Updated at: 10-01-2022 - By: petstutorial

Have you ever seen dogs that appear to “walk sideways,” or with its body curving or bent? They walk ahead in straight lines but it appears as if the back of their legs is slightly further to the side than their front legs.
The unusually-shaped walk might surprise those who haven’t experienced it before However, it’s actually fairly regular. It’s so common that there’s even a term to describe it known as crabbing. Find out why some dogs wander in a different direction, and how you can distinguish between ordinary common crabbing and an issue that is more grave.
In recent times, you’ve noticed your dog running, or even walking in a zigzag manner. This seems odd to you and might be a source of concern. You begin to think, is your dog’s ground uneven? Is your dog’s balance or coordination wrong? Are there any issues in his hips? Is there a deeper issue that is causing him to be uncomfortable? The proper term for this kind of off-kilter behavior is crabbing. It’s a frequent occurrence in dogs and, although it could trigger alarm bells, in most cases it’s not as serious as it may seem. What is the actual cause of your dog’s unnatural running?



How dogs move

Before we examine the reason why some dogs are inclined to walk on their sides, let’s look at how dogs generally move. There are four basic kinds of gaits, that is, patterns in limb movements (source):

  • Walk: the dog elevates each foot off on the ground, one foot at a in a regular order (first one foot in the rear and then one front foot to the same side, and finally the rear foot on the opposite side followed by the front foot on the side). Three legs are supported of the body all the time.
  • Trot is a two-beat diagonal gait that sees the feet that are diagonally opposite end of the body touch the ground together, such as the front left with left hind and front left and hind right. Between each step, the entire body is suspended space for just a short time.
  • Canter: a gait with three beats that is slightly more sluggish than trotting. When a canter is rotary, dogs’ feet move forward in a sequence of 1-2-1 hind foot, followed by the opposite hindfoot and its diagonal in front, and finally the front foot with the opposite. The first foot they begin with is referred to as “leading” foot “leading foot.”
  • Gallop is a gait that’s four beats and the fastest dog gait. While running, a dog begins with its spine bent and two feet in rear on the ground with the lead foot being slightly over the second. Then, the dog moves its spine forward, stretching the front feet inwards and then lands on the ground , with the sole of one (the the lead foot) slightly ahead of the other. The dog will then bend its spine to move the rear feet up in order to restart the cycle.

Alongside these four gaits that are the most fundamental including the pace and amble, these two gaits are often also included in the list of dog gaits. The study of dog movements is actually quite a vast field and different breeds have distinct gaits. Dog owners who are unsure regarding their breed’s normal gaits should look it for themselves or talk to a vet. This AKC page on gaits for dogs is a great start and this article that provides more information about gait research.
What does gait has to have to do with the extent to which a dog “crab walks ?” Well you might be aware that dogs who walk in a sideways direction are able to run straight. This is due to the fact that in a full-on gallop the dog’s feet are moved in a straight line with the spine in the lead, allowing an easier body alignment. In a trot, walk or canter in contrast their feet can move in a diagonal manner. Some dogs’ diagonal gaits require crabbing to stay clear of tripping on their feet.


Encouraging the Behavior

For puppies and young dogs the tendency to run sideways is a typical growth problem that they usually get rid of with no assistance in any way from you the dog’s owner. If you think there’s something more than just crabbing or issues with growth and you are concerned, it is recommended to consult your veterinarian. They can conduct an overall examination of the growth of bones and body structure to determine if there’s an issue that is more severe such as hip dysplasia, or other deficiencies. If you suspect that it might be due to the dominant leg creating the sideways or crabbing running, you could look for a chiropractor.

It might take just 2-3 sessions with a chiropractor for dogs to resolve the problem. A chiropractor can assist in training the dog to use its legs correctly, if that’s the problem. Apart from the few points that are mentioned, there’s nothing that you could do in order to improve this erratic running behavior your dog may display. The majority of dogs can fix it on themselves. However, as we said earlier, if you believe that it’s a medical issue, don’t hesitate to have your dog checked. It’s always better that you are on the safer side when it comes to things like this.


Other Solutions and Considerations

Keep in mind that it could have an infection in the ear that has thrown your dog off balance or as easy as the harness is rub in the wrong direction. Dogs will be able to walk in a different way to avoid the harness from that rubs his skin and causes irritation. Sometimes, there is a simple fix however, other times it may require medical care. But, it’s better to know whether there is a medical problem by visiting Fido into a vet specialist immediately you begin to notice unusual behaviour. It is safer to be secure rather than regretting it.


Take your time with your precious pet’s uncooperative running gait. It could be fixed with time, but it might not. Certain dogs are naturally around in circles and there’s no way to make it change. Always seek assistance if you think you might have a medical issue. Overall it is not necessary to worry about this peculiar behaviour as it is believed to be common for dogs.

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