sniff Everything on Walks
If your dog walks behind you during your daily stroll, there’s a good chance that your furry friend does this to sniff around and get a feeling of the surroundings around them.
You can probably get a good idea of why your dog does this by looking at their ancestors. In the wild, most dogs tend to constantly investigate their environment and sniff out food or potential dangers in order to survive, and so instinctively, your dog may walk behind you to smell everything around them without being restricted by leashes.
4. Your Dog Walks behind You Out of Fear
A dog walking behind you can be due to their fear of being punished for walking ahead. Some owners still believe that their dogs should walk behind while he, as the alpha, should walk ahead.
To make things worse, these owners could also employ outdated methods such as punishment-based training instead of positive reinforcement to force the dogs to follow their commands. As a result, the dogs become fearful of their owners.
If you adopted your dog and there’s a sign they have been emotionally traumatized by their previous owner, there are a few things you can do to help them heal and regain their trust.
First of all, love your dog unconditionally. You should always love your dog no matter what happens or how they behave. This is because dogs act out of fear, and if their owners show unconditional love even after the bad behavior, it will make them feel secure in return. They also know that they won’t be punished for making mistakes which makes them less scared about messing up again.
Why Punishing Your Dog Doesn’t Work?
If ever faced with this situation, try not to punish but instead reassure them as punishment can lead to more confusion on their part.
You can’t train a dog to do something they don’t understand. Dogs are drawn to what’s in it for them, so they need an incentive that will make their job easier and more rewarding — usually food or praise (or both). It doesn’t help when you use punishment-based training techniques like hitting or spraying them with water if they refuse to obey because this actually reinforces the idea that disobedience gets attention from humans, which just makes things worse!
5. Your Dog is Tired
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If your dog is tired, they’ll be less likely to walk alongside you and more inclined to shuffle behind you. The good news is you might have the phrase “a tired dog is a happy/good dog.”
Some dogs need less exercise than other dogs, but all dogs require some sort of physical outlet on a regular basis, or else there may be consequences that lead to destructive behaviors. And so sometimes it is a good sign if you see your dog trotting behind you during walks because this means you reduce the chance of them going to be a destructive maniac in your home.
6. Your Dog is In Unfamiliar Territory
Some dogs can become cautious when they are in new territory. This is likely to happen if your dog rarely goes outside before then all of a sudden, you take your dog to a new place surrounded by loud noises, smells, and strangers. You might notice that they’re trying to walk behind you and sniff at everything.
But don’t worry about this dog’s behavior too much because chances are once they get used to going outside more regularly, they’ll start trotting alongside you during walks instead!
7. They Don’t Like Other Dogs
Some dogs don’t like other animals and keep their distance as best they can when out on walks. This is especially true if they have had a bad experience with another animal, such as being attacked or bitten.
There are also some dogs that behave this way because of their breed; for example, chihuahuas, Maltese, and Papillion are known to be more timid than other dogs.
These dogs will keep their distance even more than before when it’s necessary. In most cases, your dog won’t feel safe approaching other animals unless you’re there next to them. But luckily, just letting your dog get used to different types of dogs by taking them around dog parks should help reduce their fear of other animals.
How to Get Your Dog to Stop Walking Behind You
1. Train Your Dog With Positive Reinforcement
Dog training is about rewarding good behavior and discouraging bad behaviors. If your dog walks behind you, then they’re not confident enough to approach other people or animals on their own. So if your dog’s walking pattern changes when it comes to meeting new people, try the following:
If walking off-leash and your dog is lagging, tell them ‘come on’ or ‘heel.’ Reward them with a few tasty treats as soon as they walk beside you and stop rewarding them when they lag again.
2. Give Your Dog a Sniff Break
If you always walk your dog on a leash, then they may be curious about all the smells and noises of their surroundings. So it doesn’t hurt if you give them a sniff break by allowing them off-leash for short periods.
The key is to give them while they do this. Most people use “go sniff.” After a few minutes, say ‘let’s go’ and reward your dog when they come and walk beside you, then continue walking to the next spot. Soon your dog will learn that by walking beside you, they get to sniff everything they want.
On particular days, you want to consider using a short leash. A short leash is perfect for use when you’re walking your dog in a relatively tight, well-lit area. You may also want to consider using it if the weather conditions are cold and/or wet. A shorter length allows you to maintain control over your dog without becoming overwhelmed by their playful behavior or having them slip away from underfoot.
3. Teach Your Dog to Heel
The command “heel” simply means to walk at your side. To teach this, put treats in one hand and place the other on your dog’s collar or leash so that you are walking with him. When they walk ahead of you or lag to sniff something or starts straying too far from your side, gently tug their neck toward you using the treat as a lure (a reward).
Once they are back by your side, give them a hearty pat and treat before letting go if they stay there for 30 seconds without trying to wander off again. Once it becomes clear which behaviors will earn them rewards, dogs quickly learn what they’re supposed to do!
Should Your Dog Walk Behind You?
Ideally, your dog should be beside or behind you during the walk. This means that your dog should be on the same side of you as they are facing. If they walk beside you, this can mean that their attention is focused primarily on what’s in front of them and less so on what’s going on around them.
If a dog walks ahead of you, they will think they are the pack leader. This could trigger a dominant behavior that can progressively develop into aggressive, aggressive behavior. Keep this in mind when you’re walking your dog.