What Does It Mean When a Puppy Keeps Walking in Circles?

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The first time you catch Rocky chasing his tail, you might think it's funny and encourage him to continue walking in circles. Although you perceive your puppy's behavior as innocent, it can escalate into an obsession that can affect his health, well-being and quality of life. Finding out what triggers Rocky's spinning is the first step toward correcting his behavior.

Curiosity and Playfulness

If Rocky chases his tail once in a while, it's most likely because he's trying to figure out what that wiggling thing is that's sticking out from his rear end. It fascinates him and his behavior might just be triggered by curiosity. If your puppy was separated from a litter, he now only has himself to play with and might figure that befriending his tail is the next best thing since it's always there for him when boredom strikes.

Stress and Boredom

Rocky might resort to walking in circles because he's stressed or bored. If he came from an abusive environment or was confined to a small area in which his movement was restricted, stress might cause him to start spinning even after leaving the environment. Also, a lack of exercise can trigger undesired behaviors, such as spinning. Your furry pal has pent-up energy that he needs to release, and if you don't walk him regularly and play with him, he might develop a hard-to-break circling fetish.

Inherited or Medical Condition

Because walking in circles occurs more in certain breeds, it's believed to be an inherited trait. German shepherds and bull terriers, for instance, have a genetic predisposition to spin. A medical condition might also be to blame for Rocky's circling. Allergies, parasites, a skin condition, epilepsy, poor vision, a head injury or pain can all trigger obsessive behaviors. Take him to a veterinarian to rule out medical conditions or to treat them before correcting the behavior.


If your puppy seems obsessed with spinning, avoid encouraging or punishing him, because getting your attention -- even if it's negative -- might be enough reason for him to continue the behavior. Instead, catch him in the act, and then ring a bell to break his concentration. When he stops spinning, give him a dog toy to redirect his attention, or ignore him and walk out of the room. If he follows you and starts circling again, ignore him again. Only praise desired behaviors. Eventually he'll associate his spinning with being ignored and might stop the behavior.