If your dog has been walking in circles, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible reasons why your dog walks in circles and what you can do to get your dog to stop doing it.

So, why does my dog walk in circles? Possible reasons why your dog walks in circles are that it is anxious, it has an obsessive-compulsive disorder, someone mistreated it or it is fearful, a medical condition or it might have learned that the behavior is rewarded.

Since there are multiple possible causes, it would help to consider what would make each of them more likely. Once you have a good idea of the cause, it should become easier to figure out what you should do about it.

Why your dog walks in circles

Below are a number of reasons why your dog might have been walking in circles and what would make them more likely to be the main reason.

It’s anxious

It could be the case that it has been doing it because something has been causing it to be anxious. This would be more likely if it started doing it more after a stressful event such as an owner leaving or another pet dying.

It would also be more likely if it does it in certain situations such as when a certain person is around or when you are about to leave which would suggest separation anxiety.

Obsessive-compulsive behavior

It could be the case that your dog has been doing it compulsively which is where it feels an irresistible urge to do it and it can’t stop doing it. This would be more likely if your dog has been pacing or walking in circles excessively over the course of weeks or months. You can look here for more information about compulsive behavior in dogs.

You have inadvertently rewarded the behavior

A part of the reason could be that it has learned that it gets rewards when it does it. If you tend to give it things such as toys, treats or extra attention when it paces, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards. This would be more likely if it tends to get excited when it walks in circles.

Instead, it would help to reward it when it is being well behaved and to learn to recognize when it is likely to start doing it and to redirect its behavior.

Someone has mistreated it or it is fearful

The cause could be that someone mistreated.

This would be more likely if you recently adopted it from a shelter. If you did recently adopt it then it would be likely that it will begin to calm down as it gets comfortable. However, it would help to have a vet check on it and to give it lots of positive attention in the form of training, exercise and by playing with it.

It could also be the case that someone mistreated it recently which would be more likely if it has started doing it suddenly and if it tries to avoid a certain person.

It has a medical condition

There are some medical conditions that could be causing it such as dementia (source). This would be more likely if it started acting unusually in other ways as well such as by pulling to one side when on a leash.

If it does seem like your dog might have a medical condition then the best option would be to take it to a vet.

Things to consider

Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.

When your dog first started walking in circles or pacing

If your dog has not always paced or walked in circles, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it.

If it started walking in circles suddenly it would be more likely to be due to things such as being anxious, being mistreated, an ear infection or another medical condition.

If it has always walked in circles or paced and the vet has never found issues, it could be due to separation anxiety, getting rewarded when it does it or it could be an obsessive-compulsive behavior.

When it tends to walk in circles or pace

It would also help to consider if there is a certain time that your dog tends to do it.

If it tends to do it more when you are about to leave home it would make it more likely to be because it has separation anxiety. Whereas, if it does it more when a certain person is around it could be that it feels uncomfortable around that person for some reason.

How to get your dog to stop walking in circles

Below are some options you have when dealing with your dog walking in circles.

Take it to a vet

If you are not able to figure out the cause, it has been behaving abnormally in other ways or it has been doing it excessively, the best option would be to take it to a vet. By doing so, you will be able to get expert advice tailored towards your particular dog and to hopefully rule out medical causes.

Avoid encouraging it

As mentioned above, it could be the case that you have encouraged the behavior by giving it things that it wants when it does it. Instead, it would help to reward it when it behaves the way you want and to try to recognize when it is likely to start doing it and to redirect its focus on to something else.

Take it for annual checkups

It is also important to take your dog for checkups at the vet at least annually. By doing so you will be able to identify and treat diseases before they become problematic.

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I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.