Can Dogs Walk Backwards?

Picture of a Dog
Photo by Katja Rooke on Unsplash

If you’ve ever seen a dog that’s got itself in a bad predicament and needed a little help getting unstuck, you know that sometimes they will walk backwards to try and get themselves out of it.

But the question is can dogs actually walk backwards on their own? This may seem like an obvious answer if they are stuck, as they can wiggle themselves out of tiny spots, but can they walk backwards unassisted and without anyone helping them?

The answer is a bit complicated, but as it turns out, the answer is a resounding yes! However, if your dog is walking backwards unnecessarily, then this could be a cause for concern and you should consult your veterinarian.

Here’s everything you need to know about dogs walking backwards, including why they do it and if it’s considered normal behaviour.

Can a dog really walk backwards?

Yes, most dogs are capable of walking backwards, however, this isn’t a natural thing for them to do. Dogs are forward-moving animals and their anatomy reflects that. Their legs are positioned in such a way that makes it difficult for them to walk backwards.

In fact, most dogs seem to find it quite tricky and will only do so if they absolutely have to. Dogs are known for their forward momentum and it’s one of the things that makes them so good at walking and running. However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t walk backwards, they just don’t do it very often – so they may struggle or get a little worried if they are forced to do so (because they are stuck!).

If your dog attempts to walk backwards to get themselves out of a pickle, like being stuck behind the sofa, then they may whimper for help. The chances are they can do it – but they just need some support to help them (enthusiastic support usually goes a long way – especially if there are treats involved!).

Puppy backing up
Photo by Alvaro Nino on Unsplash

Why do dogs walk backwards?

There are a couple of reasons why dogs may need to walk backwards, here are some scenarios:

  • They are stuck and need to try and walk backwards to get out
  • They are afraid of something and are walking backwards in fear
  • They have done something wrong and when shouted at, dogs sometimes walk backwards to try and get away from an uncomfortable situation
  • The owner asks them to move backwards – this sometimes happens when they obstruct a doorway. But this usually means a shuffle backwards, rather than walking.

It’s not uncommon to see dogs walk backwards, it’s just not something they do very often. If you’ve ever wondered why your dog may be walking backwards, the answer is most likely one of the above!

Can dogs walk backwards for long periods?

No, you shouldn’t rely on your dog to walk backwards over long distances, or even short distances for that matter, like crossing a room. Dogs aren’t designed to walk backwards and they are only able to achieve this kind of movement over short distances to help get themselves unstuck or to move away from something quickly.

Imagine if you were tasked to walk backwards across a room, or a street, you would feel uncomfortable right? The backwards motion and not being able to see where you are going would worry you – maybe even make you lose balance, the same applies to dogs.

Is it normal for dogs to walk backwards?

No, it’s not normal for dogs to walk backwards, only in certain situations and scenarios, like being stuck and reversing themselves out. If your dog is walking backwards without being in a scenario where they would need to do so, it’s worth getting them checked out by a veterinarian, there could be something wrong with them.

Possible causes of walking backwards unintentionally could be hip dysplasia, arthritis, or even a problem with the spinal cord. Your vet will be able to check your dog over and give you a diagnosis if there is an underlying health condition.

Why is my dog walking backwards?

According to many dog experts and veterinarians, the most common reason for dogs walking backwards is that they are scared or worried, but in some cases, it could also signal a neurological or joint problem, but it’s important to speak to a veterinarian to rule out any physical conditions that may be affecting your dog.

Picture of dog walking backwards away from baby
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

If your dog walks backwards regularly and unnecessarily, they may be doing this to relieve their joints, as walking backwards could help ease their pain.

Dogs that have experienced trauma or have gone through unpleasant situations in their life are more likely to walk backwards out of fear. This could include being abandoned, treated unfairly by a previous owner or living in a shelter. If you think your dog may be walking backwards due to fear, the best thing to do is talk to a professional dog trainer or behaviourist.

Here are some of the signs to look out for if your dog is walking backwards:

  • Shivering
  • Whimpering
  • Cowering
  • Dropped ears
  • Tucked-in tail
  • Pain
  • Discomfort
  • Avoiding eye contact

If you see your dog walking backwards while showing any of the above signs, you should have them checked out as soon as possible, it could signal a more serious problem that needs to be cared for.

Should I be worried if my dog is walking backwards a lot?

If you notice that your dog is walking backwards regularly, then it’s best to take them to a veterinarian to get them checked, as there could be an underlying cause for this behaviour.

A dog that walks backwards to get out of certain situations, like being stuck, is completely fine and very normal, but if you notice them doing this without needing to, it could signal a more serious problem like hip dysplasia, arthritis or a neurological disorder.

What dog breeds would struggle to walk backwards?

There are some dog breeds that will struggle to walk backwards in certain scenarios, like being stuck or needing to back away from something quickly.

Some of the dog breeds that would have difficulty walking backwards are:

  • Dachshunds
  • Corgis
  • Bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • Basset Hounds
  • Beagles

These breeds have long spines and short legs, which can make it harder for them to move backwards without losing balance.

My personal experience with our own dog walking backwards

Miniature Dachshund named Tilly
Tilly, our Miniature Dachshund

I once saw Tilly, our Miniature Dachshund get stuck behind the sofa, as it was so close to the wall and the other side was blocked, so she had to wiggle herself out the same way that she entered.

It was quite funny to watch but it did make me wonder, can dogs walk backwards? She seemed to struggle at first due to her long body and short legs, but eventually, she managed it. So the answer is yes, dogs are able to walk backwards if they want to! They will shuffle their little butts out of any tight squeeze! If they need help, they will be sure to let you know.

But you should be aware that if your dog is walking backwards for no reason, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition and you should take them to see the vet.

Conclusion: Is your dog walking backwards?

If your dog is walking backwards because they need to, that’s completely fine and expected, however, if you notice a change in your dog’s behaviour and see them backing up more than usual, it’s worth getting them checked.

Dogs tend to walk backwards out of fear and when stuck, so you should always investigate this where possible and keep an eye on your little pooch. If your dog has previously suffered from trauma and physiological problems in the past, this will increase the chances of them being anxious and scared, resulting in more backwards movement than other dogs around them.

As always, consult a veterinarian if you have any concerns and keep an eye on your dog’s behaviour if you notice any sudden backwards movement.

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