Why Does My Dog Walk Behind Me? Is it a Sign of Submission?

There are several reasons your dog walks behind you on walks. It could be that they’re afraid of something and view you as the protector. They may also be curious about their surroundings and want to slow down the pace to explore. A dog walking behind is much better than a dog walking in front. There’s no need to change this behavior.

Spending time with your dog can be one of the most exciting parts of your day. Whether you’re spending it outside playing fetch or going for a walk, spending time with your pup is always a joy.

On your walks, you may find your dog walking behind you rather than with you…but why? That’s exactly what we will be covering below. From there, we will go over how to correct this behavior. However, keep in mind that a dog walking behind you isn’t necessarily “bad behavior.” But if you’d prefer they walk by your side, we will show you how.

Understanding Dog Behavior

Dogs exhibit a variety of behaviors that depend on their mood, environment, hunger, or current situation.

Typical behaviors for your dog include barking, digging, chewing, panting, and jumping. You may see these behaviors in your home, during your time outside together, or during your walks.

Understanding dog behavior is crucial when trying to figure out why your dog is walking behind you.

Walking Your Dog is Full of Teaching Opportunities

Walking your dog is a necessary part of their daily routine. By taking walks, you’re helping your dog learn social skills with other pets they encounter along the way. It’s also a great way to help your dog’s physical health by providing them exercise.

But one thing that often goes overlooked when it comes to walks is that they provide training opportunities.

You may notice that your dog pulls on the leash during a walk. This is a great training opportunity to teach them to heel.

Maybe your dog is aggressive toward other dogs on a walk. This is an opportunity to teach them to socialize.

Or maybe (such as the title of this article suggests) your dog is walking behind you. This is a great opportunity to teach them to walk alongside you.

What’s Triggering Your Dog to Walk Behind You?

Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” answer to this question. There are several things that could cause your dog to walk behind you on walks.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When did this start?
  • Did a specific event cause it?
  • Is your dog overweight?
  • Does your dog appear hurt?
  • Does your dog seem afraid?

Answering these questions and observing your dog’s body language will help you figure out what’s going on.

Below are the three primary reasons your dog is walking behind you.

Fear

Though walking your dog may seem mindless and routine, your dog may trail behind you because they are scared.

This can be from previous trauma or a lack of socialization. Other dogs on the trail may be intimidating or cause your dog to be on guard. Your dog may be seeking your protection and is hesitant towards their surroundings.

Depending on the environment, you may find your dog is overstimulated. This can be due to the noise of traffic, exposure to strangers and other dogs, or strange scents they aren’t used to.

There’s a lot to take in when stepping out into the world. Your dog may not be used to it all and is seeking your protection.

Curiosity

While some dogs may find their surroundings overwhelming, others may find it to be a world of adventure. Your dog might be trailing behind you because they are curious about their surroundings.

Dogs have a powerful sense of smell. If you’re walking a trail or in a neighborhood that is frequented by other dogs, your furry friend may pick up their scent along the way.

They may also be taking in the surroundings of new people, new smells, and curious critters along your path.

While curiosity causes some dogs to sprint ahead and pull on the leash, it causes other dogs to stay back and “take their time.”

Walks are a healthy way for your dog to enjoy the world in a safe, controlled manner.

Recovering From Fatigue

If your dog started the walk in front of you or beside you and then fell behind, they were probably fatigued from the walk and needed some rest.

Walks can be exhausting for dogs, especially if they have lower energy levels, short legs, or are overweight.

As dog’s age, you may find that they are less active than they were in their youth. Be patient with them and observe their needs. Never push your dog harder than they want to be pushed. Allow them to rest if needed.

How To Change This Behavior

Training

If your dog is walking behind you due to fear or curiosity, you can change this behavior and teach your dog to walk alongside you.

The best way to teach your dog to walk by your side is to bring treats with you. Once your dog starts trailing behind, hold a treat by your side. Make sure your dog comes up to you for the treat, never stop to give it to them.

They’ll quickly learn that they get rewarded when they’re by your side.

If your dog is overstimulated by the environment, such as the noise of traffic and all the new people, begin the training in an environment with less distractions, such as a walking trail or a quiet path.

Once your dog is consistently walking by your side in a quiet environment, bring them to the normal, busy route. Make sure you bring treats and reward them when they stay by your side.

Medical Intervention

If you find that your dog is trailing behind more than usual and is more labored in walking distances that were once easy for them, consider their age, health, and weight.

It’s easy to get into a routine and miss the signs our dogs give us to let us know something is wrong.

If you observe your dog becoming tired more frequently and not being able to walk like they once could, talk with your veterinarian to ensure your dog does not have a medical condition.

It’s typical for your dog to slow down as they age, but a drastic change in your dog’s endurance and energy level may call for professional intervention.

Let Your Dog Enjoy The Walk

If your dog is falling behind on walks because of medical reasons, it’s important to seek attention from the vet. However, if your dog is simply curious about the world around them and enjoys “taking it all in”, don’t feel like you need to correct this habit. Let them enjoy their outdoor time as much as possible.

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