I have a 5 month old golden retriever who, like all puppies, is a real mixture of fun, frustration, hard work and just plain oddness.
Her name is Flo.
If you look on the right, she is playing “piggy in the middle” with my other two goldens.
And one of the odd things about her is how she curves her body to one side in certain situations.
I have two older golden retrievers who I didn’t think curved their bodies at all.
But after a bit of research and some thought I realised that they also move their body into a “U” shape but it is just more subtle.
Most things in life are much more subtle than a puppy, don’t you think
And so I thought that I would do a bit of research to find out why this is.
A curved body is a sign of submission
My days of walking around a park with my head in the clouds are well and truly over.
Having two very well behaved adult dogs means that I can go for dog walks and switch off because I know that if my dogs will ever be a few metres from me.
They aren’t really interested in other dogs or other people.
That all changed about two months ago when Flo started going out in public.
And although it took her a few trips to warm up, now she is on the lookout for any dog within a 100 metre radius.
She shoots off at an excited canter and as she approaches the dog…
she spins her body sideways…
before curving her body…
Before falling on the floor and rolling over.
This isn’t just pure excitement from a dog that can’t control her body, the curved and sideways is a sign of submission: that she wants to play with the other dog, not attack it.
- Sylvie with bigger dogs- not smaller ones.
A curved body is a sign of an apology
I have also seen Flo adopt this body shape when she wants to make an apology and say sorry.
Flo gets on incredibly well with the younger of our two older dogs: Sylvie.
They spend a long time each day playing with each other.
But as much as Sylvie loves Flo there are limits.
And unfortunately these are normally stick or ball shaped.
Sylvie can get a bit jealous over these things and if Flo yanks her chain too much when there is a ball or stick close, then Sylvie will snap at Flo.
There is no contact and Sylvie doesn’t warn to hurt Flo she just needs to be told “enough, already!
And Flo’s reaction is to jump back and adopt the C or U shape body position.
A curved body is a sign of excitement
As I have already mentioned, Flo and Sylvie play a lot.
And when they move around and play, they face each other sideways with their body’s slightly curved.
This is an amazing sight to behold in a large open space because they run at pace diagonally.
They aren’t looking where they are going, their heads are bent but they are looking at each other.
 Why do puppy’s walk with curvy bodies?
puppies walk with their body’s slightly, bums swaggering- particularly down a hill.
When puppies are jogging or running along, their bodies quite often “curve”.
At times they seem to run on a diagonal and this look reminds me of a bendy bus- one of those long buses with two halves and a flexible middle.
I’m not sure if it is a coordination problem- is this simply a case that the front legs of a puppy are stronger than the back legs or vice versa and that they move at different rates causing a puppy’s body to bend.
This leads nicely onto my next example, old dogs and “u” shaped bodies.
A curved body can be a sign of old age
Just as puppies can suffer from coordination issues so can old dogs.
And I have seen this with my 15 year old golden retriever, Bumps.
Her back legs are getting weaker over time which means that her front legs are much more powerful and this causes an in balance.
On flat ground this isn’t noticeable but when she walks on a downward slope, her back legs don’t stay in line with her front legs.
They swing round a bit to the left giving her body a curled “U” shape.
This is one of many signs of old age in dogs and some of those signs are painful.
Carry on with this melancholy theme, in my next section I want to look at why dogs who have ear infections hold their body to one side.
A curved body is a sign of an ear infection
A symptom of an inner ear infection in your dog could be that they end up bending and curling their bodies.
Particularly if your dog has a severe ear infection.
This is because a dog’s inner ear plays an important role in their balance.
Tubes within the inner ear are filled with fluid that tells a dog’s brain where their body is and which direction it is facing.
A severe infection could cause your dog to lose this communication between brain and body.
Curving their bodies to one side or holding them in a C shape isn’t the only strange way that dogs hold their backs.
Another position is when a dog arches their back.
A curved body is a sign of a physical injury
As well as old age, there are other unfortunate reasons that a dog might bend their bodies.
And that is because of an injury or illness.
A curved body might highlight any number of illnesses or injuries.
Arching the back is a way for a dog to minimise the pain and discomfort.
They are trying to put their back in a different position.
Some of the most common are back pain, spinal pain and abdominal pain.
Pain isn’t the only reason that dogs arch their backs.
Some dog breeds are born with arched or curved backs.
And this isn’t a birth defect but it is a deliberate physical trait for some breeds
Breeds with arched backs
Dogs who are born with arched backs have a very distinctive look.
But why would dogs have arched backs?
It is to do with speed.
An arched back (together with other traits such as long legs) provides a dog with immense speed.
Below I have provided a list of a few dog breeds that have arched back and these breeds are some of the fastest dog breeds on the planet.
They are more Usain Bolt than Eliud Kipchoge.
They have blistering pace only over a few hundred metres- they can’t keep running all day.
And thinking logically about the shape of a dog with an arched back, they are shaped like a spring.
And springs have incredible acceleration- they are designed to go from being shut to open in the blink of an eye
I bet that you can name a few of the breeds on my list but hopefully some of them will come as a surprise.
- Italian Greyhounds
- Scottish Deerhound
- Pharaoh Hound
Dogs shaping their bodies in strange ways aren’t the only weird movements that we might see with our dogs.
And in the final section, I want to briefly discuss another one.
Why is my dog walking with her tail sideways?
If a dog’s whole body shape and position can tell us a lot about how a dog is behaving then looking at how they hold their tails can also be very informative.
I have written another blog post about why dogs walk with their tails sideways and there are a few different reasons for this.
- a dog needing their anal sacs checked
- a female who is in heat
- a dog who is feeling very happy or very scared
- A dog who has physically injured their tail.