3 min read


Why Do Dogs Run Sideways



3 min read


Why Do Dogs Run Sideways




Lately, you have been noticing your dog running or maybe even walking sideways. This behavior seems so odd to you and may even be worrisome. You start thinking, is the ground crooked? Is my dog’s balance or coordination off? Is there something wrong with his hips? Or is there another internal problem going on? The correct terminology for this off-kilter behavior is called crabbing. This is seen quite often in the dog and although it may sound off some alarm bells, normally it is not as bad as it seems. So what is the real reason behind your dogs crooked running?

The Root of the Behavior

There are a few root causes to crabbing, sideways walking, or sideways running. Some people also refer to this behavior as sidewinding. In general, it means that your dog's body is moving at an angle or uneven kilter. It often looks like a sideways trot where your dog seems to be off balance. For some dogs, this is just the way they move and it should not be any cause for alarm. Humans all have different ways of walking too. Some of us humans are heavy footed while others have long or short strides. It does not mean that one person has a more superior or healthy way of walking. Dogs all have different body types and this may be a reason behind this behavior. Another reason behind this unusual behavior could be that your dog’s dominant legs are taking control. If one of their back legs is a more dominant leg, you can see them running sideways or even side-stepping. If your dog is still growing, this can cause some awkward running or sideways running to be noticeable. Most of the time, after they grow into their legs a little more this behavior goes away on its own. 

Medical issues may be another cause for this behavior in dogs. Exhibiting this behavior can be a sign of structural imbalances, hip dysplasia, nutritional deficiencies, orthopedic issues, liver problems, anal gland issues, or even neurological problems. As always, if you believe that your pet has a medical issue, you should contact your vet for an evaluation. Whether this is a medical issue, growth issue, a natural genetic issue, or a dominant leg issue you may want to talk to your vet to see if there is anything you can do to help your dog have a better running stance. Most of the time this is harmless behavior but it’s important to check it out in case a more serious issue is at hand.

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Encouraging the Behavior

In younger dogs and puppies, running sideways is a common growth issue that they typically grow out of without any help at all from you as the owner. However, if you feel there is more going on than crabbing or growth issues, you should talk to your vet. They can do an overall assessment on bone growth and body structure to make sure there is not a more serious issue like hip dysplasia or deficiencies. If you suspect it may be an issue like a dominant leg that is causing the crabbing or sideways running, you can always seek out some chiropractic help. It may only take 2 or 3 sessions with a dog chiropractor to remedy the issue. A chiropractor can help train the dog to use his legs properly if that is the real issue. Other than these few things mentioned here, there is not a whole lot you can do to change this sideways running behavior that your pup may exhibit. Most dogs fix it on their own. But as stated earlier, if you think it is a medical issue do not hesitate to get your dog evaluated. It is always better to be on the safe side with things like this.

Other Solutions and Considerations

You should keep in mind that sometimes it may just be an ear infection throwing your dog's balance off or something as simple as a harness that is rubbing the wrong way. A dog will also walk differently to avoid a harness rubbing and irritating his skin. Sometimes the solution is an easy fix, sometimes it might just need some medical attention. However, it is always best to find out if there is a medical issue by taking Fido to see a veterinary professional as soon as you notice weird behavior. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.


Be patient with your beloved pet and his awkward running gait. Time may fix it and it may not. Some dogs just naturally run sideways and there is nothing you can do to change it. Always seek help if you suspect a medical issue. All in all, you should not fret too much over this unusual behavior as it seems to be a common issue with dogs. 

By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze

Published: 02/09/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

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