Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways?

Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways?

You’re sitting on the couch scrolling through your phone when you glance over and notice your dog walk sideways in a strange zig-zag pattern across the room. At first it seems cute, but then you start to wonder if something is wrong. Why is your furry friend moving like that? Is it a sign of injury, illness, or just a funny quirk?

We’ll explore some of the possible reasons your dog is doing the sideways shuffle. From medical causes like hip dysplasia to behavioral ones like excitement, we’ll break down the explanations so you can get Fido moving straight again. With some tips for training and care, you’ll have your pup walking a straight line in no time. So read on to get the scoop on this quirky canine behavior!

Why Is My Dog Walking Sideways?

Dog Walking Sideways

If your dog is walk sideways, it could be a sign of an underlying medical issue and warrants a checkup. Vestibular Disease One possible cause is vestibular disease, which affects your dog’s balance and coordination.

If your dog’s head is tilted to one side and their eyes are moving side to side rapidly (nystagmus), it’s likely vestibular disease. This condition can occur from an infection, tumor, or trauma to the vestibular system in the inner ear. Treatment may include medication to reduce inflammation and physical therapy to help retrain your dog’s balance.

Musculoskeletal Issue

Your dog could have a musculoskeletal problem like a pinched nerve, muscle strain, or hip dysplasia that makes walking normally painful or difficult. They may dog walk sideways to relieve pressure on the sore area. If your dog is limping or showing signs of pain, see your vet for an exam and diagnosis. Treatment may include rest,  drug, physical  remedy or in severe cases, surgery. 

Anxiety or Compulsive Behavior

Some dog develop compulsive behaviors like walk in circles or sideways due to anxiety, stress or boredom. If your dog only walks sideways in certain situations or environments, anxiety could be the culprit. You may need to address the underlying cause of their anxiety through training, socialization, increased exercise and play. In some cases, medication or behavioral therapy may also help alleviate compulsive behaviors.

The bottom line is if your dog is frequently walking sideways, it’s best to have them checked out by the vet to determine if it’s a medical or behavioral issue. Early diagnosis and treatment will help keep your furry friend happy and healthy for years to come.

Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways?

What Causes Crabbing or Sidewinding in Dogs?

Crabbing or sidewinding, the act of walking sideways, can be caused by a number of issues in dogs. The most common reasons for this unusual gait are injuries, weakness or pain in the legs or spine, or a lack of confidence.

Musculoskeletal Issues

If your dog is having trouble walking straight due to pain or weakness in their legs, it could be a sign of muscle strain, arthritis, or even a fracture. Arthritis and hip dysplasia can make it difficult and painful for dogs to walk forward, causing them to crab sideways instead.

In senior dogs, general muscle loss and weakness may also contribute to sidewinding. It’s best to have your vet examine your dog to determine if there are any musculoskeletal issues and start treatment.

Spinal Problems

Pressure on the spine or spinal nerves can also cause dogs to walk sideways or ‘drunkenly’. Conditions like intervertebral disc disease, tumors, or injuries can all apply pressure to the spine and lead to crabbing. If your dog’s walking seems uncoordinated or they are showing other signs of pain, it’s important to have your vet evaluate them as soon as possible.

Lack of Confidence

Some dogs may walk sideways or crooked due to a lack of confidence, especially in new environments or situations. If your dog only crabs occasionally and seems otherwise normal and healthy, it may simply be due to anxiety or uncertainty. Providing extra encouragement, rewards, and positive experiences can help build your dog’s confidence in these situations.

With treatment for any underlying conditions and patience and training for anxiety, crabbing and sidewinding can often be resolved. But if your dog’s walking does not return to normal or seems painful, it’s best to have your vet examine them to determine the cause.

Health Concerns That May Cause a Dog to Walk Sideways

Muscle Strain or Injury

Your dog may be walking sideways due to an injury or strain of the muscles in their back, hips or legs. Things like a pulled muscle, pinched nerve or sprain can cause pain when walking normally, so your dog adapts by walking sideways.

If your dog started walking sideways suddenly, this could indicate an injury. You may notice other symptoms like limping, difficulty jumping or crying when touched in a specific area. See your vet for an accurate diagnosis and treatment like rest, medication or physical therapy.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition where the hip joints become loose and unstable. It can cause pain, lameness and difficulty walking for dogs. If your dog has hip dysplasia, they may walk sideways to relieve pressure on their hips.

You may also notice decreased activity, difficulty getting up or lying down, or a “bunny hopping” gait. Hip dysplasia is usually diagnosed with x-rays and treated with lifestyle changes, medication, surgery or a combination of treatments.

Tick-Borne Disease

In some cases, a tick-borne disease like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever may cause a dog to walk sideways. These diseases can cause pain, inflammation and neurological issues that make normal walking difficult.

Other symptoms may include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and lameness. Blood tests can check for tick-borne diseases, and a course of antibiotics is usually required for treatment.

Watch your dog closely for other symptoms, especially if sideways walking is a new behavior. Early diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause can help relieve their discomfort and prevent long-term health issues.

Be sure to schedule a visit with your vet right away if you have any concerns about your dog’s mobility or health.

Veterinary Assessment for Dogs Walking Sideways

If your dog is walking sideways or circling, it’s a good idea to have your vet examine them as soon as possible. Some possible medical causes for this behavior include:

Ear infection or vestibular disease

The vestibular gadget includes the elements of the internal ear and mind that manipulate balance and eye moves. If there’s inflammation or damage in this system, it can cause dizziness, nausea, and loss of balance in dogs. Your vet may prescribe steroids or other medications to reduce inflammation and help your dog recover.


Sometimes seizures or epilepsy in dogs can cause temporary loss of balance or coordination that leads to circling or walking sideways. Your vet will want to determine if your dog is actually having seizures and may run blood tests or other diagnostics to determine the cause. Anti-seizure medication may be needed to control the condition.

Brain tumor

A tumor in the brain that affects the vestibular system or balance center can sometimes cause circling, walking sideways or loss of coordination in dogs. Your vet may recommend advanced diagnostics like CT or MRI scans to determine if there are any growths in the brain that could be causing these symptoms. Treatment options depend on the type of tumor, if present.

Other causes

Other possible causes for dogs walking sideways or circling include hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), poisoning, hepatic encephalopathy (brain dysfunction due to liver disease), or head trauma. Your vet will want to rule out any other possible medical causes through a physical exam, blood work, and other tests.

The good news is that for many dogs, the cause of this behavior can be diagnosed and managed well. Getting your dog to the vet right away for an accurate diagnosis and treatment is the best way to help get them back to walking straight and balanced again.

Prevention Strategies for Dogs Walking Sideways

Provide physical exercise

Dogs need daily exercise and physical activity to stay healthy and prevent behavioral issues. Take your dog for walks, play fetch, or give them interactive dog toys to keep them stimulated. When dogs don’t get enough exercise, they can develop anxiety and other issues that lead to sideways walking. Aim for at least half-hour of exercise consistent with day for maximum puppies.

Train your dog

Work on basic obedience training with your dog using positive reinforcement techniques. Teach them to walk properly on a leash, sit, stay and come when called. Training is not only stimulating for your dog mentally, but it also helps to reinforce that you are the pack leader. When dogs view their owners as the leader, they are less likely to display anxious or stressful behaviors.

Provide mental stimulation

Playing with your dog, teaching them tricks and giving them interactive dog toys when you’re away can help prevent boredom and curb sideways walking behavior.Puzzle toys that dispense treats as your dog performs can hold them occupied for hours. Rotate unique toys to maintain matters thrilling.

Stick to a routine

Establishing a regular feeding, walking, and exercise schedule can help make your dog feel more secure. Take your dog out at the same times every day and avoid abrupt changes to their routine when possible. A predictable routine and environment will lower their overall anxiety levels and make sideways walking less likely.

Consult a vet if needed

If your dog’s sideways walking behavior continues frequently or seems compulsive, it’s a good idea to have them checked out by a vet. An underlying medical issue like hip dysplasia or an anxiety disorder could be contributing to the problem. Your vet may recommend medication, supplements or behavioral therapy to help address the root cause of the behavior.

Preventing sideways walking in dogs is usually a matter of providing the right amounts of exercise, training, mental stimulation and consistency. Be patient through the process, as it can take weeks or months of regular effort to fully resolve behavioral issues. With time and consistency, you can get your dog walking straight again!

Are they on foot or walking sideways whilst they are excited?

When dogs get excited, their body tends to move in all sorts of directions, including sideways. This sideways walking or movement is usually a sign that your dog is feeling playful and energetic.

Playful Greeting

Many dogs will walk sideways or crab walk towards you when you come home as a way to excitedly greet you. Their body is filled with so much excitement and anticipation of seeing you that their legs start moving in all directions. This playful greeting shows you just how much they have missed you and how eager they are to shower you with doggy kisses and tail wags.

Play Bow

Dogs will often walk sideways or hop sideways when inviting another dog or human to play. This behavior is known as the “play bow” and is a signal that your dog wants to have some fun. When a dog play bows, they lower their front legs while keeping their hind legs up, sometimes hopping or dancing from side to side. This is an invitation for you or another dog to come chase and play with them.


Have you ever seen your dog suddenly run around wildly, maybe spinning in circles or running from side to side? These bursts of energy are referred to as the “zoomies” and happen when a dog has a sudden buildup of energy and excitement that needs to be released.

Zoomies often involve sideways running, hopping, jumping and twisting as your dog joyfully zips around. Though the zoomies only last a few minutes, they are a sign your dog is feeling happy and playful.

So if your dog is walking or running sideways, it is usually just their way of expressing their excitement or inviting you to come play. Sideways movement in dogs is perfectly normal behavior and nothing to worry about. Just grab a toy or give them some belly rubs to help release all that pent-up energy and excitement!


So there you have it. While a dog walking sideways might look a little silly or concerning at first, it likely isn’t anything to worry about. With a combination of training, exercise, and keeping an eye out for any other symptoms, you can get your pup walking straight again in no time. Just remember to be patient and compassionate.

Fido isn’t walking sideways to be difficult – he’s just communicating in the best way he knows how. Show him some love through this quirky phase and he’ll be back to his happy, tail-wagging self before you know it. With some time and care, you and your sideways-walking pup will be taking nice straight walks together once more.

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It can be normal for a dog to walk sideways occasionally, especially when excited or playful. However, frequent sideways walking may indicate underlying issues and should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

Why is my dog twisting his body when walking?

Your dog may twist their body while walking due to discomfort, musculoskeletal problems, neurological issues, or excitement. It’s essential to observe their behavior and consult a vet if it persists.

Why does my dog not walk in a straight line?

Dogs may not walk in a straight line due to various reasons, including musculoskeletal issues, neurological problems, anxiety, or distractions. Consulting a vet can help determine the cause.

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If your dog is walking weird, it could indicate pain, injury, neurological issues, vestibular disease, or behavioral problems. Prompt veterinary attention is necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Signs of a stroke in dogs include sudden weakness or paralysis, loss of balance, head tilting, disorientation, and difficulty walking. Immediate veterinary care is crucial if you suspect a stroke.

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