If your German Shepherd keeps walking behind you then you might be wondering why and what you can do about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why your German Shepherd could be doing it and what you can do about it.
So, why does my German Shepherd walk behind me? Possible reasons are that it wants to interact with things, is frightened, you have inadvertently trained it to do so or it might be being submissive.
There are a number of things that you can consider when trying to figure out why it might be doing it. Depending on the cause, there are also a number of things that you can do to stop it.
Why your German Shepherd walks behind you
Each of the different reasons why your German Shepherd walks behind you will likely come with a number of clues in the way that it does it.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might walk behind you and what would make them more likely.
It wants to interact with things
The reason why it walks behind you is likely to be that it wants to sniff things. German Shepherds have a very strong sense of smell and they interact with their environments a lot using their noses. When walking it, there will be many different scents that it will pick up on and it will want to interact with them.
If your German Shepherd does try to sniff things a lot, when on a walk, then I have written more on what you can do about it here.
It might be the case that it goes behind you because you punished for going ahead in the past. If you did then it likely learned that going ahead of you causes it to get punished so now it avoids doing so.
You have made it do so
It could also be the case that you have inadvertently trained it to go behind you. This could be because you punished it for going ahead as mentioned above but it could also be that you have been inadvertently rewarding it when it goes behind you. Ways that you might have been rewarding it could include letting it sniff things or walking it for longer.
It’s being submissive
It might be the case that it goes behind you because it is being submissive.
However, there is research to suggest that dogs don’t actually interact in a hierarchy and they would normally overlap each other and take turns being in front in the wild. So, this would be less likely.
Things to consider
When it started walking behind you
If your German Shepherd didn’t always walk behind you it would help to consider what happened when it started doing so.
Some things that might have happened could be:
- You punished it for walking ahead
- You rewarded it for walking behind
- It learned that it could stop and sniff things freely (read this post to see how to avoid this)
When it does not walk behind you
It would also help to consider if it doesn’t always walk behind you and what is different when it doesn’t do it.
For example, if you notice that it only walks behind you when other dogs are approaching then it might suggest that it gets frightened. I have written more about what you can do in this case here.
How to get your German Shepherd to stop walking behind you
Train it not to with positive reinforcement training
Do this by rewarding it when it walks alongside you and avoiding giving it things that it wants when it goes behind you.
You can also train it to learn the “come” command so that you are able to get it to come back to you whenever it starts lagging behind. I have written about how you can train your German Shepherd to come here.
Avoid punishing it
It might be tempting to punish your German Shepherd for walking behind you but you should avoid doing so. If you do it will not know what you are punishing it for and it could cause it to develop negative feelings towards you.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
While it is important not to punish it for walking behind you it is also important to avoid rewarding it for walking behind you. If you do then it will learn that walking behind you gets it things that it wants.
Instead, it would help to train it to walk beside you by rewarding it when it walks the way that you want it to and training it to come to you when it starts lagging behind.
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Our favorite: The German Shepherd Handbook (on Amazon) - Shows you all you need to know to keep your GSD happy, healthy and well-behaved.