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Why Does My Dog Walk Behind Me? Top 13 Reasons + 3 Tips

Why Does My Dog Walk Behind Me

Walking with your beloved pup is a perfect way to bond.

But you notice something weird.

While other dogs walk beside their fur moms and dads…

Your pooch keeps walking behind you.

And you wonder… why does my dog keep doing this?

If you’re looking for answers, I’ve got you covered.

Continue reading this article to find out:

  • Top 13 reasons why your dog walks behind you.
  • 3 tips you can do to prevent your dog from doing that.
  • Whether your dog’s weight has anything to do with the behavior.
  • And a lot more…

Why does my dog walk behind me?

Your dog walks behind you to sniff, protect you, or follow you. They may also do this because they’re obedient, fearful, overweight, tired, or used to it. It may also be due to old age, an unfamiliar place, herding mentality, lack of confidence, or an underlying health condition.

13 reasons why your dog walks behind you

#1: Your dog just loves to sniff

“Hooman, stop! I need to sniff stuff.”

We all know dogs love to smell everything. But do you know why?

While we use our sight to see the world, dogs use their nose. 

Sniffing things is their way to pick up information. 

The more they sniff, the more they get to know the environment around them.

Dogs have around 300 million scent receptors in their noses. This is nothing compared to us that only has 6 million.

So if you’re wondering why they’re walking behind you. They’re probably just sniffing around.

Using their nose to investigate the things they’re passing by. And maybe thinking…

“I smell the street to make sure we’re still walking in the same neighborhood.”

One fur dad shared his experience about his dog who kept walking behind him.

He also mentioned that his doggo was an adamant sniffer. And that they would trail behind him with the nose on the ground.

The dog would smell every little bit of the ground while moving at a very slow pace. 

But the fur dad’s main concern was how long should he allow his dog to sniff during walks.

According to AKC, your pup should be allowed a sufficient amount to sniff. And they should not be prevented from doing it.

But of course, we can’t spend the whole day letting them smell everything.

They still need to know their boundaries. You can do this by teaching them the “leave it” command.

This will allow them to know when to stop sniffing. And that it’s time to get going.

Further reading: Why is my dog constantly sniffing the ground? & Why is my dog sniffing the air and looking up?

#2: Fido is in an unfamiliar place

“Are we lost, mommy? I don’t know where we are.”

Have you recently move to a new place? Or did you walk your pup to a new park?

If you answered yes to both these questions. Then this could be the reason your furry friend is walking behind you.

Imagine yourself as a child going to a new school. And your parents are there to escort you.

What would you do when you’re nervous? Did you also hide behind your parents?

It’s the same with dogs. Some would also feel anxious when they’re in an unfamiliar place.

And seeing you as their protector would make them hide at your back.

Aside from hiding, there are other signs that show they’re stressed. This includes:

Some dogs would also become cautious when in unfamiliar territory.

They walk behind you so you can take the lead. Notice that when they’re in a place they know, they’ll confidently go on their walk. 

But when in an unknown area, they tend to be wary of their surroundings.

What you can do is to allow your pooch to slowly get familiar with the new area.

Following a routine and going for walks every day will let them get used to the place in no time.

#3: Your dog is doing it out of habit

“This is what we always do.”

Another reason your pup walks behind you is that they got used to doing it.

Maybe you’ve always allowed them to trail behind you during walks.

And you might have also been giving them treats or praises when they’re behind.

In this case, you’ve taught them that this is the right thing to do.

And if you’ve been doing this repeatedly, then it has become a habit for your dog.

They have now associated walking behind you with treats and praises.

Wondering how to break the habit?

Good news, there’s a simple trick but requires a lot of patience.

Every time you go on walks, make sure to stop them from walking behind you.

Instead, let them walk beside you and when they do, praise them.

#4: Your dog is generally fearful

“Doggo is terrified of the outside world.”

There are dogs that are more fearful than others. It may be because of a bad experience or past trauma.

And even though, walking is a routine they should get used to by now. They still get terrified of their surroundings.

They may found other people or dogs intimidating. Or they may get alarmed by the loud horns of cars.

So they walk behind you for safety. Because who else can protect them than you?

But note that for some dogs, being exposed to different sights and sounds may cause overstimulation.

When dogs step outside, they are met with a lot of things going on around them.

And this can be overwhelming to some of them.

It could be due to noises from car alarms, sirens, garbage trucks, or flying airplanes.

Or from seeing different things at the same time like people walking, children playing, or dogs running.

To know if your pup is overstimulated, lookout for the following signs:

  • Pacing.
  • Panting.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Barking at noises.
  • Licking constantly.
  • Being alert at all times.
  • Compulsive behaviors.

So what can you do to prevent this? Here are a few tips:

  • Providing them with proper exercise.
  • Keeping their environment predictable.
  • Making sure they’re socialized at an early age.
  • Letting them explore the outside world while they’re young.

#5: Your dog wants to follow you everywhere

“I’m your furry follower.”

If your pooch follows you around the house, then they’ll likely trail behind you outside too.

They just can’t help acting as your shadow. And watch your every move.

They’ll follow you while you take a bath…. While you cook… Or even while you do your business.

Here’s a video of a Labrador that keeps following her owner everywhere:

PetMd mentions that the reasons your dog is following you are:

  • Imprinting.
  • Breed traits.
  • Reinforcement.
  • Companionship.

Dogs who follow their owners around are often clingy. But do you know what they’re called?

They’re known as velcro dogs and these are some of them:

  • Pug.
  • Papillon.
  • Chihuahua.
  • French Bulldog.
  • Golden Retriever.
  • Labrador Retriever.
  • Shetland Sheepdog.

Interesting fact: A recent study in the UK found that due to the pandemic, some pups have turned into velcro dogs.

#6: It’s due to their old age

“Doggo is old, this is as fast as I can walk.”

If we take your dog’s age into consideration, this could be a factor as to why they’re walking behind you.

As they grow old, there will be changes in their abilities. Your once energetic pup may now be slower than usual.

They may also move slower because they could be suffering from age-related health issues. 

And this is why they’re striding two steps behind you. But it’s worth noting that you shouldn’t stop an old dog from their daily walks.

They still need to stay active and have enough exercise. This will help in keeping them healthy.

It’s also important to have them regularly checked by a vet for early detection of illness.

Fun fact: Researchers found that touchscreen games can help old dogs maintain a sharp mind.

#7: Your dog is overweight

“This pudgy pooch needs a break.”

Another reason your pooch walks behind you is they’re overweight.

The heavier they are, the easier they get tired during walks. This makes their pace slower.

And they can’t keep up with you because they need a break every now and then.

The extra weight can cause them to have mobility issues. It may also give them breathing problems.

And according to AKC, an overweight dog may also develop a lot of other health issues. 

These are:

  • Arthritis.
  • Diabetes.
  • Skin problems.
  • Liver problems.
  • Joint problems.
  • Heart problems.
  • Kidney disease.
  • High blood pressure.

The good news is this can be prevented by helping your pooch get back into shape.

You can do this by consulting a vet for the best diet plan. And cutting back on treats you give them.

Lastly, ensuring that they enough exercise will also help them lose that extra weight.

Check out also: Why is my puppy so lazy?

#8: Fido lack confidence

Your Dog Walks Behind You Due To Lack Of Confidence

If your pup doesn’t have enough self-confidence, they will likely walk behind you.

They will feel insecure about their surroundings. And they may also not be so friendly with other dogs.

So instead of greeting other canines, they would prefer to hide behind you.

One reason that they lack confidence is that they weren’t properly socialized. But it may also be because of genetics.

Fortunately, there are techniques you can do to build your pup’s confidence.

One of these is letting them take the lead. This means allowing them to explore their surroundings on their own terms.

You can also train them with basic obedience commands. And letting them gently socialize with dogs will also build their confidence.

#9: Your dog is following their herding instincts

There are some dogs who would have the tendency to herd whatever is available.

They’ll herd cats, children, and even you. They would even sometimes poke you or nip on your heels.

And no, they don’t think you’re a sheep. They’re just following their instincts.

Some of the most common herding breeds are:

  • Corgi.
  • Border Collie.
  • Belgian Malinois.
  • English Sheepdog.
  • German Shepherd.
  • Australian Shepherd.
  • Australian Cattle Dog.

Your pooch herding you may look funny but it can lead to problems.

That’s why it’s important to correct this behavior. You can do this by:

  • Using leash during walks.
  • Enforcing obedience training.
  • Distracting them by playing tug or fetch.
  • Keeping them busy with mental stimulation.
  • Staying calm when they start pushing (don’t yell or laugh).

#10: Fido is scared of their owner

“Doggo is scared of hooman.”

While some pet parents use positive reinforcement to train their dogs.

Some may still use outdated methods.

The dog owner may think that it’s only right for the pooch to stay behind.

Since he thinks of himself as the leader.

And maybe he uses punishment when the dog walks beside or ahead of him.

The thing is, using this method will only make the poor pup fearful.

And the reason why they’re walking behind is that they’re terrified to be punished.

What’s worst is they’re also most likely afraid of their owners too.

A study even mentioned that punishment will only cause negative mental effects to dogs.

That’s why it’s best to use reward-based training. This assures a happy and well-trained pooch.

You might also be interested in: 9 reasons why your dog is suddenly afraid of you

#11: Your dog is uncomfortable with their gear

“Slow down, mom! Doggo is choking.”

Most pet parents don’t pay much attention to this…

But sometimes, the reason dogs walk behind you is because of their gear.

They’re walking at a turtle pace due to wearing the wrong kind of equipment.

It could be a collar that’s too tight. Or a harness with the wrong size.

To check if a collar fits, you should be able to slide two fingers under it.

While a harness should be made of quality materials. And should fit your pup properly.

Making sure they have comfortable gear will make walking fun.

Plus, it will also prevent injuries. 

#12: Fido has an underlying health condition

As caring fur moms and dads, we should always be on the watch for any signs of illness on our dogs.

They might be lagging behind due to pain in their body. It may be because of arthritis, infections, or even organ diseases.

When your pooch is sick, they may also feel reluctant to go on walks.

This can be distressing both for you and your precious pup. But don’t panic.

The first thing you should do is visit your vet for a proper diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, you need to make sure that they’re well taken care of.

You can do this by:

Reading recommendation: Why Do Dogs Arch Their Backs? 13 Reasons + 9 Situations

#13: Your dog is simply tired

“Go ahead hooman, I might rest for a bit.”

If you’ve been letting your fur baby walk off-leash, they might easily become tired.

Walking off-leash allows dogs to run free and burn their excess energy.

And the exhaustion could make them trail behind you.

But do you know that it takes a lot of confidence to let a dog roam free?

Your pup must also be trained well. And obediently listens to commands.

According to VCA, the following are commands that off-leash dogs should recognize:

  • Stay.
  • Heel.
  • Down.
  • Come.
  • Leave it.

These are important to keep your pooch safe. And won’t wander into dangerous places.

How do I stop my dog from walking behind me? 3 tips

#1: Positive reinforcement is key

To make your pup stop walking behind you, you should train them to come to you on command.

Then allow them to walk beside you. And when they do, give them a treat or praise them.

Remember not to reward them with treats or attention when they’re walking behind you.

Only give rewards when they do what you want them to do.

This will take time and requires patience. But with consistency, your furry friend will be able to do it.

#2: Use a short leash

Using a short lease will also help in keeping your pooch to not walk behind you.

It will give you better control over them compared to long leashes.

And could teach them how to walk with you properly.

Short leashes would also keep them close to you.

This is especially helpful when walking on busy sidewalks with large crowds.

#3: Avoid making the walk a negative experience

Your pooch will be less fearful if you make their walk a positive experience for them.

When they trail behind you, you should never yell or punish them.

Pulling them by their collar is also a big NO. This is dangerous and will choke your dog.

And don’t even think of dragging them to walk beside you. 

Doing all these will only cause trauma and they might even fear walking the next time.

So don’t do it! And always remember, positive reinforcement is key!