My Dog Is Walking Slowly With His Head Down (12 Reasons + Solutions!)

Being a good dog owner takes a lot of work. Not only do you need to walk your dog, take him to the vet, feed him and do all the other basic necessities, but you also need to learn what his weird behaviors mean.

For example, when your dog lays in the bathtub, is he hiding, hot, or is something else going on? You need to be able to assess the situation and help your dog out if he needs it.  Don’t worry though all the work you put into being a good dog guardian will pay off big time. 

In return, dogs reward us with wagging tails, slobbery kisses, and limitless love. They offer us companionship, help keep us fit, and provide us with endless hours of entertainment. So it’s only natural that we want to return the favor by giving them the best possible life we can.

As you get to know your dog, you’ll learn his quirks, figure out what they mean and react accordingly. What happens when your dog is acting sad though? Do dogs show sadness in the same ways as humans do? It’s important to learn your dog’s body language so you know what he is feeling.

So, what about when your dog starts slowly walking with his head down? My dog is walking slowly with his head down.  What does it mean? The reality is there is no one size fits all answer.  Your dog slowly walking with his head down can mean he has neck pain, is avoiding being in trouble, is afraid of something, has arthritis or is otherwise sick, has a tick or other parasite, has a serious medical issue, is nervous about bumping his head or back on something, has balance issues, is poorly socialized, is taking medication that is throwing off his natural rhythm or is avoiding going home.

Fortunately, with some detective work and observing the entire situation, you should be able to figure out which reason or reasons your dog has his head down while walking slowly.


Dogs are good at shaking off minor things. I mean…I can’t tell you how many times I saw one of my dogs run head first into some pretty solid objects and turn to look at me with a smile. But some pain is too much for even dogs to hide.

If your dog is walking cautiously with his head down or slightly tilted he could be experiencing pain in his neck, back, legs, or feet caused by a pinched nerve or sprained muscle. If you think this is the case you may wish to skip down to my visit to the vet recommendation.

Of course, it is easy to scare yourself by convincing yourself that the worst-case scenario is happening. So, while pain and even worse medical conditions can cause your dog to walk this way, maybe you want to take the time to read through the other options before getting very worried.

Avoiding Punishment

Dogs don’t really hide their emotions. We’ve all seen a super happy dog, right?

They’re also pretty good (but not perfect) at figuring our emotions out as well.  They usually know when we are happy, sad, angry, and so forth. If you’ve ever come home to a guilty looking dog who just ate your favorite shoes, you know exactly what I am talking about.

In the same way, dogs can tell when they are about to get in trouble. If you’ve ever seen your dog cower or try to make himself small when he’s done something he knows he shouldn’t have, you know that dogs have a pretty good sense of when they are about to get told they are bad.

*I hope that you keep it to verbal scolding at the worst, if your dog is cowering out of fear that he will be physically hurt that is very sad*

So, if your dog is walking around with his head down it could be because he is trying to avoid eye contact and looking guilty. He may have done something he knows he isn’t supposed to have done and is trying to avoid getting in trouble.

If you suspect that this is the case, you’ll want to take a look at what happened right before your dog started walking around with his head down. Did he chew up your favorite pair of shoes?

Scared Of Something

A new person in the house, an intimidating larger dog that’s visiting, a toddler that pulls on your dog’s fur; there are any number of things that could scare your dog.  If your dog is walking around with his head down it could be a sign that he is scared of something.

When we got our first dog, he was scared to death of vacuum cleaners.  Now he tries to help clean!  It’s funny to remember that if someone turned one on in another room he would come running to me with his tail between his legs and his head down.  You never know what might scare your dog.


Similar to neck and joint pain mentioned above, arthritis is no joke. It can be unrelenting and in an effort to ease the pain a dog might walk in a seemingly funny way. Your dog will do anything to take the pressure off the joints that are really hurting even if it makes him look sad. 

Sick or Injured

Just like you, when your dog is feeling run down from a bug or other illness, he will likely move slower. And while you might have your unique way of moving slower, your dog will likely keep his head down and walk slowly.  If this is new behavior for your dog and you can’t think of any other reason he might be walking this way, it’s time to take him to the vet just to make sure everything is okay.


No matter how much your good boy cleans himself, he’s still a tick, bug, and parasite magnet.  If he’s been scratching a lot lately it could be that he’s got something bothering him. Couple that with his head down and walking slowly, and you may have found your cause. Parasites can do damage to even the liveliest of dogs so it’s worth checking out.

Serious Disease

While possible, this is an unlikely cause because there are so many other things that can cause your dog to walk slowly with his head down. I’m trying to include all possible causes in this article and I don’t want to leave anything out. Having said that, please consult your vet before you begin worrying that your favorite pooch might be seriously ill. 

Cancer and organ failure will cause drastic changes in your pooch.  One major change you are likely to see is your dog walking slowly with his head down.

Scraped His Head Or Back On Something

Usually, dogs move at the speed of fun. Sometimes that means running into things (which they’ll try to avoid next time!) and other times that means brushing under something they didn’t even see. And sometimes that hurts!

Have you ever scraped your head or back on something? It’s not fun. You likely realized what happened right away. What you scraped on and where you went wrong with your movements.

Dogs don’t always have that luxury and if they really hurt themselves, say, running under a picnic table bench, they may walk slower and with more caution in the short term.


There could be something throwing off your dog’s ability to balance himself.  If his head is down, he may be having trouble keeping it up. It could be an internal ear problem, or hopefully something less severe.  If you suspect this is your dog’s reason for walking slowly with a low head, keep an eye on your dog and make sure the problem doesn’t persist.


Though dispensed for good, sometimes medication has crazy side effects.  One of those side effects could be a change in how your dog walks. If you’ve recently started your dog on medication and he’s walking slow with his head down, it’s possible the medication is to blame.

Consult with your veterinarian about any changes you see in your dog while he’s taking medication.

Poorly Socialized

When your dog is around people and animals he’s not familiar with, he simply might not know how to act.  His head may be down as a sign of submission and he’s likely walking slowly because he doesn’t want to cause any trouble.

This is more common in rescue dogs that haven’t been socialized well or at all. If you’ve recently adopted a dog, this could be his reason for walking with his head down. The good news is, that with some socialization, training, and patience, this behavior can be changed.

Your Dog Enjoys Being Out

I love taking my dogs for walks. They’re so excited to go, so excited to see and smell everything new, and if we’re out where no one else is, they’re extra excited and love being off-leash, running around to their hearts’ content.

What they aren’t always excited about is going home.  In fact, sometimes they seem to try to stall the inevitable.  One way to do that is to walk slowly with their heads down.  They don’t really ever do this once we’re back to the car, only when we round the bend and they know the car is the next stop.

If your dog is the same this could be his way of saying “Hey! I’m out and enjoying myself. Let’s keep going!” If this is the case with your dog, you might want to try changing up your routine a bit. Maybe take him for a longer walk or do more for him to get out more energy when you are out walking.

What Should I Do If My Dog Walks Slowly With His Head Down?

As I’ve explained there are lots of reasons for dogs to walk slowly with their heads down. The first step, if possible, is to identify what the cause is.  From there it’ll be easier to figure out what to do next.

Your Dog Only Did It Once Or Twice

If it was a one-off or maybe if you managed to catch your dog walking slowly with his head down twice, then I wouldn’t worry about it at all. Whatever the cause was likely sorted itself out and your dog is back to his normal self.

Stop Physically Punishing Your Dog

If you physically punish your dog, your dog is probably scared of you. Yes, he loves you like all good boys love their owners, but he might not be sure when he’s going to upset you and get the wrong side of your hand.

That’s not a fun or healthy way to live. If your dog is cowering because he doesn’t know what will make you hit him, stop hitting him.  If you’re not sure how to train your dog otherwise, seek out the services of one of your local professional trainers.

Get Your Vet’s Opinion

If you’re worried about your dog walking slowly with his head down, or any other changes you’ve noticed in him, make an appointment with another vet for a second opinion. It can’t hurt and may give you a heads up about health problems or peace of mind that nothing is wrong.

Try Acupuncture

Okay, this suggestion might seem like it came from left field.  Acupuncture can be a great way to ease pain in dogs and help with other issues. If you think your dog might be in pain, consider taking him to see an acupuncturist that specializes in treating animals.

The important thing to remember here is, don’t do it yourself and find a professional who has experience working with dogs. More importantly, don’t take your pooch to acupuncture without the blessing of your vet first.

My Dog Walks Slow With His Head Down While On A Leash

When you can narrow down specific instances that your dog exhibits a behavior you’re working on, you’re on the right track. So, if your dog only walks slowly with his head down while on a leash it’s likely one of just a few reasons.

He Was Hurt

Maybe it was you, maybe it was a previous owner, or maybe it was the kid down the street whom you hired to walk your good boy while you were at work; Someone hurt your dog while walking him on a leash.

It was likely an accident but his leash was probably pulled hard and fast to the point that it hurt his throat and neck. Now, to avoid the situation, your dog only moves slowly with a leash on in hopes of being able to counter any sudden movements from whoever is handling him.

He Was Punished

Using tools designed to handle dogs as means of punishment isn’t something anyone should do. However, some dog owners are in over their heads and do dumb things. Maybe your dog pulled too hard with his previous owner, or maybe he got excited about something, or … who knows what the excuse is/was. 

For some reason, someone punished your dog while he was on a leash or used the leash to punish your dog, by yanking at his neck or hitting him with it or something else. Now when your dog is on a leash he is extra careful to avoid being punished with it. 

Summary: Why Do Dogs Walk Slow With Their Heads Down?

Dogs can walk slowly with their heads down for a variety of reasons. One possibility is that the dog has scraped his head or back on something and is walking more cautiously until the injury heals. Another possibility is that the dog is unwell or taking medication with side effects that include a change in walking behavior. Poorly socialized dogs may walk slowly with their heads down as a sign of submission, while dogs who are enjoying being out may walk slowly with their heads down to prolong the walk. If you’re concerned about your dog’s walking behavior, consult with your veterinarian.

If your dog is walking slowly and with his head down, it’s important to figure out what the cause is. If your dog only did it once or twice, there’s likely no cause for concern. If your dog is walking slowly with his head down due to pain, try acupuncture. If your dog is poorly socialized, seek out professional help. 

If you think your dog is walking around with his head down because he’s scared of something, the best thing to do is try to figure out what that something is. If it’s a new person in the house, have them sit down on the floor so they are at your dog’s level and let him approach the person.

If this behavior is limited only to specific times like when your dog is on a leash, then it’s likely due to either a previous injury or punishment. If your dog was hurt while on a leash, he may now be afraid of sudden movements. If your dog was punished while on a leash, he may walk slowly as a sign of submission. In both cases, seek professional help to work through the issues.

Lastly, if you’re really concerned, get a second opinion from your vet.

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