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Why does my dog stand on his back legs?

Isn’t your dog adorable? Chubby or thin, big or small, all dogs are adorable, and the things they do keep you in love with them. The way their head, eyes, and ears perk up when they hear a sound outside, the way their tail wags when they are happy, the way they stand on their back legs when you get out their treats.

These endearing actions are cute on the surface, but is there more to it than that? Sure, it’s fine if their ears perk up and if their tails wag, but what about a dog standing on its hind legs? Take a look at why your dog stands on his back legs, whether it’s healthy, and what, if anything, you can do about it.

Why does my dog stand on his back legs?

The first question you ask yourself is — Why does my dog rear up and stand on his hind legs? Well, there are really few possibilities, in most cases, but when and how he is doing it will be a good sign.

It’s probably him showing affection.

Standing on his hind legs is one way that a dog shows affection to other dogs. When interacting with other dogs, your dog may do this, say, in the park or with the neighbor’s dog. It may even look like the two dogs are dancing or playfully wrestling together.

So, not surprisingly, it is also a way they try to show us affection. We are tall to a dog, so, to reach us, he may feel he has to stand on his hind legs anyway. It is like he is trying to hug you. Note: If he is showing you affection, he is needing affection, as well.

He may want to play.

Standing up on his hind legs is also a way for your dog to signal to another dog that he wants to play, so it stands to reason that he would do the same with you. Your dog may just have pent-up energy and want to go outside and play catch.

He may want food.

Many, many dogs stand up on their hind legs when you go to the kitchen, and especially when you get out their treats. He may just want food. This is simply a primal instinct.

He may just be full of excitement.

Dogs do all kinds of things when they get excited, and they get excited when you come home from work or take out the leash to go on an outing. This may be the reason he stands on his hind legs.

It may be his breeding.

Which breed is known to stand on their hind legs? The answer is Boxers. In the 1800s, the Germans bred Boxers for dogfighting. These dogs stood on their hind legs to fight appearing like boxers. German hunters also used Boxers for restraining wild boar and such until they could get to it. So, to a dog that happens to be a Boxer, standing on his hind legs may come naturally.

He may have been abused.

Sadly to say, your dog may have been abused. There are videos on the internet showing brown poodles in the Sichuan Province of China being beaten, made to stand up on their hind legs for long periods of time, and perform. Some call it training, but it is abuse.

Is it bad for a dog to stand on its hind legs?

It’s probably not a big deal if your dog stands on his hind legs for a few seconds here and there. However, if he does it too often, if he is getting too old to do it, or if you are making him do it, that is a problem, because some serious health issues can occur, including injury, weakness, pain, and more.

It can cause inflammation.

The undue pressure and strain on your dog’s spine, rear legs, and hips can cause inflammation. Many things in dogs are hard to detect in canines, and inflammation is often one of those. Since inflammation can cause pain, your dog can be in pain, and you won’t have a clue unless he shows you in other ways, like whining or limping.

It can cause strain or tears in tendons and ligaments.

Carrying the extra weight of standing on his back legs for too long or even landing wrong on the way back down can cause strains or tears in your dog’s tendons and ligaments. 

It can cause joint problems.

Standing on his back legs can also cause joint issues for your dog. The joints in his back legs and hips are put into an unnatural position, and this can be hard on them, damaging them over time. 

Hip dysplasia can occur when the ball and socket joint of the hip starts rubbing and grinding instead of gliding smoothly. Hip dysplasia is known to cause severe pain in the hips and pelvis, especially when your dog is changing from a lying to a standing position.

It can cause injury to the spine.

Standing on a dog’s hind legs can also be dangerous because of what can happen to his spine. Any mammal’s spine is delicate, and it isn’t that hard to get a spinal injury such as a “slipped disc” when coming down from a standing to a landing position. It can be jolting to the spine. It can also contribute to canine degenerative disc disease.

It can cause neurological damage.

Your dog standing on his back legs could end up causing nerve damage to the central nervous system which is connected to the brain. This can sometimes even lead to paralysis in one or more limbs or other areas. Only a vet can determine neurological damage, as magnetic resonance imaging must be utilized.

In older dogs, it can even cause fractured bones.

Older dogs can get osteoarthritis, just like humans. With osteoarthritis, the bones become very brittle and break easily. An aged dog with bone disease could quite easily break a bone landing after standing on his hind legs.

Why does my dog sit up on his hind legs?

Some dogs stand up on their hind legs. Some sit up on their hind legs. Either way, it’s usually pretty much for the same set of reasons. However, there is one dog that is famous for sitting up on its hind legs. That is a Dachshund.

Dachshunds are well-known for sitting upright, though they are probably the very last dogs that should be doing this. Their breeding left Dachshunds with short legs and a disproportionately long torso, so their spine already has undue pressure on it.

For them to sit up on their back legs puts even more strain on their lower backs. You may think it’s adorable for your Dachshund to sit upright, but it’s very bad for your dog’s spine, rear legs, and hips.

What should I do about my dog standing on his back legs?

Knowing that most veterinarians believe that a dog standing on his hind legs is harmful and dangerous, abuse even, you must now be wondering what you can do about it. There are a few things to consider.

What should I do about my dog standing on his back legs?

Could it be that your dog stands on his hind legs too often, or maybe he is getting too old to stand on his hind legs? Here are a couple of tips.

Don’t reward your dog for standing on his hind legs.

You may be tempted to pet your dog, give him treats, or play with him because he is standing on his back legs. Stop doing this. Don’t punish him or scold him, but simply ignore him until he is standing on all fours, and then, pet him, give him treats, or play with him. Soon, he may learn that there is no benefit in standing upright.

Teach your dog healthy tricks instead of harmful ones.

Making your dog stand up and beg for a treat is a potentially harmful trick to teach your dog. There are many other safe tricks you can teach your dog, like roll over, fetch, play dead, and “talk” or bark on command.

What if my dog won’t stop standing on his back legs?

Maybe you feel that your dog doesn’t stand on his hind legs too often, but you want to know how to prevent injury to your dog’s spine, back legs, and hips. Here are a few things you can do.

Make sure your dog gets plenty of healthy exercise.

Making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise strengthens the muscles in his body, and strong muscles are less prone to injury than weak muscles. Walk your dog a lot. Play fetch or whatever games cause him to use the most muscles.

Feed him a healthy diet.

A dog’s diet is very important in maintaining muscle strength. He must get plenty of protein and more. A quick search for “healthy dog diet AKC” reveals several articles on diet examples for keeping your dog healthy.

You may also try the new holistic approach, which is called a rotational diet. You can learn about a rotational diet for your dog on the Zignature website. Essentially, you rotate the protein, plus you rotate whether the food is wet, dry, or raw.

This way, your dog doesn’t have to have the same exact meal for the rest of his life. Makes some sense, doesn’t it?

Bone broth

Another way to gird up your dog’s health is to feed him bone broth. They sell dog bone broth, or you can make your own. There are recipes on the internet that can utilize substances known to be healthy for dogs, like kelp, sage, nettles, dandelion root, astragalus root, burdocks root, and more.