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9 Reasons Why Your Dog Walks Behind You (On And Off-Leash)

Why Does My Dog Walk Behind Me

Your dog is your best friend. But best friends don’t walk behind you all the time, do they?

So, you start asking yourself why your dog walks behind you…

No more wondering – here you’ll discover the mystery behind your dog’s behavior.

Read on to also learn:

  • How the nose of your dog is ‘slowing them down’.
  • Why your dog might fear you and walk behind you.
  • In what case walking behind you could be a good thing.
  • 5 easy tips to stop your dog from walking behind you (don’t miss out on #2).
  • And a lot more…

Why does my dog walk behind me?

Your dog walks behind you, whether on or off-leash because they are tired or wearing uncomfortable gear. When tired, they tend to lag behind. In the same way, they walk behind you because of an ill-fitting harness, tight collar, or heavy leash. But in many instances, they just love to sniff around.

9 reasons why your dog walks behind you (on and off-leash)

#1: They can’t help but sniff around

Dogs are blessed with more than 100,000,000 scent receptors.

With that, they can smell:

  • A rotten apple in 2,000,000 barrels.
  • 71 out of 100 cancerous breath cells.
  • Where bed bugs hide in a room in just 2 minutes.
  • Drugs inside 2 layers of boxes placed 100 meters away.
  • Whale poop from a mile away even with the strong winds.
  • A teaspoon of sugar in 2 Olympic-sized pools worth of water.
  • Marijuana covered in cellophane. It was stashed under packaged onions, and submerged in a tank full of gasoline.
  • A lesion on a patient’s skin. It prompted the patient to seek treatment for the lesion. It turned out to be malignant melanoma.
  • Their smelling prowess is due to the part of their brain dedicated to analyzing odors. This part is 40 times greater than that of humans.

It’s no wonder your dog loves to sniff whenever they have a chance. Their nose enables them to catch a whiff of something humans can’t even detect.

Have a look at these 3 adorable dogs as they sniff around:

If your dog falls back while walking, their nose is probably on the ground. Sniffing, investigating, analyzing. Our Lissa does so too 🙂

#2: They don’t like other dogs

Not a single person, even you, likes everyone. There will be times when you just don’t like another person.

This is the same with dogs, even if they live under the same roof.

Sometimes, Fido walks behind you because he doesn’t like Rover. He doesn’t like walking alongside other dogs.

But what could be the cause?

Dogs have a way of knowing if they would like or not like a dog. 

They rely on other dog’s body language and scent. The scent sends aggressive or friendly vibes to other canines.

But if your dogs are together in your house, other factors could explain their dislike for other dogs.

For example, your dog has a history that made them dislike other dogs. Perhaps, they had been attacked by a dog in the past. 

This made them distrustful of other dogs. As a result, they shows fear and aggression toward other dogs.

Another reason that could explain your dog’s dislike for other dogs is you

Think of it this way.

A dog becomes possessive of things that are valuable to them. Including you, their owner.

And when another dog tries to approach this dog’s possession, they show aggression. They’re warning the other dog to stay away from their stuff.

Lissa does this quite often…

She seems very self-sufficient, so to say. She sniffs around, barks at me to say Let’s play fetch!’ but when another dog comes…

It’s a whole different story. The hackles go up, the casual smile with the tongue hanging out turns into a snarl… 

Read also: 13 reasons why your dog barks when other dogs bark

#3: They are fearful of their owners

Pet owners are not the same when it comes to rearing their pets.

Some believe that positive reinforcement can make their dogs well-behaved and happy.

Others, they still rely on outdated training methods.

This could explain why a dog walks behind his owner. Because his owner believes that he, as a leader, should walk ahead. And the dog must follow his lead.

Sometimes, owners like this employ inappropriate methods to get their dog to follow. They focus more on negative reinforcement. 

And they use punishment whenever their dog makes a mistake.

It results in a dog that is fearful of the owner.

Reading tip: 7 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Is Acting Scared + Tips

#4: They are in an unfamiliar territory

Unfamiliar territory can be unsettling for any dog.

Walking in a new area will elicit a different reaction from your dog. 

But most probably, your dog’s going to be cautious in a new environment.

There will be unfamiliar dogs and people. There are bushes and walls that your dog doesn’t recognize.

Perhaps it’s a high activity area, with lots of foot traffic and vehicles.

Your dog would react by walking behind you. They feel secure from that position. 

#5: They are tired

Tired Dog Walking Behind

Have you noticed your dog being bouncy and energetic as you go for a walk?

If they’re off-leash, your dog can run around and have fun! They have more freedom of movement.

After all, they’ve got a huge space around them. 

This means that they get tired from all the running and sniffing around. You might find your dog walking behind you while they regain their strength.

Behind you is where they feel the safest. In addition, they can see you where you are as you walk.

And when it’s time to go home, your dog is physically and mentally tired. They can’t keep up with your pace. That’s why they’re lagging behind you. 

#6: They want to be involved in everything

Your dog walks behind you as you go to the kitchen. Then they walk behind you as you go from room to room.

They’re like your little shadow around the house.

Check out this pitbull that keeps following his owner:

Chances are, your dog wants to be a part of everything you do. They want in on the action.

They wouldn’t want to miss ‘helping’ while you load the washing machine. Or while you clean the house. 

#7: They walk behind you out of habit

Other times, they walk behind you out of habit. 

For example, you walk to the kitchen to make yourself a sandwich. Your dog follows you and you give them a piece of bread.

Thus, they will follow behind you every time you go to the kitchen. Because they think they might get another treat from you.

It’s the same when they follow you in the garden because they’re expecting to play with you. They could also follow you to the car if they associate it with adventures.

#8: They’re under control

Dogs would prefer to go off-leash on walks. And I’m sure many owners would agree that this is the ideal situation.

But some situations call for the use of a leash. In such a case, it’s good to have an obedient dog.

If your dog walks behind you on a leash, it means they’re under control. Otherwise, you’ll have a dog struggling to run away from you.

#9: They’re wearing uncomfortable gear

Perhaps not many owners think about this when walking their dogs:

The reason why your dog is lagging behind could be their gear.

As such, check their collar, harness, and leash. 

The collar might be choking your dog. Try inserting a finger between the collar and your dog’s neck. If you couldn’t do it, then the collar is too tight.

When it comes to the harness, your dog might find it uncomfortable. Your dog might have grown a bit and now the harness is tight. Or the harness might be the wrong size.

As a result, it could chafe your dog’s skin. Or put unnecessary pressure on their body.

If the harness is made of cheap materials, it would still feel uncomfortable for your dog. A harness with padded straps and mesh webbing is better.

As for their leash, it will be cumbersome if it’s not based on their weight and size.

For example, a leash made of chains with a thick clasp will weigh down a Chihuahua.

5 tips to stop your dog from walking behind you

#1: Teach them useful commands

When you’re out walking, it’s best to be armed with commands that your dog already knows by heart.

Ideally, your dog should walk beside you. But for times when they walk behind you, some commands will come in handy. 

Think of ‘come on,’ ‘sit,’ ‘watch me,’ ‘heel’, and other similar cues. 

If walking off-leash, and your pooch decides to sniff every single leaf on the ground, tell them ‘Come on’ or ‘heel.’ 

If they obey, give them a treat and lots of praise.

Aside from ‘come on’ and ‘heel,’ you can give the command ‘watch me.’ Not only does it help them keep in pace beside you but it also strengthens eye contact. 

So when taking your dog for a walk, take a few steps then stop. Give your dog the ‘sit’ and ‘watch me’ commands. Then give them treats. 

Give them these commands throughout your walk for when they lag behind.

Note: In case your dogs do not get along, provide them ample opportunities to like each other. Give them more playtime and training together. And don’t forget to give them treats when they’re being friendly toward each other.

#2: Give them a sniff break

Dog Sniffing Meme

Sniffing comes naturally in dogs. And it doesn’t hurt anyone if you’ll give them a sniff break when you’re walking.

Make sure your dog sniffs in dog-friendly areas. 

Start by giving your dog the command ‘go sniff.’ While they do this, stand still and let them sniff.

Wait as your dog finishes sniffing within the radius that the leash allows.

When your dog is done, they will eventually move forward. 

In many cases, your dog would look at you to communicate this. Mark the behavior and give them a reward.

Then give them the command ‘let’s go’ and continue walking to the next sniffing area.

Keep doing this pattern whenever you give them a sniff break…

Soon your dog will know the pattern. They will also learn that walking beside you is the way to get to the next sniffing spot. And this is where they can sniff all they want.

Fun fact: Did you know that the length of the leash or being off the leash affects the length of your dog’s sniffing?

This study observed 61 dogs of different breeds, sex, temperament, etc. 

The first group of dogs was on a short leash. The second group was on a long leash. The third group was off the leash.

The dogs on a long leash spent 2.5 more times sniffing than dogs on a short leash. The dogs off the leash spent longer sniffing than the other two groups.

Thus, a long leash or off-leash gives the dogs more opportunity to sniff.

#3: Some reminders when walking your dog

For a walk that both you and your dog will enjoy, some reminders are in order.

If your dog slows you down, give a gentle pull on the leash. And give them encouraging words as well to make them hurry.

If they pull on the leash, be like a tree, and stand still. Do not move until the leash slacks. This will only happen if they sit down or come to you.

Once they have calmed down, continue walking.

At some point, your dog may cross sides during the walk. This could result in you being injured if you’re holding their leash. 

To stop your dog from crossing sides, face them just when they start to drift. Set them back to where you want them to be, then continue walking.

It also helps to remember some important ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ when walking:


  • Be patient.
  • Make walks enjoyable.
  • Use positive reinforcement.
  • Give praises when they walk beside you.
  • Give them treats for obeying your commands.


  • Yell.
  • Jerk.
  • Yank.
  • Drag your dog.
  • Physically force your dog to sit or heel.

Don’t miss out on: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Walks Slowly (Dangers & 9 Tips)

#4: Use a short leash

Some days you can’t allow your dog longer sniffing time. 

For instance, it’s winter and it’s not suitable to stay long outdoors. Or you’re not feeling well and you can only give your dog a few minutes of walk.

If this is the case, use a short leash. It gives you more control. It also helps you guide your dog to allow less time for sniffing.

In addition, a short leash also keeps your dog beside you. Remember to have a firm hold of the leash so your dog won’t pull you.

Give them treats if they keep beside you.

#5: Keep walking!

Practice makes perfect.

So take your dog for daily walks. Every walk is an opportunity to teach your dog to walk beside you. Whether on or off the leash.

Walking is also an opportunity to create a lasting bond with your dog. For some dogs, this is the highlight of their day. So make it enjoyable for the two of you.

Not only that. You get to exercise. For your dog, walking gives them physical and mental stimulation. 

So when you get back home, you get a calm and tired dog.