Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways? Full Guide in 2023

“Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways” have you ever noticed your furry friend exhibiting unusual behavior, like walking sideways, It’s common for dogs to engage in quirky behaviors that perplex us. One such behavior is sideways walking, also known as crabbing or sidewinding. This piece will take an in-depth journey into the captivating realm of canine behavior to uncover the reasons behind your dog’s peculiar sideways walking tendencies. Whether it’s a harmless quirk or a sign of an underlying issue, understanding the causes behind this behavior can help you ensure your dog’s well-being and happiness.

Recognizing Sideways Walking

Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways? 

Dogs are known for their varied and sometimes amusing behaviors. While behaviors like barking, wagging their tails, and fetching are quite common, there are instances when they display more peculiar actions, such as walking sideways. Sideway walking refers to a behavior in which a dog moves in a lateral or crab-like manner, often with their body oriented diagonally to the direction of movement. This behavior can range from subtle to more pronounced, and understanding its potential causes is crucial for addressing any concerns.

Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways?

Dog owners often ponder the central question: “Why does my dog walk sideways?” This behavior can stem from various reasons, some innocuous, while others might require closer attention. Let’s explore the possible explanations for this intriguing behavior.

What Causes Crabbing Or Sidewinding In Dogs?

Crabbing or sidewinding in dogs is a peculiar gait abnormality where the dog moves diagonally with its body twisted or angled, resembling the movement of a crab. This behavior can be concerning to pet owners, and there are several potential causes for crabbing or sidewinding in dogs:

Orthopedic Issues

Some orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia, luxating patella’s (kneecaps that move out of place), or abnormal bone development, can lead to gait abnormalities like crabbing. These conditions affect the dog’s ability to walk and move normally.

Neurological Disorders

Neurological conditions like spinal cord problems, nerve damage, or certain brain disorders can interfere with a dog’s normal gait. The brain’s coordination ability may be compromised, leading to a crab-like gait.

Muscle Imbalance

If a dog has muscle imbalances or weaknesses on one side of its body, it may compensate by adopting a crabbing or sidewinding gait to maintain stability and balance.


Trauma or injury to a dog’s limbs, spine, or pelvis can disrupt normal movement patterns and result in crabbing behavior.


Some dog breeds are more prone to certain orthopedic issues or anatomical abnormalities that can lead to crabbing. This could be due to genetic factors affecting bone structure or muscle development.

Developmental Abnormalities

Dogs with developmental abnormalities in their limbs or spine may exhibit crabbing behavior. These abnormalities might arise during prenatal development or early puppyhood.


Dogs in pain, particularly those with musculoskeletal issues, may change their gait to avoid discomfort. Crabbing could be a way for them to alleviate pain or distribute weight more evenly.

Degenerative Disorders 

Certain degenerative disorders, such as degenerative myelopathy, can lead to progressive hind limb weakness and ataxia (loss of control over body movements), which might manifest as a crab-like gait.

It’s important to note that crabbing or sidewinding is a symptom rather than a diagnosis. Should you observe your furry companion displaying such actions, it is of utmost importance to seek guidance from a veterinarian to ensure a thorough and accurate assessment. Depending on the specific condition involved, the underlying cause of the crabbing behavior will determine the appropriate treatment plan, including medical intervention, physical therapy, or surgery.

Why is My Dog Walking Sideways all of a Sudden?

If your dog is suddenly walking sideways or exhibiting an abnormal gait, it could be a sign of a medical issue or injury that needs attention. Several potential causes for a dog walking sideways include:

Ear Infections: Inner ear infections can affect a dog’s balance and coordination, leading to a sideways gait.

Neurological Issues: Neurological conditions or injuries to the brain or spinal cord can impact a dog’s motor skills and cause unsteady movements.

Vestibular Disease: Vestibular disease, often seen in older dogs, can result in head tilting, loss of balance, and a tendency to walk in circles or sideways.

Musculoskeletal Problems: Injuries or issues with muscles, joints, or bones can lead to an abnormal gait.

Toxic Ingestion: Certain toxins or poisons can affect a dog’s neurological system and result in unusual movements.

Stroke: A stroke can cause sudden disorientation and difficulty walking.

Injury or Pain: Pain from an injury or an underlying condition can cause a dog to favor one side, leading to a sideways gait.

Idiopathic Causes: In some cases, dogs may display unexplained gait abnormalities without an obvious cause.

How Do I Stop My Dog from Pulling Sideways?

Teaching your dog to stop pulling sideways on a leash requires consistent training and patience. Here are steps to help curb this behavior:

Choose the Right Equipment: Consider using a no-pull harness, head collar, or a front-clip harness to provide better control and reduce pulling.

Basic Training: Ensure your dog understands basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “heel” in a controlled environment before practicing on walks.

Short Leash: Use a shorter leash to maintain better control and limit your dog’s ability to pull.

Positive Reinforcement: Reward your dog with treats, praise, and affection when they walk beside you without pulling. Encourage the desired behavior.

Change Direction: If your dog starts pulling to the side, change direction abruptly. This redirects their attention and discourages pulling.

Stop and Wait: When your dog pulls sideways, stop walking immediately and wait for them to return to your side. Use treats to reward compliance.

Consistency: Be consistent with your commands and rewards. Over time, your dog will associate walking calmly with positive outcomes.

Regular Exercise: Ensure your dog gets enough exercise to release pent-up energy, making them less likely to pull out of excitement or restlessness.

Professional Help: Consider working with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist if your dog’s pulling behavior is severe or persistent.

Stay Calm: Maintain a calm and composed demeanor while training. Yelling or becoming frustrated can confuse your dog and make training less effective.

Practice: Practice leash training in various environments, gradually increasing distractions to reinforce good behavior.

Be Patient: Changing a dog’s behavior takes time. Be patient and persistent in your training efforts.

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Other Causes of Sideways Walking

Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways? 

Beyond health concerns, there are other reasons why your dog might be walking sideways. These factors can vary from harmless behaviors to exciting moments:

Exploratory Behavior: Dogs are naturally curious creatures and often engage in peculiar movement patterns to explore their surroundings. Sideways walking might be your dog investigating an interesting scent, object, or sound.

Adjusting to Terrain: Dogs sometimes walk sideways when navigating uneven or unfamiliar terrain. This behavior allows them to maintain stability and adjust their footing to prevent slipping or stumbling.

Sensory Overload: Dogs can experience sensory overload in stimulating environments. If your dog is overwhelmed by multiple sights, sounds, and smells, it might exhibit unusual behaviors, including walking sideways, to cope with the sensory input.

Are They Walking or Running Sideways When They Are Excited?

Interestingly, some dogs walk sideways when particularly excited or playful. This behavior might be an exaggerated expression of their enthusiasm, akin to a happy dance. When dogs bursting with energy, their movements can become more exuberant and less coordinated, leading to sideways walking or playful sideways running.

What Should I Do if My Dog is Walking Sideways?

If your dog is walking sideways or exhibiting unusual behavior, it’s important to address the situation promptly. Walking sideways could indicate underlying issues, ranging from minor discomfort to more serious medical conditions.

Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways? 

Here’s what you should do:

  • Pay close attention to your dog’s behavior. Is the sideways walking sudden or gradual? Are there other symptoms, such as limping, stumbling, losing balance, or unusual head tilting?
  • Ensure your dog is safe from any immediate dangers. If they’re walking near traffic or hazardous areas, move them to a safe location.
  • Inspect your dog’s limbs, paws, joints, and body for any signs of pain, swelling, or injuries. Check for foreign objects stuck in their paws or between their toes.
  • Observe whether your dog has trouble maintaining balance, standing, or turning. Balance issues could indicate inner ear problems or neurological issues.
  • Problems with the inner ear or vision can lead to disorientation and sideways walking. Examine your dog’s ears for signs of infection or inflammation. Consult a veterinarian if your dog’s eyes appear red, cloudy, or irritated.
  • Vestibular syndrome is an inner ear disorder that can cause balance problems and head tilting. If your dog is experiencing sudden and severe signs of imbalance, it could be related to this syndrome.
  • Should your canine companion manifest additional indications like vomiting, excessive drooling, alterations in appetite, lethargy, or shifts in behavior, these could serve as valuable hints pointing toward an underlying issue that requires attention.
  • If your dog’s sideways walking continues or if you’re concerned about their health, it’s best to consult a veterinarian. They can perform a thorough physical examination, possibly including neurological tests, to determine the underlying cause. Possible avenues of treatment encompass a spectrum ranging from medication and physical therapy to surgical intervention, contingent upon the specific diagnosis determined by medical professionals.
  • Until you can consult a veterinarian, limiting your dog’s physical activity to prevent further injury or discomfort is a good idea.

Remember, only a veterinarian can accurately diagnose the cause of your dog’s sideways walking and recommend appropriate treatment. If your dog’s condition worsens or you notice severe symptoms, seek veterinary attention immediately.

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In conclusion, witnessing your dog walk sideways might intrigue you, but remember that there could be various explanations for this behavior. While some dogs have unique gaits or exuberant movements, others might be experiencing discomfort or health issues.

By comprehending the potential factors at play and reaching out for expert advice when needed, you can guarantee the health and welfare of your beloved furry friend, affording them the consideration they are worthy of. So, the next time your dog displays a sideways stroll, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to decipher the mystery behind their quirky behavior.

FAQs(Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways?)

Are they suddenly walking sideways?

Should your older canine companion begin to ambulate sideways out of the blue, it might indicate an underlying health concern, necessitating an assessment by a veterinarian.

Why is my senior dog walking sideways?

Senior dogs may walk sideways due to neurological problems, joint issues, vestibular disease, or other medical conditions affecting balance and coordination.

What causes an old dog to walk sideways with its back legs?

Walking sideways with back legs in old dogs can be caused by conditions like hip dysplasia, arthritis, spinal problems, or nerve damage, leading to difficulty in proper leg movement.

Why does my dog twist their body when walking?

Dogs may twist their bodies while walking due to pain, discomfort, or an attempt to find a more stable posture. Underlying issues like muscle weakness or neurological disorders could contribute to this behavior.

What can cause a dog to walk sideways and fall?

Walking sideways and falling in dogs can result from inner ear issues like vestibular disease, which affects balance, and more serious conditions like strokes or tumors affecting the brain or spinal cord. A veterinarian’s assessment is essential.

Why is puppy walking sideways?

A puppy walking sideways can be caused by various factors, including inner ear infections, vestibular issues, neurological problems, or developmental abnormalities. It’s essential to consult a veterinarian promptly to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment. Sudden or persistent sideways walking in puppies should not be ignored, as it may indicate a health issue that needs attention.

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