Pet owners all need to keep an eye on how their dogs are behaving, and look out for any signs that their dogs are sick or that something is causing the dog anxiety. If your dog is walking with its head down a lot, you might be concerned about either of these issues, or worried that your dog has a problem with its neck muscles. This style of walking may correct itself quite quickly, but if it doesn’t, you should be prepared to talk to a vet or work with a behavior specialist to help resolve the issue.
Most of the time, your dog will be bounding around with its head up, watching you and the rest of the world and interacting with the people around it. There are a few potential things that could cause a dog to walk with its head down, and this is not something that you should ignore, as it is a clear sign that something is wrong. A dog with its head down is unlikely to be happy.
Canine body language is very specific, and learning how to read it will make you a better and more capable owner, giving you the power to communicate with your dog more effectively. It is well worth taking the time to understand what your dog’s body language is saying to you.
Why Is My Dog Walking With Its Head Down?
Usually, a dog walking with its head down is showing submission or fear, and it is demonstrably uncomfortable with the situation that it is in. If you notice that your dog is doing this a lot, it’s likely that something is frightening it or making it uncomfortable, and it is trying to demonstrate that it is not a threat so that it doesn’t invite attack from whatever it’s afraid of. Your dog may also have its ears flattened to its head and its tail tucked in, further demonstrating submission and unthreatening behavior.
If the fear becomes more extreme, you may find that your dog freezes, starts to tremble, shrinks into the ground, or even urinates or defecates on the floor, while avoiding all contact. Growling or teeth baring may accompany this behavior as the dog attempts to demonstrate that it will defend itself if necessary.
If your dog doesn’t exhibit any fearful behavior, it may be walking with its head down because it is picking up a scent from the ground, because it is elderly, or because it has injured itself. If your dog has suddenly started doing this a lot and it does not seem to be picking up a scent, consider taking it to a vet to get checked over, in case an injury or muscle weakness is causing the behavior.
How Can I Stop My Dog Walking With Its Head Down?
To prevent this kind of behavior, you’ll need to identify what is causing it and then start addressing it at the root – you should never scold your dog for walking with its head down. If your dog seems to be fearful all the time, you may need to work with a dog behavior specialist, particularly if it has come from an abusive home, or suffered from some past trauma. Gradually introducing your dog to new situations and working on its confidence should make a big difference, but you will need to be patient and take things slowly.
You should not try to reassure your dog if it is displaying this behavior, because even if you share a strong bond, your dog might lash out when it is really scared. A dog that is crouching and shrinking away from people is in a defensive mindset, so the best thing to do is remove yourself and your dog from whatever situation is frightening it. If this isn’t possible, allow your dog to find a corner where it is comfortable and do not stand too close to it until it begins to relax and picks its head up again.
If you don’t think the behavior is based in fear, the best way to address it is to get a diagnosis from a vet or a behavioral specialist so that you know your dog isn’t suffering. If your dog has developed a habit of walking like this, training may be needed to correct it.
Should I Be Worried If My Dog Walks With Its Head Down?
In general, walking in this way is somewhat concerning, yes; your dog should have its head up and its ears up when it is behaving normally, and it will usually look bright and alert. A dog that won’t meet your eyes and consistently shrinks away is either physically sick, or is suffering from extreme anxiety/fear, and therefore miserable. If this happens, you should be looking for ways to help your dog feel better and address any physical issues that are causing this behavior.
It is not unusual for dogs – especially rescue dogs – to show this behavior on occasion, particularly if the dog has potentially had unpleasant experiences in its past which could mean that certain situations trigger the fear response. However, if your dog walks with its head down frequently, you have good reason to be worried, and you should look into ways that you can boost your dog’s confidence.
Similarly, this behavior being caused by a physical issue should concern you, because it indicates either pain or muscle weakness. You should not ignore either of these problems as they are likely to get worse, rather than better, if they aren’t treated promptly. Speak to a vet about any concerns, rather than waiting to see if they resolve themselves.
A dog walking with its head down is likely to be feeling fearful or at least anxious about its environment, and therefore attempting to protect itself by appearing small and submissive. If your dog is doing this regularly, you’ll need to work with a canine behavior specialist to help it overcome its fear, and possibly avoid triggering situations while its confidence is built up. If you think your dog is ill, see a vet as soon as possible.