Can dogs walk backwards?
Wouldn’t it be funny to see a dog walk backwards? Just like Michael Jackson performing his famous moonwalk!
You can train a dog to walk or heel backwards and even sideways. However, it takes a lot of training to do so. Most dogs learn how to walk backwards fairly easily.
Sometimes, an untrained dog might walk backwards due a health issue. Fear can also cause a dog to back off.
Find out the answers to all your questions pertaining to ‘can dogs walk backwards?’ and what it means when a dog does that.
Can Dogs Walk Backwards?
Walking backwards isn’t a movement that comes naturally to dogs.
Dogs are not supposed to walk in reverse. You might have seen a small dog walk backwards when it is in a tight space – such as between your bed and the wall. But you won’t see a dog walk backwards without a reason.
Dogs that are reluctant to go on walks might pull on their leash and walk a few paces backwards away from their owners. Other than these scenarios, we won’t really see our beloved dogs walking backwards.
All dogs and all dog breeds can do a ‘backwards trot’. Many dogs even walk (trot) backwards when they bark.
So the short answer to the question: can dogs walk backwards is ‘no’ but yes. All dogs can move their diagonal pairs of legs backwards so it is more of a ‘trot’ than a walk.
In the next section, we will talk about reasons why some dogs can walk backwards.
When Can Dogs Walk Backwards?
Following are some of the reasons why can dogs walk backwards:
1. When they are trained to
Dogs can walk backwards when they are trained to do so. The training will take some time and patience since dogs aren’t inherently equipped to walk backwards. (We will discuss how to train a dog to walk backwards later in this guide.)
2. When they are afraid
When a dog is afraid or faces a confrontational situation with another dog, then it could get defensive and walk backwards. In such a case, even if a dog isn’t trained to walk backwards, it might be able to do so because of the flight-or-fright response that is triggered in its brain.
Many dogs walk backwards when they are afraid of certain features in their own homes. Sometimes, a dog might walk backwards when you try to feed it medicine or a food that it does not want to eat. It could take a few paces backwards when confronted with something it does not want to do.
Another time when a dog might walk backwards is when you try coaxing it in the bathroom for a bath. A vast majority of dogs hate getting their fur/coats wet and might walk backwards when you try to push them in the bathroom.
3. Cognitive dysfunction
Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is also called dog dementia. It occurs when the dog’s brain ages naturally. Nearly 28% dogs in the age group of 11-12 years could develop this heath issue.
Symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction include abnormal behavior such as difficulty in maneuvering, reduced ability to see, hear, and move, backwards walking, and confusion or disorientation.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for CCD and the only way around it is to manage the symptoms.
4. Neurological disorders
Neurological disorder can also cause a host of symptoms in an older dog ranging from seizures to facial paralysis, to walking backwards, confusion, disorientation, or even an inability to walk or move.
These disorders could occur when the dog has a parasitic infection such as encephalitis, brain or spinal cord injury, lifestyle-related disorder, or even malnutrition and deficiencies.
Degenerative myelopathy in dogs can also cause pain or weakness in the hind legs due to which a senior dog might walk a few paces backwards and stop or sit down. Nerve damage, muscle atrophy, and leg pain in the hind legs can also cause an abnormal gait.
5. Vestibular disease
Idiopathic vestibular syndrome can also cause vertigo or dizziness in dogs. This could cause a pet to become disoriented and walk with an abnormal heel position including walking backwards.
Is it Hard for Dogs to Walk Backwards?
When a dog is faced with a fight-or-flight situation, it might be able to walk backwards without thinking about it. In such a case, we don’t need to train our pets.
However, these animals are not equipped to walk backwards. This means that backwards walking isn’t an inherent skill that dogs master at birth.
Walking backwards needs coordination, cognition, and practice. That is where training can help. We can train our brilliant dogs to walk or heel backwards. However it does take a lot of practice.
I will discuss shortly how to get your dog to walk backwards with regular training.
Why is My Elderly Dog Walking Backwards and Forwards?
If a senior dog suddenly starts walking backward and forward, then it could be one of the following issues:
1. Aches and pain
In elderly dogs, leg pain can cause backward and forward walking. Your pet might try out different movements to relieve its pain. It could even stop walking and sit down all of a sudden.
2. Luxating patella
Patella luxation in dogs can also cause it to walk a few paces forwards and back. In this condition, the knee joint of its rear leg pops out and the dog might try to pop it back in by trying out different movements. This condition could even affect young dogs.
You can manage luxating patella in dogs with surgery and/or luxating patella supplements.
Also Read: Should you walk a dog with luxating patella
3. Confusion caused by neurological issues
As stated earlier, an elderly dog could also start walking backwards and forwards caused by confusion. This can occur after seizures or some neurological disorder. Doctors often prescribe NSAIDs along with neurological medicines to provide some relief to the pet.
Why do Puppies Walk Backwards While Eating Food?
Some puppies walk backwards when they are fed solid food for the first time. They might find the taste and texture of the food very different from the liquid they are fed so far and that can sometimes trigger a ‘happy’ response.
Some Chihuahua puppies as young as 8 weeks are known to suddenly walk backwards for a few days and then stop it as suddenly as they started it.
As long as your pet seems fine, is eating normally, and not in pain, there is nothing to be concerned about.
If the behavior continues, please see your vet. Make sure you remove all seemingly threatening objects from your house so that your young pet isn’t scared of them.
Why Do Dogs Walk Backwards When They Bark?
My neighbor’s Beagle did that. Each time the door bell rang and a stranger (plumber, carpenter, etc.) entered their home, he would bark while walking backwards.
This is a typical defensive position that dogs take on when they are scared of something or someone. Their barking is a warning to the stranger that ‘this is my territory’ while the backing off is a defensive action that indicates that they consider the stranger a threat.
Why Do Dogs Walk Backwards Out of Rooms?
Our dogs do strange things sometimes. For a dog owner, the first time a dog walks backwards can be amusing but could also trigger concern. After all, our pets cannot talk and they count on us to understand them and keep them safe.
Many people have reported that their dogs suddenly walk backwards from doors and doorways. Some dogs even stop at ‘invisible thresholds’ and turn around and enter the room tail-first. This is amusing for pet-parents but also makes us wonder what is going on in the dog’s mind.
Cause of the behavior
Vets do not know the exact cause of this behavior. However, one of the following root causes might trigger it:
1. Hip pain
If a dog has a joint ache (especially pain in the hip), then it might walk backwards to soothe the pain. Backwards walking might help the joint pop back in and may relieve the inflammation.
2. Past trauma
A dog might also walk backwards through a doorway because of some past event that it associates with passing under the doorway. For example, a young pup might be entering/exiting the doorway at the same time there was thunderstorm or fireworks. The turning away from the doorway is a way for the dog to avoid that fear or trauma.
3. Canine cognitive dysfunction
This is the least likely reason behind a dog walking backwards through doorways but many vets believe that this may be the cause. Dogs with Canine cognitive dysfunction temporarily lose their motor skills and cognitive function which can cause them to walk backwards especially while entering or exiting a room
Sometimes, dogs could walk out backwards from a room when they are anxious and want to see what the dog owner is doing. Resultantly, they might back out to ensure that the owner follows them.
What to do
In most cases, you need not do anything if you believe that your pet is fine otherwise. However, if you feel that your dog may be suffering from a neurological condition, then it is best to seek veterinarian advice. If your pet is skittish or anxious, then behavior training can help reduce the issue.
How to Train a Dog to Walk Backwards?
When you teach your dog to walk backwards, it can be very entertaining for your guests.
Backward walking is funny and cute and you can even combine it with other tricks like Head Up, Head Down or Walk or front legs or walk on hind legs, etc.
What you need
- Healthy training treats
- Hand signals
- Verbal cues – ‘backup’
- Average time of 5-7 days.
- Start with your dog sitting or standing in front of you.
- Walk towards your pet and say ‘backup’.
- Even if it moves 3-5 paces backwards, praise and treat it.
- Repeat this 5-7 times per session and then repeat the command daily for at least 5-7 days.
- If your dog does not backup and instead turns around and starts running away, then use your leg to block it. Bring your leg straight up to block its forward motion.
- If this does not work, try teaching this trick in a long, narrow hallway where it won’t be able to move in any other direction but backwards. Add your leg as a secondary tool if needed.
- Be patient when training your pet to perform this trick. Dog walking backward isn’t something that comes naturally to them. So use a lot of praise, love, and tasty treats.
FAQs on Can Dogs Walk Backwards?
1. Why does my dog walk backward from its food?
Some puppies and adult dogs might walk backwards from their food sometimes. If they do not eat the food and show other signs of pain, fear, or anxiety, then please consult your vet. Often, the reason could be as simple as not liking what is served or, for pups, the texture of food might be surprising. A nervous dog might walk backward from its food if there is another house dog eating its food.
2. Does walking backward help a dog’s brain?
For humans, there are many studies that prove walking backwards is great for cognitive function. While there are no studies on dogs to prove the same, it could simply be that training your pooch can anyway be very good for your pet’s cognition, memory, and overall intelligence. So, yes, walking backwards could be great for your dog.
Can dogs walk backwards? Dogs are not inherently known to walk backwards but if they do, it could mean that they are afraid or anxious or feel threatened.
Some neurological conditions can also cause a dog to walk backwards. Likewise, conditions like luxating patella could also cause a dog to walk backwards as the movement might help the knee joint back into position and give the dog some relief.
You can also train a dog to walk backwards but that can take time, regular practice, and patience.