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Why Do Dogs Walk Backwards Through Doors

Introduction

Every now and then, you’ll spot videos online of dogs walking backwards through doors, and you may wonder why dogs do this; perhaps your dog or your family or friend’s dog does this, and you're wondering how common sense could explain this.

This article will cover the common theories on why dogs do this, including the likely theories and the unlikely ones.

Why Do Animals Walk Backwards

To begin, it’s worth exploring why dogs and animals in general walk backwards before explaining the backing off through doorways. 

One reason for walking backwards is because of feeling prone or threatened, which is common across most animal species; when there’s a threat present, you or your dog may feel the need to naturally back off. Just imagine you’re back on the plains of the Savannah and two lions come around the bend, licking their chops for the dinner you just fetched for yourself; you’d probably back off pretty quickly!

Specifically for dogs, another reason for walking backwards can include trying to have more stability. Walking backwards, your dog might have better traction on the ground and prevent her or himself from falling. For example, dogs on icy pathways or on skating rinks (which they shouldn’t be on!) might be spotted walking backwards for this very reason.

Theories for Walking Backwards Through Doors

That covers a kibble-bit about why dogs walk backwards in the first place; it can be due to feelings of fear and trepidation, or to gain better traction on the ground to prevent falling over. Though, that doesn’t exactly explain why dogs would walk backwards through doorways, specifically. So it’s time to cover some theories on why dogs walk backwards through doors.

It’s worth first mentioning the fact that there’s no rock-solid reason known for why dogs walk backwards through doorways. In fact, it may be that different dogs display this behavior for different reasons. With there only being a few theories, by educating yourself as a pup owner about these theories, you can more wisely ponder why your dog walks butt-first through doors. These theories include the fact that your dog may have hip problems, may have experienced some past trauma related to walking through doors, or may have some cognitive dysfunction.

Hip Discomfort

Beginning with the theory that this behavior is due to hip discomfort, it's nice since this theory has some real reasoning behind it.

Especially for older dogs, they may have gotten used to pushing doors open with their rear-end because opening doors with their front paws caused their supporting hind legs to slip, causing sudden shoots of pain in their hips.

Owners of this behavior have anecdotally reported their pups displaying this behavior just once, with that single experience creating a lifelong habit afterwards. If your pup displays this behavior, notice if there are other signs of hip discomfort, such as limping or sitting down gingerly. You could speak to your vet about ways to mitigate your pup's pain, such as supplements, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or exercise reduction.

Past Trauma

The second theory for why dogs do this is similarly sensible, and probably the most likely of all three of these theories; namely, dogs walk backwards through doors due to some past trauma that possibly you as the pup parent aren’t even aware of!

For example, if dogs have gotten their paws caught underneath closing doors, have bonked their heads on glass doors, or had doors closed on them, they might fear a repeat of that accident,hoping that walking backwards through doors will help lessen the danger. As you can imagine, having the door shut on their rear end might still hurt, but it would certainly hurt much less than if they walked forwards and it hit their head!

In this case, probably the best remedy for undoing the behavior is by influencing your pup’s thinking via positive reinforcement; progressively, you can train your dog to associate doors and doorways as positives, for example, give your dog a treat each time she just approaches the door (not even walks through it), and escalate that reinforcement training to walking forwards through doors via baby steps.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

The third theory, which honestly comes across as a bit of bogus, is that dogs have some sort of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, which apparently is supposed to interrupt a dog’s motor function abilities, resulting in confusion and odd types of behavior.

According to supporters of this school of thought, they say that this behavior also explains seizures and other types of neurological conditions. This theory seems unlikely since it doesn’t exactly explain why dogs specifically walk backwards through doors; it might explain why dogs walk backwards (although it still doesn’t seem justify much in this regard), but it especially fails in explaining why dogs walk backwards through doorways.

Perhaps this theory of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is a way of simply saying that we don’t know why dogs do this, which in that case is perfectly okay.

Which Theory is Most Valid?

Based on these three theories, it seems that the theory of some traumatic event being the cause of walking backwards through doorways is the most probable, followed by some sort of hip injury, tailed by the Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome theory.

As for solutions, you can try positive reinforcement training in case the problem is due to trauma, and vet-recommended solutions in case the issue is hip discomfort. If it’s because of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, you can simply hope that cynologists keep working at this odd issue and tailor their theories to a higher level of understanding.

Conclusion

And there you have it; this article went through some of the reasons why dogs walk backwards in the first place, and more specifically why dogs might walk backwards through doorways. Thanks very much for taking the time to read this article; most importantly, it’s best to remember that no one knows exactly why any one dog might walk backwards through doors, but pup parents can at least try to attribute some most likely theories.

As one note, it’s valuable to keep in mind that these ideas of why dogs walk backwards (for safety), also apply to other questions of why dogs walk backwards on hardwood surfaces, or in specific types of rooms. Also, the first theory covering the fact that dogs do this because of hip problems refers to patella luxation, which causes the knee joint of the hind leg to pop out, causing dogs to move in various directions to pop the joint back in place.

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