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13 Surprising Reasons Why Dogs Are Running Sideways (2023)

Why Are Dogs Running Sideways

Your dog often runs sideways.

Like a crab walking on the shore.

So now you’re wondering…

Is this normal?

Or should you be alarmed?

Continue reading to learn:

  • 13 interesting reasons why dogs run sideways.
  • Whether this is a normal behavior in dogs or not.
  • The main reason why some puppies move like a crab.
  • When you should start worrying about this unusual gait.
  • And a lot more…

Why dogs are running sideways – 13 surprising reasons

#1: They’re still learning to move

First off, how old is your pooch?

If they’re 2 years old or below, they might be ‘crabbing‘ due to their young age.

It’s another term for moving sideways. Along with ‘crab walking’ and ‘sidewinding.’

“So, why does this happen?”

Your dog’s legs might still be developing. Or it could also be that their bodies grow faster than usual.

Both reasons will cause their body to be uncoordinated – especially when running. And this is why they tend to move sideways.

See this adorable Husky pup running like a crab:

“Do puppies grow out of this behavior?”

This is normal in young dogs. So usually, they won’t ‘crab walk’ anymore as they grow up.


If this continues until they’re adult, it may also be that…

#2: It’s their natural gait

Most dogs run in a straight line. 

But believe it or not, some Fidos might also walk sideways like a crab. 

And it’s also a normal thing in the doggy world.

“What caused them to run sideways?”

Dogs who ‘crab walk’ often have short bodies and long legs. Such as:

  • Boxers.
  • Vizslas.
  • Terriers.
  • Dobermans.
  • Miniature Schnauzers.

“How do these affect their gait?”

Since they have short bodies and long legs…

The distance between their front and back limbs isn’t much.

So as they run, their long rear legs will tangle with their front ones.

To prevent this, dogs slightly twist their bodies. And this makes them run at an angle.

Does running sideways have any effects on dogs?

Crabbing‘ won’t hurt our furry pals’ legs.

Yes, it may look odd for some. But this way of moving works best for them with regard to their physique.

Well, we walk differently from each other too.

Some have longer or shorter strides. While others swing their hands or sway their hips.

But, there’s no right or wrong gait. And this is also the case for dogs.

Fun fact: Study says that how you walk tells a lot about you. Based on it, aggressive people tend to rotate their bodies more as they move. While those who are emotionally stable walk in a slow, relaxed way.

#3: They’re being polite

When did you see your dog do this?

Is it when they met another Fido for the first time?

If so, it could be that they’re only being friendly or submissive.

“What do you mean?”

You may already know this. But approaching a dog face-to-face is bad manners.


The dog will likely see it as an aggressive move. So it’s best to avoid eye contact and walk towards them on their side.

And if this is the case…

A dog ‘sidewinding’ towards another Fido might also be saying,

“Hey, I come here in peace. And I mean no harm.”

You might also like: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Rolls On His Back When You Approach

#4: They’re dragged by their dominant leg

Between your left and right hands…

Which is stronger or more dominant?

Well, you may have one. And guess what, our furry friends might too.

So it could also be that a dog’s more dominant leg drags their body while running. And this causes them to move sideways.

“Is this normal?”

If your dog’s gait returns back to normal after slowing down, then there’s nothing to worry about.

But if not, check out the other reasons below…

#5: They have discomfort with their collar/harness

If this only happens while they’re on a leash…

It could be that they’re in discomfort. 

And the culprit for this is their collar or harness.

If this is the case, check your dog’s skin right away. Especially around the areas where the harness touches their body.

Their skin might be irritated. So they’re moving their neck away, which causes them to run sideways.

“What to do?”

A dog’s skin can be so sensitive.

So first, apply medication to the affected area.

For this, you may use virgin coconut oil or colloidal oatmeal solution. 

The latter can be made by mixing grinded oats (fine powder) and water. But here’s also a dog shampoo with colloidal oat flour if you want.

These are safe home remedies. And they’re usually used when a dog keeps scratching or biting himself.

Next, look for a better replacement for your Fido’s gear. Preferably a hypoallergenic one.

Reading tip: Can A Dog Wear A Collar And A Harness? 3 Dangers

And then, wait for their skin to heal before putting on a new one.

But is it the first time your dog wore a collar?

If yes, well, it’s also normal.

Your pooch still feels awkward with a collar or harness on their body. So they’ll move like a crab – as if they’re still a puppy learning to walk.

Learn more: The Ideal “Puppy Harness Age” (9 Benefits & 9 Tips)

#6: It’s a learned behavior

Does your dog always run like this when they’re on a leash?

If so, then that’s still the answer.

Your pooch is ‘crabbing’ to avoid tripping on their leash.

They’re moving their body and legs away from it. And over time, it can become a habit.

Remember, canines learn through experiences. Plus, they also do whatever works for them.

So they could run like this as well while dragging their leash.

#7: Hip dysplasia

Dogs Are Running Sideways Because They Have Hip Dysplasia

Does your dog normally run before…

But now, they’re ‘crabbing’ and falling over?

If yes, then they might have hip dysplasia.

“What is it?”

It’s a condition where a dog’s hip joint becomes loose as they grow old. 

As a result, they’ll feel pain in the area and have trouble walking. And over time, this could even lead to arthritis.

This mainly affects large breed dogs, such as:

  • Golden Retrievers.
  • German Shepherds.
  • Labrador Retrievers.
  • Old English Sheepdogs.

And a study found that its prevalence rate in the US is 15.6%.

“What may have caused this?”

  • Genetics.
  • Being overweight.
  • Excessive growth.
  • Too little or too much exercise.

Other signs to look out for are:

  • Sudden limping.
  • Unusual sitting positions.
  • Lameness in the rear leg.
  • Difficulty jumping, climbing, or running.
  • ‘Bunny hopping’ – lifting both rear legs when running.

#8: Cruciate ligament injury

This is the most common knee injury in dogs.

It happens when the ‘cruciate ligaments’ are damaged. Or the elastic matter that holds a knee together.

“What are its causes?”

This is often caused by mishaps. Say after a bad fall or too much jumping.

“How will I know if my dog has this injury?”

Aside from running or walking weirdly, you’ll also see these signs:

  • Limping.
  • Pain in the rear leg.
  • Swelling in the knees.
  • Difficulty standing up and lying down.

#9: Vestibular disease

Besides running sideways…

Does your dog also tilt their head or jerk their eye?

If so, then also consider ‘vestibular disease.’

“What’s that? 

And what does it do to dogs?”

Okay. Let’s talk about the vestibular system first.

It keeps the body in normal balance. So a dog may move unusually if there’s a problem with it.

Other signs you may notice, according to PetMD, are:

  • Vomiting.
  • Turning in circles.
  • Dizziness/falling down.
  • Reluctance to walk or stand up.
  • Leaning towards the direction of their head tilt.

#10: Leg/paw injury

If you heard your dog yelp before they start moving sideways…

Then it’s also possible that they had a sprain or strain.

“Are they the same? What’s the difference between the two?”

Okay. It’s easier to understand this way:

  • Sprains – the ligament linking bones is damaged.
  • Strains – the tissue connecting bones and muscles is injured.

“What may have caused this?”

Vets say that dogs are prone to overworking their muscles. May it be their knees, hips, toes, or ankles.

#11: Anal sacs issues

Anal Sacs Issues

Another reason why your dog is running sideways and acting weird is…

A discomfort in their rear end.

And this is probably due to clogged anal sacs.

“What are those?”

According to experts, those are 2 small pouches inside a dog’s anus.

They’re lined with sweat glands. And these produce a fluid that smells like skunk spray.

Okay, but…

“How do they get clogged?”

This happens when they’re not emptied completely.

Over time, the fluid inside will harden. Then this will cause the sacs to swell and hurt.

But have no fear.

Impacted anal sacs can be expressed by a vet or an experienced groomer.

But if the condition is left untreated…

The clogged anal sacs can be infected. And this needs immediate medical help.

Other signs you may notice are:

Further reading: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Keeps Looking At Their Back End

#12: Ear infections

Does your dog also often scratch their ears?

Or shake their head?

If yes, then they might have a painful ear canal.

And vets say that a dog’s external ear is most commonly infected.

“What are the causes of an ear infection in dogs?”

  • Yeast.
  • Allergies.
  • Parasites.
  • Ear mites.
  • Foreign objects.
  • Excessive moisture.

Then, you’ll also notice some of these in or around your dog’s ears:

  • Scales.
  • Redness.
  • Unusual odor.
  • Excessive discharge.

Warning: Ear infection in dogs won’t cure on its own. So if your Fido shows the signs above, visit the vet at once.

#13: They’re excited

Last but not least…

Your dog may also run sideways like a crab due to excitement.

They might be wagging their tail too fast, so their body moves at an angle.


They can’t contain their excitement. So they can’t also control their body anymore.

But don’t worry.

Your dog’s gait will turn back to normal once they calm down.