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Dog Dragging Its Paws? How to Help

Any change in your dog’s gait, the way it walks, or places its paw on the ground should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention. A dragging paw can indicate an injury or medical condition impacting a dog’s spinal cord, nerves, or mobility.

A dragging paw, also known as knuckling, may happen occasionally, only when your dog is tired, or happen every time your dog takes a step. Regardless of the frequency, if your dog is walking differently, it’s time to see the vet. When a dog’s proprioception is impaired, it’s an indication that there is an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed.

What causes a dog to drag its paw?

Staffordshire Terrier Front Paw Knuckling

Typically, a dog will drag its paw due to an injury or condition that impacts its motor function. Some possible causes of knuckling in dogs include:

  • Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
  • Spinal stroke
  • Nerve trauma or injury
  • Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI)
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
  • Neurological disorders
  • Orthopedic problems

Signs of knuckling in dogs:

  • Scuffing their paws while walking
  • Uneven wearing of nails
  • Scrapes on the back or front paw.
  • Standing or walking on top of the paw
Paw Knuckling in Senior Dogs infographic

Is your dog showing any signs of knuckling? If so, it’s time to visit the veterinarian. Take note of your dog’s symptoms, how often the occur, and any other changes in your dog’s gait. The more information you can provide your veterinarian, the better.

What do I do first?

Zoey from Valley Animal Rehabilitation sporting sunglasses and leg wraps

If your dog is dragging its paws, it needs to be seen by a veterinarian. Your vet needs to examine, diagnose, and treat your dog. After you know the cause and best way to help your dog, ask your vet about canine rehabilitation.

A rehab specialist will work with your dog to manage your dog’s knuckling. Depending on your dog’s diagnosis, a CCRP will work your dog through therapeutic exercises to help manage, lessen, or even stop your dog’s dragging feet.

Assistive devices to aid dragging paws

A No-Knuckling Training Sock is a great training tool to help improve a dog’s paw placement. Available for the front or back leg, the No-Knuckling Training Sock can be used for 2 to 5 minutes to stimulate a dog’s withdrawal reflex and teach them how to place their paw correctly.

How does it help?

The No-Knuckling Training Sock can be worn to help teach your dog to pick up their back or front paw while walking. The cord of the training sock sits between your dogs two center toes. When the cord is gently tightened the dog’s natural withdrawal reflex is initiated causing them to lift their foot of the ground. This can look like an exaggerated step and some pets will lift their legs high off the ground before placing it back down, this is totally normal.

For best results, have your pet wear the training sock for the first two to five minutes of the walk and than remove. Remember, wearing the training sock is quite a workout and your dog will need breaks in between each session. Even after it’s removed, many pets will still show an improvement in their paw placement!

Benefits of the No-Knuckling Training Sock

  • It’s Lightweight – most dogs that drag their paws also experience some leg weakness, using lightweight materials the training sock will help your pet without weighing them down.
  • Offers Joint Support – each training sock features elastic straps that sit above and below the joint, this offers additional joint support as your dog exercises.
  • Enhances proprioception – the sock encourages your dog to lift its foot up off the ground while walking.


To help your dog that drags its front or back paw, speak to your veterinarian, put in the time with a canine rehab specialist to improve your dog’s paw placement, and get a No-Knuckling Training Sock.


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