Why is My Dog Walking Slow With Its Head Down?

When a dog walks slowly with its head down, it usually means they are afraid. They likely did something they weren’t supposed to and don’t want to be seen or heard to avoid punishment. It could also mean they are in physical pain and suffering from arthritis.

So you are a pet parent of an adorable Labrador Retriever, a fluffy Cocker Spaniel, or an intelligent German Shepherd… no matter what breed your pup is, it can one day exhibit a strange behavior: walking slowly with its head down.

If you are a new dog mom/dad, this type of situation can at first alarm or frighten you. You might turn to internet sources (thankfully, there are so many great dog trainers out there offering consultations upon request or streaming free training videos to look deeper into pet demeanor) and learn a lot about your furry companion, including how to interpret its bodily signals as well as what steps to take to deal with specific issues.

But first, we need to understand the concept of slow-walking, especially when the head is down: what is implied here?

What Is Considered “Walking Slow” in Dogs?

One minute your dog may be happily playing outside while doing a lot of tail-wagging, and another minute it starts to walk as if it wants to “melt” with the ground, being extremely cautious.

It will move its paws as if it is a predator walking up to the prey: one step in a few seconds will look very sad, and both its head and tail (usually) will be really close to the ground.

It is very common for the dog to want to be secluded when it is walking at an abnormally low pace: it might want to “corner” itself or find a place to hide (like a garage, a basement, or a hole right below the barn). You, as the pet parent, may even have trouble finding them.

This type of behavior can signal either that your dog is in a submissive/fearful mode or that something is seriously wrong.

The Most Common Cause – Fear

If a dog is afraid of something/someone or wants to show that it is willing to accept the domination of another creature (canine fellow or a person), it will most likely display slow-walking signs mentioned above.

What if you come home and find your favorite pair of slippers utterly destroyed? Sounds familiar? That “someone” caught in the act knows it is a wrong (but, oh, so fun) thing to do, but does it anyway for the heck of it, just because it is bored at home.

A dog mom/dad is very annoyed at the scene (or even furious, depending on how special these slippers were) and starts reprimanding this mischievous fur baby.

That’s when the dog realizes it’s “punishment time,” therefore, it shows fully submissive, compliant behavior: head and tail down, walking in slow motion, aiming for an opened door or another room (as it hopes to escape the “Judgement Day”).

Other Common Reasons For Slow Walking

We briefly mentioned the most common reason for slow-walking above: when a fur baby did something it was not supposed to, it knows that it’s going to be reprimanded for such wrongdoing and shows submission.

Its head is going to be lowered towards the floor and tail-tucked under its back legs. No canine pal likes to be put “on the spot,” so it tries to escape either to another room or outside if possible.

It’s so funny watching a “felon” walking away from its owner slowly at first and then picking up the pace if it sees a place it can hide.

However, there are several reasons for the slo-mo behavior, and (unfortunately), not all of them are funny. Most of them are health-related, indicating that something might be very wrong with your buddy. Let’s look at the most common ones.

Physical pain:

A canine pal might have been seriously injured or hurt while playing with that neighborhood dog, especially if your dog is older. In this case, slow walking is accompanied by whining, excessive limping (if one of your pup’s paws is in pain), and licking the problem area.

A simple muscle sprain might go away after a few days, but a more severe condition will require a visit to a veterinarian.

Arthritis:

A widespread problem for senior dogs (after all, they get the same ailments as humans), but in rare instances, younger dogs can suffer from arthritis as well.

If that’s the case, you will see your furry friend having trouble climbing up or down the stairs, limping, and, of course, walking slowly.

It might be a good idea to check in with the vet if you suspect arthritis. Remember, humans don’t speak (how unfortunate) canine tongue. Therefore, you will never know what’s really wrong until a doctor examines them.

Infections:

Such as parvovirus, influenza, and kennel cough. When a dog has one of these, it will walk slowly (often wiggly too) with a sad expression. They will also develop tremors, fever, and have minimal energy.

Most canine infections are highly contagious and can be transferred from dog to dog. That’s why it is so important for all pet parents to be responsible and caring, staying on top of their dog’s health.

Make sure to vaccinate your puppy at a young age to prevent any type of illness. However, if you’ve adopted an adult or senior dog, you will have to request a copy of its medical records to see if all the right vaccines were administered.

Parasites:

Warm weather brings so much fun and joy for everyone, including dogs…and some uninvited guests as well, like ticks and fleas.

High tick infestation can make any pup highly irritated, weak, and even anemic in some cases. An owner would also notice their pup has a loss of appetite and low interest in doing its favorite activities.

Dogs should be on a special medication from a very young age to prevent parasites from attacking and making them very sick. There are a lot of sprays/pills on the market that will help prevent parasites.

Cancer:

This is the worst-case scenario, and no dog owner wants to hear this word spoken over their dog.

Symptoms are the same as in the sections mentioned above: weakness, struggling to walk, loss of appetite, and trembling.

Upon noticing any of these (separately or in a combination), the vet should be called immediately to schedule a wellness appointment. He will perform all the necessary tests to see what’s going on.

It is best to not procrastinate up to a point when your buddy exhibits some disturbing signs. An owner should stay on top of their dog’s wellbeing and bring it for a regular yearly check-up.

Trancing Dog

A rare phenomenon called “dog trancing” may also be the reason for such strange walking patterns and can catch a dog owner off guard. Especially if they didn’t see the dog act in this type of fashion before: the pooch moves as if it is in a trance state.

Ever heard of that? Any dog breed can develop “trancing,” while particular breeds might be more susceptible to it, bigger breeds such as Labradors, Hounds, and Setters are in the “risk” zone, topping the trancing charts. Although it’s not uncommon for some smaller breeds to engage in trancing as well.

It usually happens when a dog accidentally comes in contact with something hanging over it: cable, tree branch, even laundry on the clothesline that mommy brought outside to dry.

A pet parent shouldn’t be alarmed if suddenly a pooch rubs its back on an object and slows down. It is not a sleep-walking episode or a neurological disorder. It is just an enjoyable type of stroke, kind of like a full-body massage.

Dog trancing will often evolve into tail-chasing, which is a more common occurrence among our four-legged pals.

Steps to Prevent Slow Walking:

Never take any alarming dog behavior lightly: it can’t communicate when it feels bad, so an owner can only rely on physical signals.

Make sure your pup gets enough nutrients with its meals together with additional vitamin supplements (if needed) to stay healthy.

Pay a visit to a local vet every year for a check-up.

Provide enough daily exercise and mental stimulation for your companion: sounds like a cliche, but it is true. A healthy pup is an active pup (the same goes for fellow humans).

Don’t Take Slow Walking Lightly

Whatever signs your dog displays, please, don’t take them lightly, brushing it off as “my dog is just tired,” especially if you observe these signs for a few days.

While the only two non-disturbing cases we described above do not need your close attention (“guilty” slow walking and “trancing”), the others require immediate action.

Please, be a responsible, devoted, and caring pet parent, and you’ll be able to enjoy many more years with your best friend, who just looks physically different and is extremely hairy.

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