Reader’s question: my dog keeps walking behind me while I am walking it. Why and what can I do to get my dog to keep up with me?
If your dog keeps walking behind you on walks, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why your dog might walk behind you and how to stop it.
So, why does my dog walk behind me? Possible reasons are that it wants to interact with things, it is frightened of going in front of you, it’s being submissive or you might have inadvertently trained it to go behind you.
There are actually a number of nuances to consider when trying to figure out why your dog walks behind you. Depending on the cause, there are also a number of things that you can do about it.
Why your dog walks behind you
Each of the different reasons that your dog walks behind you will likely come with a number of clues in the way that it does it.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons why it might be doing it and what would make them more likely.
Your dog walks behind you because it wants to interact with things
The reason that your dog walks behind you is likely to be that it wants to interact with things.
Dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than humans do and they are able to gather information about what other animals have been around based on the scent that they have left behind.
In the past, knowing about what other animals have been around recently would have been very helpful for the dogs survival. It is likely that dogs have kept this urge to know about what else has been around recently which could be why your dog is always lagging behind you.
In this case, it would help to train your dog to come on command so that you can call it when it starts lagging behind. It would also help to reward it when it walks beside you as you want it to.
Related: Why does my dog grab my arm?
Your dog walks behind you due to fear
The reason that your dog walks behind you could be that it is fearful of being punished for walking ahead. This would be more likely if it did walk ahead of you in the past but you punished it for doing so and it now avoids going ahead.
Related: Why is my dog so annoying?
You have made your dog walk behind you
The reason that your dog walks behind you could be that you have inadvertently trained it to do so. This would be more likely if you tend to give it things that it wants when it goes behind you such as treats, you let it sniff things or you walk it for longer.
Your dog walks behind you due to being submissive
It might be the case that it goes behind you because it is being submissive.
However, there is research to suggest that dogs don’t actually interact in a hierarchy and they would normally overlap each other and take turns being in front in the wild. So, this would be less likely.
Things to consider about your dog walking behind you
Below, I will mention some particularly helpful things to consider when trying to figure out why your dog has been doing it. Once you have a better idea of the cause it will become much easier to get it to stop.
When your dog started walking behind you
It would help to consider when your dog first started walking behind you when trying to figure out why it does it.
If it has always done it then it would make it more likely to be because it wants to sniff things. Whereas, if it started doing it suddenly, it would make it more likely that it does it because you punished it for going ahead or you inadvertently rewarded it for going behind.
When your dog does not walk behind you
It would also help to consider if it doesn’t always walk behind you and what is different when it doesn’t do it.
For example, if you notice that it only walks behind you when other dogs are approaching then it might suggest that it gets frightened.
How to get your dog to stop walking behind you
Below, I will mention a number of things that you can do to get your dog to stop walking behind you that will work well when implemented together.
Train it not to with positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement training is where you get your dog to display the behaviors that you want to see by rewarding it when it does what you want or shows signs of doing it.
To use it to get your dog to walk beside you, you would reward it with treats when it walks beside you and stop rewarding it when it lags behind.
You can also train it to come on command so that you can call it whenever it starts lagging behind. I have written about how to train a dog to come on command, in the past, here.
Avoid punishing it
It might be tempting to punish your dog for walking behind you but you should avoid doing so. If you do it might not know what you are punishing it for and it could cause it to develop feelings of resentment towards you.
Avoid negative reinforcement
While it is important not to punish it for walking behind you it is also important to avoid rewarding it for walking behind you. If you do reward it when it goes behind you then it will learn that walking behind you gets it things that it wants.
Instead, it would help to use the positive reinforcement method mentioned above and to train it to come when you call it.
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