Why Does My Dog Walk Around Me In Circles?
[The Definitive Guide]

By kropek2021. • Updated June 29, 2021

As dog owners, we know that our dog’s behavior is a clear indication of what they are undergoing physically or mentally. Walking in circles is generally considered normal behavior in dogs before lying down or performing excretory activities. But, if you notice your dog displaying this behavior frequently while biting their tails or unable to settle down, it may require looking into it.

Excessive walking in circles by your dog can be a health issue and needs checking into by a registered veterinarian. I took Molly (My Golden Retriever) to the vet for this same behavior. Before we get into the details of Molly’s case, let’s discuss the most commonly found factors that prompt your dog to walk in circles.

Identification of the Cause

Surprisingly, there can be a list of reasons behind your dog’s odd behavior of walking in circles. Let’s get into each of them in detail.

Anxiety or Stress Issues

Dog’s require mental and physical stimulation on a regular basis. The absence of these entities can lead to boredom and a build-up of stress. Dogs facing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are also susceptible to showcase this behavior.

If your dog is new to your home and surroundings, this can be another trigger for anxiety. They will need time to settle in and adapt to the new conditions. Engaging your dogs in regular walks and physical activities along with specific cognitive stimulation via games and toys can be productive in easing anxiety or stress.

Infections and Diseases

If your dog suffers from ear infections, it can cause severe discomfort for them making them walk in circles. You may observe them scratching their ears often, and their ears would look red and produce odor. 

Infection from other parasites can also trigger a similar outcome. Anal gland infections can make them round around in circles while trying to bite their tail.

Some of the commonly found diseases that lead to this issue are given below.

  • Neosporosis: A parasitic disease spread via raw meat and animal feces can be potentially fatal for canines.
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): An immune system disorder found mainly in breeds like Afghan hounds, Beagles, German Shepherds, Poodles, etc.
  • Distemper: If your buddy shows signs like excess nasal discharge, incoordination, aggression, or excess thirst, they’re probably suffering from Distemper.

These infections and diseases require immediate medical supervision by a vet and a prescription of necessary antibiotics. Never perform self-medication as that could worsen your dog’s ailment.

Bodily Injuries

Dogs suffering from a head injury show specific symptoms like pupil dilation, loss of appetite, and barking/whining with pain when patted on the head, followed by walking in circles. If the dog shows any of the above symptoms, immediate medical diagnosis and treatment are mandatory

Any damage to your dog’s neurological system caused by these injuries can lead to incoordination and cause them to walk in circles. This condition is followed by weaker eyesight and focus in dogs. Their sense of direction will also take a toll in this case.

Arthritis is another condition that prompts dogs to circle before they lay down. They perform this action due to the stiffness of muscles.

Canine Vestibular Syndrome

This condition is usually found in aged dogs. Their ear balance declines with age and many other factors like injuries, nutritional deficiencies, abnormal tissue growth, and so on. Severe incoordination can be seen when a dog is suffering from this syndrome. 

Molly used to slip and fall without any external stimulus, and we used to get worried. We took no chance with self-treatment and took her to the vet as this condition lingered on further. Luckily, our dog had nutritional deficiencies, and our vet prescribed a few supplements. She was back to her best in two weeks. 

Excessive drooling, poor head posture, and walking in circles are some of the other symptoms of Vestibular Syndrome.

These were some of the critical factors that can cause your dog to walk excessively in circles. Once you identify the trigger, you can then devise specific remedies and preventive actions to avoid future situations.

Preventive Measures and Remedies

In this section, we will talk about some practical actions you as a pet owner can take to avoid/stop your buddy from walking in circles.

  • Maintain a solid ear hygiene regimen in your dog. Regular cleaning of the dog’s ears will help keep injuries, mites, and excess wax generation at bay.
  • If your dog has an inherent OCD condition, engage them in obedience training and positive reinforcements to gradually tone down anxiety-induced symptoms like walking in circles.
  • Schedule regular checkups with the vet. This measure helps in the early diagnosis of issues with the dog’s vision, hearing, coordination, lumps, or injuries.
  • Engage your dog in physical activities like walks, jogs, outdoor games. This action keeps boredom and loneliness away and reduces the chances of health-related problems.
  • Dog puzzles and toys help take care of your buddy’s cognitive capabilities and act as a preventer against Vestibular syndrome. 
  • Dog therapy and socialization with other dogs/puppies is an effective way to curb anxiety and stress. Choosing the right program to calm and soothe your troubled friend can go a long way in preventing the issue of walking in circles.
  • If your dog is diagnosed with Dementia, take extra caution so that your dog does not get injured by hitting on sharp objects. Ensure their surroundings are safe and secure.
  • Never indulge in self-treatment of dogs in case of parasitic attacks or infections. Consult a vet immediately, and they would be the better judge to prescribe the right painkillers and antibiotics that are safe for your dog.
  • In case your dog tends to bite their tail often, it is more than likely that they are suffering from anal gland infection. Take the help of a professional dog groomer or a vet technician. They will be able to clean the anal glands and provide the apt medication. If this is not taken care of, dogs tend to ‘scoot’ on the carpet/floor, and this action can aggravate the infected area.

Identifying the cause and corresponding medical remedy is critical in resolving this issue, which can be the difference between your beloved dog’s life and death.

False Positives

On many occasions, the dog behavior of walking in circles does not need to be a cause of concern. Dogs walk or run around in circles due to a variety of reasons, such as:

Excitement

Your dog can get high in excitement seeing you back from work or after a few days. This emotion can lead to them running in circles as a display of affection towards their owners.

Genetics or Breed

The dog’s breed does have a role to play in the “walking in circles” behavior. Certain breeds tend to showcase this aspect more in comparison to others.

For instance, Bull Terriers have an inherent compulsion to chase after their tails in circles. A few herding breeds like the Australian Shepherds often tend to run around their families without any particular triggers.

Circling Prior to Laying Down

 Dogs often circle before they lay down on the floor due to the reasons given below.

  • To get comfy before their naps, they circle to remove unwanted bugs or debris from their napping points.
  • Wild dogs in hot and humid conditions circle to create a cooler layer of inner soil to sleep on. This action also helps them in maintaining stable body heat during the nap.
  • Dogs circle around to identify the direction of wind blowing. This calculation will allow them to get the scent of potential prey or predators approaching in their direction. A quick response can be initiated if they sense the smell as the earliest. Circling can aid their defense or offense in the wild.

Conclusion

Molly seldom walks in circles these days, and we are relieved. But as described in this article, dogs can walk in circles due to a plethora of reasons, right from genetics to neurological disorders. As responsible pet owners, we have to be observant and accurate in identifying the exact triggers and finding the corresponding remedy to rid our dogs of their troubles.

Many times, dogs also run around in circles as part of their irrational behavior. This behavior is not a reason to panic. Nevertheless, ensure that your dog gets medical checkups regularly. Like my dog’s case, early detection and treatment can resolve the issue once and for all. We hope you found this article of value.