Collie Zig-Zagging while out walking (weird behavior)

Collies will often zig-zag from side to side while out walking. This is common and though irritating whilst on a leash it is harmless behavior. It’s possible to train the quirk of zig-zagging out of your collie if it’s bothering you.

There are several reasons your collie may be zig-zagging from side to side out a walk. This article will explore them and also outline ways to prevent this odd and often annoying behavior.

Here is a video of Luna zig-zagging when she’s out for a walk

Why does my collie zig-zag from side to side?

There are a few reasons your collie may zig-zag out a walk. The potential reasons for this odd behavior are explained below.

1: To track Scents

A collies sense of smell can be up to 10,000 times stronger than us humans and as a result your collie may surge forwards, zoom backwards and race from side to side to track interesting smells.

Collies process the majority of information through their nose rather than their eyes. This literally results in them following their nose oblivious of the result of them becoming a trip hazard. Your collie is committed to tracking scents and will think nothing of tripping you up in the process.

To a collie, all this sniffing and smelling is how they keep up with the latest happenings in the neighbourhood. It is essentially their social media and just like humans, your collie simply cant resist consuming all the local gossip.

2: Instinct of Herding

Collies have a high herding instinct and their zig zagging may be a way for them to heard you in their favoured direction.

Collies are exceptionally smart and if they can use zig zagging to their advantage to herd their human owners in a favoured direction be assured they will.

3: they are worried or anxious

Your collie may be over stimulated on their walk and might even suffer acute anxiety with an overload of sights, sounds and smells.

Collies have a reputation for being highly strung and may be nervous on walks.

Fearful or anxious collies may zig zag erratically as opposed to walking in a calm, straighter line.

4: They are excited

For a collie, going a walk is the most exciting part of the day! They may be so excited they pull and zig zag from side to side completely oblivious to their human at the other end of the leash.

They feel the need to sniff every blade of grass as though their life depends on it and will frantically charge from side to side to find the next interesting smell.

Your collie may be so excited to go a walk they experience sensory overload and they find it difficult to remain calm. They will rampage from side to side to sniff those oh so exciting smells with no regard for their surroundings.

Luna can get very excited out walks and zig-zag about like a zany wee zipper.

How to stop my collie zig zagging

For owners, the zig zag can be infuriating and make walking a stressful experience. However, collies are smart and can be trained quickly to walk nicely on a leash. Below are ways the prevent the dreaded zig zag.

1: Keep your dog on one side of you

Choose which side you want your collie to walk on and stick to it. Keeping your collie on the same side creates consistency for your dog and they know what behavior is expected out a walk.

Reward your collie for walking close to you with high value treats and stop walking immediately if your collie starts to cross in front of you. Your collie will catch on that the walk will only continue if they stick to one side although this may take some time.

Remember, patience is key and collies do not respond to a heavy hand. Collies are people pleasers and practicing walking on one side will lead to more enjoyable walks for you and your pooch.

2: Train them to walk to heel

Taking time to teach your collie to walk to heel will be time well spent. This will be invaluable if walking in crowded areas or new areas with a lot of distractions where its critical your collie does not zig zag into danger.

If you’re in the infancy of heel training, its crucial you have a high quality collar or harness that your dog can not break away from you if they unexpectedly pull in a certain direction. This is especially important if you are walking next to a busy road where there is a possibility your collie may pull towards moving vehicles.

However, on your collies regular walks allow them some freedom away from the heel position to explore scents as this will be excellent mental stimulation for them. Remember, sniffing and smelling is your collies equivalent to WhatsApp and browsing the internet so allowing them the chance to engage their nose is important.

3: Use a short lead and avoid distractions

You can prevent your collie zig zagging by using a high quality short leash. Practice loose leash walking in a familiar area with little distractions. Praise your collie and provide high value treats as they follow your body language in walk in a forward motion.

If your collie begins to cross your path, stop walking and use a high value treat to lure them back to their original position at your side. Collies are smart and will soon realize they get rewarded for walking in a straight line.

If you are just beginning your anti zig-zag campaign, its a good idea to buy some reflective tape for your dogs collar and leash. This means that during those early training days when your collie inevitably zig-zags in front of pedestrians, drivers or cyclists, your dog is highly visible and may prevent unnecessary fatalities.

About the author:

About the author:

Hollie and Border Collie

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

I'm an experienced collie owner from Scotland. I started Colliepedia to share everything I know about collies. All the pictures you see on colliepedia are of my beloved collie Luna

Learn More about me and Luna's story on the about page!