Why do dogs zig zag when walking?

The zig-zag of a dog as it walks is most easily explained by two separate actions. First, the motion will be done on the side most directly in front of the dog’s mouth. This is usually the side closest to the end of the jaw in an adult dog. When the dog walks on side A, it will turn and zig-zag along the left and right edge with the right hand. The zig-zag motion will stop about 12 inches from the jaw end. From this point on, the dog will not zig-zag nor will it make a “bump” motion on the side closest to the mouth.

Secondly, as the dog moves, it will walk in a diagonal fashion. It will usually turn a quarter of a degree on its left and turn a quarter of a degree on its right. The distance by which the dog turns around will vary over different breeds and dogs.

What’s different about walking on the left vs. right?

This is a common question and the answer is usually confusing.

Left-turning is often called “pawsing” or simply pawing. Pawsing is a walking movement and it is a very common motion for dogs. The movement from left to right is called the “walk” and consists of a single step, usually on one side, followed by a “bump” or zig-zag motion, usually on the other side. The two steps or motions in a left-turn are the main cause for walking sideways on the left side:

Left (flipped) right


Left Turn


Left bump


Left bump

All these motions work on a one-way basis. If a dog walks on the left side, it will always turn left, and if in a left-turn the dog turns right, it will almost always turn its head right. When dogs walk on the right side, they will always turn left.

If you are interested in more knowledge of movement, check out Understanding Dog Walking with Dr. Jameson’s book or our online class Dog Walking & Handling.

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