It is probably a safe bet that one of your dog’s favorite parts of the day is their walks. Even dogs that do not need a lot of exercise love going for a daily walk with their favorite person.
Sometimes our dogs do weird things when we take them for walks. Refusing to walk on grass or randomly getting the zoomies can be disruptive to the flow of your walk. Your dog looking behind when you walk might be less rowdy but is still a curious behavior.
Although it might not affect the quality of your walk, it is odd when your dog looks behind on your walks. Perhaps you are concerned that something is bothering them.
So why does your dog look behind when the two of you walk?
During walks, dogs like to look behind and check in on you. They might be doing it out of affection or because they have been conditioned. Bored or nervous dogs might be hyper-aware of their surroundings and look behind during walks. Finally, they could be looking at something behind you.
So let’s explore what makes your dog look behind during walks and how to tell if they are enjoying themselves or if you need to give them extra emotional support.
Why Does My Dog Look Behind When We Walk?
To help decipher why your dog looks behind when you walk, try to check out their body language. This will be the best clue to figure out what they are thinking and whether they are relaxed and enjoying themselves, curious, or if something has frightened them.
A dog looking behind on walks with a relaxed body and wagging tail versus one with raised hackles and a stiff body has a much different reaction to the walk.
Reason 1. Your Dog Is Keeping An Eye On You
If your dog has relaxed doggy eyes and looks at you with love, there is a good chance they are looking behind because they want to keep an eye on you.
Not everyone walks their dog in a perfect heel position for an extended amount of time, there is a time when a heel is important and also a time when you can let your dog explore (as long as they do not drag or pull you down).
If your dog can politely walk in front of you without pulling, they might look behind on walks to look at you because they want to check in, make sure you are still there, or simply because they love you. Studies have shown that the human-dog relationship is similar to the bond between a parent and child, so, unsurprisingly, they look behind on walks to check on you.
Another reason they might look behind on your walks is they are looking for cues as to where you are going. Dogs are sensitive to the subtle body language that their owners. They can even recognize the mannerisms we make if we are going to change direction.
Reason 2. You Have Conditioned Your Dog To Look Behind During Walks
One of the most essential skills you can train with your dog is to walk nicely on a loose leash. If you have used positive reinforcement to train your dog to walk on the leash there is a good chance they look behind on walks because you have conditioned them to check in with you. Conditioning in this case means that your dog has learned to associate a behavior with a consequence. Looking at you (behavior) gets a treat or verbal praise (consequence), so they are conditioned to look behind when you are on walks.
Games that help your dog learn to pay attention to you like “Look At Me” will condition checking in even more.
Many positive reinforcement techniques are helpful to keep your dog from pulling. Stopping when they hit the end of the leash and rewarding them when they look at you or reversing your direction, in particular, will condition your dog to check in and look behind.
As long as your dog has relaxed body language it is fine if they are behind on your walk. They clearly have been well-trained to check in!
Reason 3. Your Dog Is Bored
It is great to be diligent about taking your dog for a walk every day, even in bad weather, but are you walking the same route every day? Since dogs are curious by nature, they will get bored quickly and could be looking behind when you walk because they are on the lookout for something more engaging.
Going on the same walk every day will certainly wear them out physically, but mentally it is less stimulating for your dog. Looking behind them could be a way for them to seek out something more interesting. Besides looking behind on walks, a bored dog might cock their head and have their mouth closed in an anticipatory manner.
Instead of taking your dog on the same boring route every day, try going somewhere different. This could be a different walking route travelling to a new park, or going on a sniffari! During a sniffari you dog makes the decision on where your walk will take you, as you can see in the video below.
Reason 4. There Are Nervous
Nervousness, stress, and discomfort caused by insecurities in an environment, especially a new environment, might cause your dog to slow down and look behind on walks.
These insecurities that cause nervousness might be caused by being in a new place, loud noises (such as a truck backfiring or thunder), or if they are worried about strangers or unknown dogs. Looking behind when you two are on walks might be your dog making sure there are no threats.
While some dogs might look behind on walks because of a specific trigger, others are naturally anxious. Some dogs are more anxious because of their breed, a traumatic experience, or it is simply their personality. Besides looking behind when you walk, nervous dogs will pant, slink, whale eye, or cower.
Reason 5. There Is Something Behind You
Sometimes the simplest explanation can be the best explanation. Your dog is looking behind when you walk because something has caught their attention. Behind you could be another dog, a person, or something they want to try to snack like discarded food or goose poop.
Or maybe they are use to seeing squirrels and deer on your walking route so they are looking behind expecting those interesting critters.
It can be frustrating when your dog has trouble focusing and keeps looking behind while on walks. Try using positive reinforcement techniques to encourage them to walk forward with confidence. Kikopup has some great loose-leash walking tips to get you started.
Proper training for loose leash walking will help your dog stay more focused on the walk rather than looking behind.
Should I Be Worried?
Walks are essential for a dog’s health, both mentally and physically. Even the laziest dogs need at least a little daily exercise. Depending on the environment and your dog’s personality, some dogs might be more inclined to look behind on your walks than others. Usually, this is not anything to worry about.
However, any sudden new behaviors should be given extra consideration, including looking behind when you walk.
For example, senior dogs need much less exercise than younger dogs. Not only do they have less energy, but older dogs are susceptible to stiffness or arthritis, making longer walks more physically demanding. I have a husky mix who used to go skiing and hiking all day with me, but now at 13 years old, she is happy with a small walk in the field behind my house. If I try to take her on a longer walk, she will look behind as if wondering when we are heading back home.
Injured dogs might also look behind on walks if they are being pushed too hard. Looking behind and lying down on walks are good indications your dog is not feeling well. Whenever you are worried about your dog’s health, please make an appointment to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. An older or injured dog might need pain medicine to keep them comfortable.
Looking behind when you are walking could be their way of communicating they are ready to go home. A dog that is hurting will have similar body language to a stressed or nervous dog. Panting, tucked tail, whale eyes, and cowering are signs that they are not feeling good. They could also be limping and whimpering if they are in significant pain.
I look forward to my walk with my dogs every day. It is a way to clear my head and I love seeing my dogs happy and wear themselves out. I notice them looking behind when we walk, but often for different reasons.
Different dogs will have different reasons for looking behind when you walk. They might not be looking behind but looking at you. Hopefully, because they love you and want to check in with you.
Dogs that have been trained to check in with you will look behind because they have been conditioned. A command like “watch me” or certain loose leash training techniques will prompt your dog to look behind to make sure they are not getting too far ahead. Your dog could be bored or looking behind because there is something behind you. If your dog is looking behind on walks because they are stressed or scared, positive reinforcement training can help build their confidence on walks.
Whether your dog is checking in and looking at you, stressed, or injured, their body language will give you the biggest clues as to why they are looking behind. Happy dogs will look relaxed, with a wagging tail, alert soft eyes, and maybe have their tongue lolling out of their mouth.
Meanwhile, a stressed, nervous, scared, or injured dog might have a stiff body, low tail, whale eyes, hackles, and be panting heavily. Their loose leash walking skill might be forgotten, and besides looking behind, they might start pulling like they are trying to escape or run away.
Learning about doggy body language will help you be able to predict your dog’s reactions to their environment and help make you and your dog more confident on walks. This makes you a better and more responsible dog owner and ensures that you and your canine best friend will have the best walks for years to come.