When most dogs stand, they have a straightforward stance. Their paws point directly in front of them. But recently, you might have noticed that your dog’s feet are pointing outward.

What does this mean? Is there something you should do about it?

The position of your dog’s feet is absolutely something that you should pay attention to. But it might not be an urgent situation. Let’s take a look.

Why do my dog’s feet point outwards?

Just like you, a dog’s posture means something relative to its health. When your dog isn’t standing right, it usually means that something is wrong. Further, long-term, standing incorrectly can cause more significant problems. But the reasons that a dog’s feet can point outwards are varied.

Your Dog Could Have Genetic Issues

Feet pointing outwards can be a genetic trait that’s passed among dogs. If you’ve rescued a shelter dog, it may be impossible to tell where this trait comes from.

If you’ve received a dog that is well-bred, it could have been an oversight, but the breeder should be well aware of the trait and should require that your dog be neutered or spayed (so it can’t pass it down). There are certain breeds that are more likely to have paws that point outwards. They include Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and other small breeds.

Why is this true? Low to the ground, sway-backed dogs may need more traction, which can lead to them holding their feet outwards (and looking a little like seals). This isn’t good for them, but it can be the natural consequence of breeding that’s more for aesthetics and form than function. If it’s a genetic issue, there won’t be a way to fix it. But there will be things you can consider moving forward to keep your dog in better health.

Your Dog Could Have Weight Issues

Many pets are overweight. With dogs, it’s to the extent that many people think an overweight dog is “normal” and that a regular weight dog is “starved.” A healthy weight dog should have a clear tummy tuck and their ribs should be easily felt if outright seen.

Weight gain in dogs can be more directly harmful than weight gain in people. A person can gain weight and still be healthy. When a dog gains weight, all the weight is placed on their spine, because they walk on four legs.

To compensate for the additional weight, a dog may start to walk with its feet splayed out. This isn’t healthy for it as it’s likely doing damage not only to its joints but to its paws. You can inquire with your vet about a weight loss program. Often, it’s enough to just switch to low-calorie dog food.

If you aren’t sure whether your dog is overweight or underweight, talk to your vet. Like people, every dog is built a little differently. There are dogs that are naturally stocky and dogs that are very lean.

Your Dog May Have No Traction

As noted, dogs may hold their paws out to the side because they need additional maneuverability. When they are heavy, they have to prop themselves up. But it’s also possible your dog is doing this because your dog doesn’t have traction.

This is commonly seen in dogs that are moved to hardwood floors from the carpet. They may not know how to walk on hardwood floors and it may be very unnatural to them. They will hold out their feet to their sides as a way of compensating for the slipperiness. 

Additionally, dogs that have tufts of fur between their toes will also have issues with traction, whether on tile or hardwood floors. They, again, may hold their feet out so that they can maneuver better.

Either way, it isn’t healthy for your dogs as it will cause mobility issues and pain later on. You can trim the fur between your dog’s toes as well as add carpeting and runners throughout your home, so your dog has areas it can better move around in.

Your Dog’s Nails Are Too Long

A lot of owners don’t realize exactly how long their dog’s nails have become. A dog’s nails will grow out pretty far and the quick can grow out, too. If you aren’t clipping the nails regularly, the quick will grow out with the nail (occasionally), which makes it seem like the nails themselves aren’t growing. They will need to be carefully trimmed and filed back over time.

When a dog’s nails are too long, it will start to step more carefully. It may tilt its feet or just start picking its feet up higher to compensate. You should pay attention to the way that your dog walks. When your dog is standing, its nails should not touch the ground.

Long nails will eventually hurt a dog. Not only does it hurt their joints, but it also hurts their toes. Your dog may become more sedentary because it wants to avoid the pain associated with walking, which can also lead to weight gain. If left completely unattended, a dog’s nails can eventually loop around and grow into its footpad or toes.

If your dog hates getting its nails clipped, consider getting it done with a groomer. You can also consider using a file rather than a pair of clippers, as some dogs find it more comfortable, and as it’s far less likely to accidentally cut them.

Your Dog May Be Injured

A dog may step strangely because it has been injured. This could occur because it has a joint problem or because it has arthritis. Either way, if your dog has changed the way that it’s walking recently, it would usually indicate some sort of issue that’s causing it to do so.

You may need to get an inspection and x-rays to determine what’s wrong with your dog and how best to treat it. If it’s arthritis or another joint issue, there are medications and supplements that can help.

If your dog has always had its feet turn outwards, it’s less of an issue than if your dog has suddenly begun. If your dog has always had outward-turning feet, then it’s likely a genetic issue or birth defect. You’ll need to monitor your dog for future joint issues, but besides that, it should be fine.

If your dog has suddenly begun turning its feet outwards, it’s likely to be an injury or environmental problem that should be swiftly addressed.

Why do my dog’s feet turn outwards when standing?

A dog’s feet can turn outwards when standing or walking because of genetic abnormalities, birth defects, unsure footing, ungroomed paws, and more. The natural stance of a dog should be with both paws pointing to the front. Some dog breeds, mostly low-slung dog breeds, are more predisposed to turning their feet outwards. But regardless, turning feet outwards is a bad sign because it destroys a dog’s posture and can damage their joints and their feet.

A dog can also turn its feet outwards due to external stimuli. It may feel uncertain of its footing, so may spread its feet out for better traction. It may feel uncomfortable because of long fur or toenails, and consequently, step more carefully. Regardless, it’s something that should be identified and addressed.

Why do my dog’s back feet turn outwards?

A dog’s back feet will turn outwards for the same reason as front feet, though front feet are more common. It can be joint and mobility problems, preexisting genetic conditions, or a lack of traction on the floor. A dog’s back feet turning outward is fairly rare. You would be right to be concerned if this happens suddenly, as it’s likely to be an issue with your dog such as a hip problem. But it could also be something a little more minor, such as nails being too long.

A dog’s back feet turning outwards indicates bad posture that can eventually become damaging to joints, hips, and the dog’s spinal column. If a dog has only recently started to do this, then it should be investigated and the cause should be addressed. If a dog has always done this, there’s very little you can do to “train it out.” You just need to plan ahead for the fact that your dog may need help for issues with its back and joints.

What should I do about my dog’s feet pointing outwards?

If your dog has always had its feet pointing outwards, there’s little you can do. While there are corrective surgeries for posture, it’s more likely that a veterinarian will suggest that you simply look out for your dog’s joint health. You should still consult with your veterinarian, as feet pointing outwards can coincide with other issues. As your dog ages, you will need to watch for joint and mobility problems. Keeping your dog a good weight is going to become even more important because the additional weight will place pressure on your dog’s points.

If your dog has not always pointed its feet outwards, then you need to isolate why it’s happening. Start by making sure your dog is well-groomed; cut any fur between its toes and trim down its claws. If your dog continues to walk with its feet pointing outwards, consider adding carpets or runners to your floor. Finally, it’s possible that your dog is injured; it could have some sort of joint issue already. You will need to get this checked with a professional.

Importantly, you can’t just train a dog to keep its feet pointing forward. Your dog’s feet are pointing outwards either because that is what it naturally does or because it’s uncomfortable for your dog to hold itself in a different position. A dog’s feet pointing outwards isn’t the issue itself, but rather it’s a symptom of a larger problem that has to be addressed. The best thing you can do about your dog’s fete pointing outwards is to consult with a veterinarian and follow their advice.

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.