Why is My Shih Tzu Walking Sideways?

why is my shih tzu walking sideways - cute small shih tzu with pink bow
Depositphotos ID: 219309378 Copyright: gurinaleksandr

If you’re wondering why is my Shih Tzu walking sideways, there are several possible reasons why this happens. They may not be used to wearing clothing, they have been recently groomed or have a new hair cut,  or they could be sick, injured, or in pain. Discover exactly why your Shih Tzu is walking sideways and what you can do about it.

5 Possible Reasons Why Your Shih Tzu is Walking Sideways

According to the American Kennel Club when a “dog moves with its body at an angle to the line of travel…” it is called crabbing or sidewinding.

There are a number of reasons your Shih Tzu might be crabbing. Here are the most common.

They Are Wearing Uncomfortable Clothing

Of course, we want our Shih Tzu to get dressed up and look good. We admit that dressed dogs are lovely and cute, I can’t argue with you on that.

We want them to have a ‘dress to impress’ attitude. But, how comfortable are those dresses and shoes you put on them?

There are pros and cons of dressing up your Shih Tzus.

The pros include showing off your Shih Tzu’s personality, and keeping warm during cold weather or dry when it is raining outside. The right gear may even reduce your dog’s anxiety.

On the other hand, wearing clothing can feel unnatural for your Shih Tzu, and depending on the material it can be uncomfortable and even lead to skin irritation. 

This may have a huge impact on your Shih Tzu that causes them to walk sideways.

I know that my Truman and Sammy (you can learn more about Truman and Sammy here) hated the first time I put them into coats. 

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We had moved from South Carlina where the winters are pretty mild to Illinois where the winters are harsh. They weren’t used to having to wear coats outside.

The first time I put them on, they didn’t even want to move. Once we got out the door, they were high stepping it and walking oddly. It was a task to get them to go potty.

Since then they have gotten used to the coats even though they still hate them. Now if I could only get them to wear shoes.

So, the lesson here is if you are going to have your Shih Tzu wear clothes, just make sure they fit properly, not too big or too small, and that the material is nice and soft. You can find some good options here. 

shih tzu in pink jacket running outside
Depositphotos ID: 219304482 Copyright: gurinaleksandr

Your Shih Tzu Has Been Newly Groomed

The summer cut and Teddy Bear cut are two of the top haircuts for our Shih Tzus

I remember my neighbor’s Shih Tzu named Milo when he got his first hair cut. It was really adorable, but it freaked him out a bit.

After he was groomed, he started walking sideways. It was as if his hind legs creeped out to the side and moved faster than his front legs.

Though it was cute watching him walk sideways, it turned out that when they groomed him, his leg and tail had been burned from the razor, so it wasn’t so funny after all.

The lesson here is that it is always a good idea to take a close look at your Shih Tzu after they have been to the groomer especially if they are walking differently than normal.

If you do find a cut or burn, be sure to take your Shih Tzu to the vet to have it checked out. The last thing you want is for your little one to get an infection.

Your Shih Tzu is in a Growing Phase

How old is your Shih Tzu? Is it a newborn? A month or maybe a year? It could very well be that their legs are still growing.

Awkward running or sideways running can happen to a Shih Tzu that is having a growth spurt.

Most of the time, this behavior goes away on its own. 

Just like a teenager may be temporarily uncoordinated as their body continues to grow, it can happen to puppies and young dogs.

Sometimes, though, your Shih Tzu won’t grow out of it and may be a “crabber” or side walker for the rest of their life. If this is something that is concerning you, be sure to see your vet.

There are ways to help. Practice with your Shih Tzu by taking them for walks and doing some exercises. This can help strengthen your puppy’s legs to get them a little more coordinated.

closeup of shih tzu with funny face
Depositphotos ID: 253740964 Copyright: etonastenka

Your Shih Tzi is Sick or Injured

On a serious note, there are more serious reasons why your Shih Tzu is walking sideways.

Our Shih Tzus can be prone to back problems. Sometimes back troubles can be very serious.

Back trouble can come in the form of intervertebral disc disease. These discs can bulge or herniate into the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in pain, numbness, and even permanent paralysis. 

One of two things can happen. 

The outer ring calcifies or hardens, losing its function, and puts pressure on the spinal cord. This is the more common type in the necks of small-breed dogs and can be very severe.

The second thing that can happen develops over time, with the discs hardening and eventually bulging out into the spinal canal.

A grading system has been developed for dogs from Grade 1 to 5.

Grade 1 (Pain only) is able to walk normally but show signs of pain.

Grade 2 (Ambulatory paresis) displays pain and can walk but are weak and wobbly in the back legs. They may cross their back legs when walking, splay out, knuckle over or stumble in their back legs

Graders 3-5 are in a serious stage or considered surgical. Moreover, lower grades are usually managed medically. 

This happened to Truman. One day he didn’t want to move, and if he did or you tried to move him, he would cry out in pain. 

I got him to the vet and he was very close to being paralyzed. We had about a 36-hour window where it could go either way. Luckily, with help from the vet, we got past the critical junction and Truman ended up being fine and has been ever since, but it was very scary.

If your Shih Tzu’s walking sideways is accompanied by pain you need to get to the vet immediately.

They Just Want to Walk Sideways

Okay, we’re done with the scary stuff. The last but not least possible reason is your Shih Tzu is walking sideways is because they are just having a little fun.

Just like humans, dogs like to have a little fun and be goofy. Sometimes, they are just looking for a little attention. It’s just one of the many quirks of your unique best friend!

Related Questions: 

Why Is My Shih Tzu Walking Funny?

Your Shih Tzu could be injured or have a spinal cord issue, or they could have been burnt at the groomers. It could also be a growth spurt or they might just be having some fun. There are several reasons your Shih Tzu is walking funny. Most aren’t serious, but you should take them to the vet to rule out any health issues. 

To Sum It All Up

Shih Tzus walk sideways for a number of reasons that include being sick, injured, wearing awkward clothing or they just walk that way. If you’re concerned about the behavior, be sure to take your Shih Tzu for a check-up


Please Note:

This article is informational only and does not substitute for veterinary advice. Always check with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your Shih Tzu’s behavior. This article should not be considered in any way as veterinarian advice.

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