Why Do Dogs Arch Their Backs?

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 04/01/22 •  6 min read
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Why Do Dogs Arch Their Backs

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Dogs sometimes do things differently or act out of character from time to time. Some dogs may arch their backs, like a cat. This is unusual; how can you determine if this is a serious issue or not?

We’ve put together some information about why dogs may arch their backs and what this can mean. Read on to learn more about why dogs do this behavior!

1. Arched Back in the Morning

When they first wake up, many dogs arch their backs in the morning. This is a common thing, and it doesn’t have any serious meaning. So, most of the time, you don’t need to worry about this!

Dogs arch their backs in the morning to stretch and get ready for their day. A nice backstretch is a wonderful way to start the morning!

Dogs may also arch their backs before exercise. This may be later in the day and is completely normal behavior. This is a behavior that comes from the ancient ancestors of our fur babies. Their ancestors were wolves. They also stretch themselves in preparation for fights related to territory and after long hours spent hunting. These behaviors still remain in our dogs today.

However, if your dog’s arching back is accompanied by whining or crying, then there may be something you need to check. There are times when a dog’s arched back can indicate a serious condition.

2. Arched Back When Scared

Another reason that a dog may arch his back is that he may be nervous or scared. It could be the dog is afraid of other dogs or of something in his environment.

Dogs in this situation arch their backs to look smaller and less intimidating. Puppies and younger dogs sometimes arch their backs for this reason. This may happen when they first meet other canines.

In addition, dogs that are nervous may sometimes arch their backs. They may do this when meeting unfamiliar dogs in the park or other areas. This may help them avoid fights.

What’s more, arching of the back may also come with other symptoms of nervousness or fear. These may include tucking their tail, lowering their head, avoiding eye contact, or making a quick retreat.

These reasons for back arching in dogs are not serious; however, they do indicate a fearful, anxious, or stressed dog. If you believe your dog suffers from an anxiety disorder, then it’s time to make an appointment with the vet to have your fur baby checked.

3. Arched Back Due to Breed

There are some dog breeds that are born with arched backs. In this case, the arched backs are completely normal for the dogs. The Greyhound dog breed is one that’s born with an arched back. These dogs are made for speed and agility. Their arched backs give them an advantage when it comes to speed.

A Greyhound’s arched back acts something like a spring when the dog is running. The spring action makes the dog run even faster, especially at higher speeds. However, some Greyhounds do develop back problems from racing, and it can be challenging to determine if their arched back is causing pain or not.

4. Health Conditions Can Cause an Arched Back

Some health conditions can cause an arched back; these health issues can be pretty serious and even threaten a dog’s life. If your dog all of a sudden starts arching his back, then call the vet immediately. It could be an emergency, and your dog may need medical treatment now.

Most dog breeds, when they’re healthy, have a straight back. The back should be in alignment from their shoulders to their tail. If there’s a problem, such as an arched back, this may be a sign the dog has a serious health condition and could be in a lot of pain.

A dog may arch his back in most cases because he’s in great pain. The arching may help relieve the pain somewhat. If your dog is arching his back, be sure to pay attention and notice if he’s showing any other symptoms.

Here are some medical conditions that may cause an arched back in dogs:


The dog’s head and tail may hang low, accompanied by limping and lameness. This condition seems to be more common in older dogs, though it can also affect younger dogs. The problem is an abnormal curvature of the spine, called kyphosis. The condition can be caused by trauma inherited from the parents, and more. It’s more common in French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, and Pugs.

Other Conditions

There are also other medical conditions that can lead to arched backs in dogs, including:

You may notice the arched back accompanied by other symptoms, including:

If your dog suddenly starts arching his back and/or shows other symptoms, then call the vet immediately. This could be an emergency. It’s best not to wait and see if your dog’s symptoms improve or worsen. He may need medical treatment now.

What to Do About Your Dog’s Arching Back

The main issue is whether or not it’s normal for your dog to arch his back. If he’s only stretching in the morning or when he may be confronted by another dog, this may be normal behavior.

However, if your dog’s arched back is accompanied by other symptoms, such as those listed in the last section, then it’s time to call the vet. The concern is that your dog could have an underlying health issue causing him to arch his back. Many of these conditions are painful and life-threatening. So, it’s important to call the vet right away.

Anytime your dog is in pain, it’s time to see the vet, too. The vet can do an assessment to determine if your dog has a health issue and what that may be. They can do tests and imaging to see what’s going on.

Summing It Up

Some dog breeds have arched backs normally (such as the Greyhound), and other dogs arch their backs for various reasons. Some of these are stretching or reacting to another dog. However, a dog with an arched back that seems to be in pain or show other symptoms must be checked by the vet.

So, be sure to call the vet right away to have your canine companion checked out ASAP!

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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.