I think every dog owner has experienced the dead weight of their dog as they suddenly start walking slowly at the end of the leash. Walking slowly is a behavior that puppies, young dogs, and old dogs will likely exhibit at some point, and there is a multitude of reasons that could cause your dog to walk slowly.
So, if your dog does it then you are probably wondering: why is my dog walking slowly?
Your dog might be walking slowly because they’re not trained, it is instinctual, or they like taking their time. Some dogs walk slowly because they are tired or simply do not want to be out walking! In some cases, they might feel sick and if they are aging they could be in pain or uncomfortable.
The best way to determine why your dog is walking slowly is to know their personality and if it is normal behavior or not. Some dogs like to walk slowly or they might slow down with age. Let’s explore some of the reasons your puppy, adult dog, or senior dog is walking slowly, and what you can do to help quicken their pace or when it is okay to embrace them walking slowly and slow down yourself.
Why Is My Healthy Dog Walking Slowly?
The reason your younger, healthy dog is walking slowly is likely going to be different from an older senior dog. From training issues to your dog’s personality to health concerns, let’s take an in-depth look at why your normally healthy dog or puppy might be walking slowly.
Reason 1: Your Dog Does Not Know How To Go For A Walk
Leash training is not a skill that dogs are born understanding. They have to learn to keep pace with you and go in a straight line all while being tethered. Even though it seems to us as humans the most basic thing in a dog’s training retinue, it is not a natural behavior!
While it seems most dogs are likely to pull or zig-zag on the leash, some dogs walk slowly when learning how to go for a walk on a leash. If your dog is learning how to walk on a leash and is walking slowly, first make sure their equipment (leash, harness, or collar) is fitting them properly. Some dogs might prefer a harness over a collar, or vice-versa, and if they are uncomfortable they will probably walk slowly.
If you think your dog is walking slowly because of equipment, Kikopup has a great video to get your new dog or puppy use to a harness and leash.
And lastly, match your speed with your dog, especially if you have a small dog or an old dog. These dogs tend to walk slowly compared to our pace. Your small or old dog might not be purposely walking slowly, they cannot keep up with you!
Remember that you can also use positive reinforcement to encourage your dog to walk faster by offering them treats as they lengthen their stride.
Reason 2: Your Dog Likes Taking Their Time
Maybe your dog is walking slowly because they are enjoying their time outside. Not all dogs have to go-go-go all the time like high-energy huskies or border collies. Some dogs might want to take their time, meander slowly with their human, look behind them, and sniff around.
Sniffing is self-soothing for dogs, and if they want to take their time, they might slow their walk down to enjoy sniffing and investigating their environment.
If you have a dog that enjoys sniffing, you might take up scent-work games with them. All dogs have strong noses and nose work and scent games are great mental stimulation for any dog. If you and your dog enjoy nose work, you can even compete at venues like the National Association of Canine Scent Work.
Another fun game you can play with a dog that enjoys being outside and taking their time to sniff and meander is a “sniffari.” As long as you have the time, let your dog and their nose take you for a walk! Your dog gets to choose where you go and if they like to walk slowly you can let them go at their own pace and, as the saying goes, “Stop and smell the roses.”
Sniffaris (sniff+safari) are a great way to exercise your dog and provide ample mental enrichment, here is a great video that goes into more detail.
Reason 3: Your Dog Does Not Want To Go For A Walk
So you are taking your dog for a nice long walk, and they suddenly start walking slowly, maybe even laying down, indicating that they do not want to go for walk!
Some dogs need significantly less exercise than other breeds. Lower-energy breeds like bulldogs still need exercise but are going to tire out a lot quicker than high-energy dogs. You might notice they start walking slowly as their energy levels deplete.
Another reason a dog might not want to go for a walk is the weather. Walks are very important physical and mental enrichment for dogs, but if they are slowing down on a very hot day, cold day, or rainy day they might not like walking because of the weather. For weather extremes, you need to research proper gear for your dog.
Booties will protect your dog’s feet from hot pavement or freezing ice. Walking your healthy dog in the rain is certainly okay, but some dogs do not want to get wet. You might have to invest in a good rain jacket to help encourage them to walk outside in the rain.
However, as long as you do not have any potty training regression problems, it is okay to shorten your walks if inclement weather is forcing them to walk slowly and want to go home. You can always play indoor games for enrichment and wait for a sunnier day!
Reason 4: Your Dog is Sneaking
Sneaking, creeping, herding, stalking, or trancing all describe the slow-moving walk that many dogs do instinctively. Dogs who are walking slowly because of instinctual sneaking usually have a very intense look on their face because they are stalking prey or livestock to hunt or herd. Sometimes they are walking so slowly that it looks like they are moving in slow motion and you can hardly hear them move.
Even if you live in the city and you have never trained your German Shorthair Pointer to hunt birds or your Australian Shepherd to herd sheep, your working dog still has those instincts! Your hunting dog might choose to stalk the squirrels in your backyard or your herding dog might try to herd the cat or your children.
If you have a herding dog, you probably recognize the slow moving walk or stalk like the border collies in this video.
If your dog is sneaking because they are stalking or herding you or something else in their environment, they might walk slowly, then suddenly move quickly and stand in your way to get you to move in a certain direction.
If your dog is walking slowly due to sneaking, they might need more mental stimulation to give them a job. Dog sports like agility, treibball, and flyball are all great options for dogs with high prey drive or herding drive.
This video does a great job introducing treibball, or urban herding.
These sports are accommodating to many breeds, even large dogs like Great Danes can enjoy agility and other sports!
Reason 5: Your Dog Is Scared
A nervous or scared dog might walk slowly to avoid whatever is frightening them. They could be afraid of loud noises, something new in their environment, the leash, or possibly you if you seem angry and they are trying to avoid punishment.
If you think your dog is walking slowly because they are scared, you can try to a couple of things to ease their fears. If they are frightened by a noise or something new, some dogs like a safe space like a crate, or getting under furniture like a bed.
If your dog walking slowly because they are frightened of you, try positive reinforcement training. By rewarding the behavior you want rather than punishing behaviors you do not want, your dog will have a clearer picture of the correct behavior and be happy to train with you rather than be frightened of you.
Reason 6: Your Dog Does Not Feel Good
If your dog is not feeling good, they will certainly walk slowly. Here are some of the top culprits for lethargy in dogs in puppies and adult dogs:
- Upset Stomach
- Hip Dysplasia
- Medication side-effects
Always visit your veterinarian if you are worried about your dog’s health.
Why Is My Aging Dog Walking Slowly?
There is no doubt that our dogs are a huge part of our life; they are a part of our family and we love them. It makes it that much harder when they start to get old. Besides maybe going grey, one of the first signs of old age you might notice is your dog walking slowly.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons your senior dog is walking slowly so you can decide the best way to make them comfortable. Your veterinarian can advise you if you think they are in pain. If your senior dog is walking slowly, it is okay to let them take their time! A steady routine and exercise are still very important for an old dog to help their mobility and decrease stiffness.
1. Arthritis and General Pain
As they get older, a lot of dogs are going to become stiff, have trouble moving around, and will start walking slowly because of pain caused by arthritis. They are no longer young pups, and your veterinarian can recommend supplements or pain medications to help your dog feel more comfortable.
This veterinarian and his golden retriever friend goes into detail about how to tell if your dog has arthritis, one of the first signs being your dog walking slowly.
2. Muscle Weakness
Whether they have general weakness of muscles, Cushing’s disease, Vestibular disease, or something genetic like degenerative myelopathy (DM) that affects the spinal cord, most dogs get weaker as they age. This weakness will cause them to lose their balance and walk slowly.
I have a senior dog diagnosed with DM, and while she walks around slowly, she still gets out for a short daily walk. This helps her stiffness and keeps her muscles from getting weaker. And if you have a dog in pain, always consult your veterinarian.
According to Dr. Rossman, the older your dog is the more sleep they need! Dogs already sleep a lot (some more than others!), and older dogs need more sleep to recover than young dogs. So if your senior dog starts slowing down on your evening walk, they could be tired.
Every dog ages differently, and it could seem to be overnight that your dog suddenly seems more tired. Last summer I was still taking my senior dog for 10-mile hikes, this year she is much happier with just a short, slow, walk around the block.
The exact causes of dog dementia are unclear besides the fact that it is a product of old age. Dementia in dogs can cause irritability, lower energy, decreased playfulness, and forgetfulness of training. Dementia might also cause your dog to walk slowly because they are easily confused.
Should I Be Worried That My Dog Is Walking Slowly?
Some dogs like to walk slowly. They are lower energy or they might want to take their time and “smell the roses.” No one will know better than you as your dog’s owner and best friend if your dog walking slowly is a cause for concern.
If your dog which normally goes everywhere at a sprint suddenly starts walking slowly, you might want to keep an eye on them for other indications of illness or injury. This includes:
- Trouble using stairs
- Behavioral changes (besides walking slowly)
- Change in appetite
- Increase in thirst
If your dog is suddenly walking slowly and showing other symptoms of sickness, please take them to your veterinarian right away.
The best thing you can do for your dog is to know their personality well enough to know if walking slowly is a concern or not. If you have a high-energy dog like a rambunctious husky, you might be very concerned if they start walking slowly.
However, if it is in your dog’s nature to walk slowly, there is no reason not to let your dog take their time. We live in a fast-paced world, and it is nice to take the hint from our dog and walk slowly to enjoy nature and the time we have with our best friend.