Dog Behavior: Walking in Circles

by Adrienne Farricelli Google
If Rover is going around in circles, you have a problem.

If Rover is going around in circles, you have a problem.

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Dogs are opportunistic animals with a purpose and have much better things to do than engaging in aimless wandering for most of the day. If your dog is walking in circles and getting nowhere, most likely there is a problem. However, as much as walking in circles may appear like a pointless activity, at times it may actually have a functional purpose for your canine companion.

Physical Causes

If your dog has always displayed normal behavior and now is suddenly walking in circles, take him to the veterinarian. Indeed, the circling behavior may stem from a secondary medical problem. Pain, discomfort or itching in the tail area, hind legs or back end may trigger a bout of circling and tail chasing. Potential causes for what may appear to be a pointless behavior may be pesky parasites, skin infections and anal gland problems.

Neurological Causes

If Rover appears in a trance, almost as if he's in another world and totally ignores your plea to stop circling, he may be dealing with a nervous system disorder that's not under his control. Sometimes seizures or other forms of brain dysfunction may be at the heart of the problem, according to DVM360.com. Other possibilities are head trauma, an infection of the middle ear and distemper.

Behavior Causes

If your dog is repeatedly walking in circles without a purpose, he may be suffering from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. Yes, dogs can have OCD, but don't worry; Rover most likely will not be stuck on the psychiatrist's couch. Anti-anxiety medication along with a behavior modification program may help your pup learn a substitute behavior for the obsessive-compulsive one.

Other Causes

As much as dogs appear to be domesticated, they may still exhibit behaviors reminiscent of their past in the wild. If Rover is walking in several circles before lying down, he is most likely doing so because his ancestors had to stamp down grass, leaves or snow to create a comfy place to sleep. Some high-strung fellows may also run in circles when they are frustrated or aroused, and puppies seem to enjoy an occasional game of spinning in circles while chasing their tail. While the occasional circling behavior is most likely not pathological unless it starts interfering with your dog's life, don't fuel this behavior with any form of attention. Otherwise, you may be stuck in a "vicious circle" that may be difficult to eradicate.

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About the Author

Adrienne Farricelli has been a writer since 2005, serving as an editor, steward and writer for several online publications. She brings expertise in canine topics, previously working with the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification as a dog trainer from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Farricelli offers reward-based training and behavior consults at Rover's Ranch Home Boarding and Training.

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