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Should Dogs Walk On Two Legs?
We see dancing dogs all over but, looking at their bodies, we have to wonder should dogs walk on two legs? Is it a good idea to encourage it? Let’s look below the skin.
Pugs do it, mastiffs do it, even educated terriers do it: stand on two legs for periods of time. And humans often encourage them. We often find it cute, or clever, to encourage our furry friends to reach for a treat, or a kiss, or just to do a little fun dance move.
But is it safe?
If they can choose to stand on their own two feet, so to speak, presumably it’s safe for us to encourage them to do it—right?
Yes and no. Humans occasionally stand and walk around on their hands, with feet way above their heads… but we’re not designed to do it for long spans, and can injure ourselves if we do!
If dogs walk on two legs, why wouldn’t it be safe to encourage it?
In a word: anatomy. These are, after all, animals designed to go primarily on four legs. It stands to reason that spending too much time on two isn’t ideal. Some dogs can bear the weight and balance more easily than others—which is why you’re more likely to see small or miniature breeds in these postures.
Did you know that dogs actually have the majority (2/3) of their weight centered over their front legs? Their hind legs and hips are built to help propel them forward, with the front legs and chest handling braking, body weight support, and some fighting moves.
The risks of injury when there’s too much strain from dogs walking on 2 legs are real…
Hind leg walking: what are the risks?
KNEES: As you can imagine, knee problems are a biggie. When two-thirds more of their body weight are weighing down on this area, the tendons and ligaments that help stabilize those joints can very easily tear, leaving your furry friend lame and in need of knee surgery.
HIPS: For similar reasons, fractures and hip dysplasia can occur, too. In hip dysplasia, your dog’s femur isn’t fitting properly into the pelvic socket. It’s often hereditary, and larger breeds experience it more often. Too much pressure or exertion on the hip joint, however, can also be a cause. That pressure may stem from the dog being overweight, or (you guessed it), doing too much in a high-pressure position. Walking or jumping on hind legs, even continued bouts of vertical rough-housing, can all cause injuries that make hip dysplasia more likely to develop.
SPINE: Another risk area is the spine. Again, because their bodies aren’t built for vertical stance, a repetitive motion like walking, jumping or standing on their back legs can lead to a slipped disc, or even a more severe injury. Damage to the spine can mean an inability to get up or walk, and lead to pain in the pelvis or neck.
So, yes, sometimes your dog will go up on their hind legs all on their own—and usually that’s AOK, for short bouts.
Front leg walking: wait, what?
You read that right: front legs. This isn’t something you’ll see large dogs do, but smaller dogs—and even up to border collie size—will sometimes kick up their back legs and do what’s seemingly impossible: walk only on front legs.
Often dogs prone to this will walk on their front legs while they’re peeing. There’s no way to know for certain, but it seems like this is related to territorial marking. They want to “up” another “higher” dog (literally). From this more-elevated position, the pee painting reaches higher up a tree, pole, fire hydrant or whatever the target may be.
It’s also possible that a sudden change in posture (including favoring front or rear legs), may be a sign that they’re experiencing some type of back or joint issues. If they stand up on their hind legs to poop, another possibility could be that their anal glands are inflamed or otherwise making doing their business painful.
Get familiar with your dog’s posture and anatomy. And if you see a change for no apparent reason, particularly if they’re older or larger dogs, you’d be wise to check in with your vet.