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Why Do Dogs Walk Behind You?

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
July 27, 2021
4 min read
Why Do Dogs Walk Behind You?
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

As a dog owner, daily walks with your pup are one of the most consistent, simple activities you take part in. You likely walk your dog several times a day for many reasons. Bathroom breaks, exercise, socialization, and getting some fresh air may be some of the chief motivators for getting outside.

This is such a regular-seeming task. But did you know that the way your dog walks with you can reveal many things about how they’re feeling, both emotionally and physically?

What if you notice that your dog tends to always walk behind you? What does this mean? Should you be concerned?

There is nothing inherently wrong with your dog walking behind you. Your dog may be expressing submission, protecting you, or exploring their surroundings. However, your dog walking behind you may also signal that they are fearful or suffering injury or illness.

In this article, I will explore the reasons that your dog may lag behind you on walks. Then, I will answer if you should let your dog walk behind you and if you should allow them to stop and sniff on walks. Finally, I will offer my recommendations on what to do if your dog walks behind you.

Let’s take a stroll through these topics!

Table of Contents
Why Your Dog Lags Behind You on Walks
Should Your Dog Walk Behind You?
Should You Let Your Dog Stop and Sniff on Walks?
What to Do If Your Dog Walks Behind You
Who Knew a Simple Walk Could Mean so Many Things?

Why Your Dog Lags Behind You on Walks


Your dog may lag behind you on walks for a lot of different reasons. Unfortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all answers for this topic.

It may be as simple as it’s just your dog’s preference and natural disposition to walk behind you, or there may be a deeper meaning behind it. If you would like to get to the bottom of why your dog may be lagging behind you on walks, here are a few possible reasons:

Your Dog Is Exploring Their Surroundings

If it seems like your dog is dragging his feet a little, this may be intentional! The great outdoors offer your dog unlimited sights, smells, and things to chase and marvel at.

Your dog may be lagging behind you because they want to take everything in and savor the adventure.

They May Be Afraid

If your dog appears to be shrinking back on your walks, they may be doing so out of fear.

Your pup may feel uncertain of themselves and their surroundings, and allowing you to take the lead feels safer to them. They may also feel scared and hang out in the back of you for protection the same way a child would seek refuge behind mommy and daddy.

Alternatively, your dog may walk behind you because they are actually afraid of you. They may be afraid to make any mistakes on the walk. Your dog may fear punishment from you if you have a history of dealing with them harshly.

Your Dog May Be Showing Their Submission to You

Lagging behind you on walks may simply be your dog’s way of saying, “you’re the leader; I respect you and am following you.”

They May Be Trying to Protect You

This reason for lagging behind you on walks draws back to your dog’s wolfpack ancestry. In wolf packs, the older alpha dogs generally stayed in the back of the pack where they could watch for threats. Your dog may be assuming the position where they feel they can best keep you safe.

Your Dog May Not Be Feeling Well

If your dog started out on your walk with a spring in their step and running ahead, they may have gotten tired. If your dog is lagging behind, for this reason, it may mean they had a fantastic walk and may be close to being done for the day.

Your dog may also be lagging if they don’t feel well or feel pain from a physical injury. If your dog is walking behind you and also presents with other symptoms, I recommend taking them to the vet.

Should Your Dog Walk Behind You?


Given the many different reasons your dog may walk behind you, this really depends.

I recommend investigating and getting to the root of the issue if you suspect your dog is fearful, sick, or injured. Your dog may be trailing behind you to signal that there is a problem rather than this just being their natural way of walking.

If you find out there is no harmful reason behind your dog walking behind you, it’s up to you if you would like them to continue. There’s really nothing wrong with your dog walking behind you, but I will tell you how a little later if you would like to change it.

Should You Let Your Dog Stop and Sniff on Walks?

Absolutely! The various delicious scents your dog comes across on a walk are likely your dog’s favorite thing about going outside. A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 times stronger than a human’s. As a result, your pup is picking up on so much more with their noses than you can imagine.

Asking a dog not to stop and sniff during a walk is like asking a human to take a walk blindfolded. This causes them to miss so much!

When you allow your dog to stop and sniff, you are letting them be themselves. This lets them truly experience their surroundings in the way that’s most natural to them.

What to Do If Your Dog Walks Behind You

If your dog walks behind you, there’s no reason you technically need to change this behavior. However, if you prefer that they don’t walk behind you, you can train your dog to walk beside or in front of you. Here are a few quick tips:

  • If your dog is lagging behind you, don’t pull on their leash but apply gentle pressure.
  • Be patient, and don’t try to drag your dog or force them to walk ahead or beside you.
  • Use encouragement and treats when your dog walks where you would like them to.
  • If your dog is having trouble being consistent, wait to reward them until you see them walking at your side for more than a step or two. Praise their consistency after several steps.

Who Knew a Simple Walk Could Mean so Many Things?


You’ve likely never pondered all the details of your dog’s daily walks before. Going for a walk seems so automatic and straightforward, but there are so many things you can learn about your furry friend from the way he walks with you.

If your pup is the kind to lag behind you, it may just be his personality, protective instincts, and sense or adventure on display, or it may mean he’s afraid or even hurting.

These little nuances are so tiny they may be easy to miss, but their meanings can be huge! So anything that gets you a step closer to better understanding and caring for your pup is worth a closer look. And now you know what it means when your dog “walks this way!”

Dog BehaviorsDog Training
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