My Dog is Restless And Won’t Sit Still – What’s Going On?

If your dog is restless and won’t sit still it means, it means they’re currently not content. Remember, a content dog is a relaxed dog. A restless dog is a stressed dog. But just because your dog isn’t content doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong as the owner.

No dog is completely relaxed 100% of the time. Sometimes dogs get stressed about things that are out of your control.

Several things could cause your dog to become restless, but they can all be broken down into two categories.

  1. Behavioral
  2. Medical

The problem is it can be hard to determine the difference between the two. For example, a dog in pain can demonstrate the same type of restlessness as a dog that has separation anxiety.

In this article, we will start by going over the most common medical causes for restlessness, followed by behavioral causes.

Medical Causes For Restlessness in Dogs

A few of the following medical causes are simple to self-diagnose. However, many of them are impossible to self-diagnose.

If you suspect your dog might be suffering from restlessness and not sitting still because of a medical condition, it’s best to schedule a trip to the vet as soon as possible—every second matters when it comes to medical conditions.

Pain

Pain is one of the most common reasons a dog won’t sit still. The problem is dogs do their best to hide the pain. From a survival standpoint, it makes sense. If a predator was able to notice their pain, the dog would be easy lunch.

If your dog isn’t showing any physical signs of pain (limping or favoring a particular leg), then you’ll need to watch for a change in behavior. Do they growl or seem agitated when you go to pet them? Do they seem depressed? Did they stop eating? All these could be signs of pain.

Fleas

Fleas are incredibly annoying for dogs. When a dog has a bad case of fleas, they’ll continuously move around because of the itching. Think about it like this, when you have an itch, do you just sit there, or do you scratch it? Fleas cause constant irritation for dogs, which makes it impossible to sit still.

Worms

Worms will make your dog restless the same way fleas do. Worms typically cause extreme discomfort and itching. In some cases, they can even cause pain. The good news is worms are easily treatable, and as long as they’re treated promptly, they won’t cause any long term harm.

Dementia

If you have an elderly dog, they may have dementia. Dementia is a disease that causes a decline in memory and brain function. Dogs that suffer from dementia may no longer have an accurate sleep/wake cycle. This means when they should be sleeping, they’ll be up walking around.

Poison

Dogs are constantly getting into things they shouldn’t get into. Years back, we had a problem with mice. Our solution was to put out little pellets of mouse poison in the garage. Since our dog never goes into the garage, we didn’t think twice about it.

Unfortunately, one day our dog got into the garage unsupervised and ate some of the poison. He became restless, and we quickly realized what happened. Thankfully we got him to the vet in time, and he made a full recovery.

The point is, this can happen to even the most responsible dog owner. If your dog won’t sit still, ask yourself if they could have eaten anything poisonous.

Liver Disease

Liver disease will usually cause a dog to become lethargic, but in some cases, it can cause a dog to become restless. If you’re worried about liver disease, watch for other symptoms, including an unstable walk, vomiting, weight loss, and a loss of appetite. If your dog isn’t showing any other signs/symptoms, they most likely don’t have liver disease.

Losing Eyesight

The unfortunate truth is that it’s common for dogs to rapidly lose their eyesight as they get older. They may go from having perfect vision one day, to not being able to see the next day. This will cause anxiety, and an anxious dog won’t sit still. Take a close look at your dog’s eyes. Do they seem cloudy? If so, they might have vision loss.

Cushing’s Disease

This is a fairly common disease in middle age to elderly dogs. When a dog suffers from Cushing’s disease, their body overproduces the cortisol steroid hormone. Treatment is required, but most dogs can live a comfortable 3+ years with this disease. Many dogs pass away from old age before cushing’s disease takes their life.

Brain Tumor

Brain tumors can cause your dog to become restless. However, this is accompanied by many other signs, including tumors, trembling, loss of vision, and loss of hearing.

There are an endless amount of medical issues that could cause your dog to become restless. The ones listed above are the most common. As always, if you suspect something might be medically wrong, it’s best to schedule a very appointment as soon as possible.

Behavioral Causes For Restlessness in Dogs

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is extremely common in dogs, especially smaller breeds. The big misconception about separation anxiety is that it only happens when the dog is alone. Although that might be the case at times, it’s not always the case.

Some dogs attach to one specific person, and if that person is gone, they’ll have separation anxiety no matter how many other people are home. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, that could be a big reason why they won’t sit still.

Fear/Stress

Dogs that are afraid or stressed aren’t going to sit still. Their fight or flight instincts are kicking in. The restlessness is because they’re getting ready to either fight or run.

Built-Up Energy

Some dogs don’t require much exercise. Other dogs require a lot more than you’d think! Breeds such as boxers and labs need to have plenty of time running around each day to release their energy. If they are unable to release their energy, there’s no chance they’ll sit still during the day.

Not Enough Mental Stimulation

Even low energy dogs need mental stimulation. If you believe your dog isn’t getting enough mental stimulation, the good news is that there are plenty of games you can buy to provide “hands-free” mental stimulation for your dog.

It’s great to use these games when you leave for work, and your dog will be home alone. Give them a new game to play with each day of the week, so they never get bored.

Caught on a Scent

We used to have a Beagle, and when he would get caught on a scent, there was no stopping him. Dogs that are caught on a scent (especially hounds or hunting dogs) won’t sit still until they either find what they’re sniffing or get distracted by something else (usually a different scent).

Ready to Mate

If a male dog is around a female dog in heat, he will become restless and won’t sit still until he can see the female dog. If you’re not trying to breed your dogs, it’s best to keep the dogs in different households until the female dog is no longer in heat.

Need to Go to The Bathroom

Which one of us can genuinely sit still when we need to go to the bathroom? None of us! If your dog is housetrained, they won’t go to the bathroom inside. But all the moving around and restlessness might be their way of telling you they need to go potty.

They’re Keeping Something Safe

Dogs are protective over their belongings…especially bones or treats. Have you ever given your dog a treat, and they immediately went to hide it? My dog does this all the time. I’ll give him a treat, and then a week later I find it between the couch cushions.

If your dog is pacing, it could be because they hid a treat or a bone near that area and now they’re protecting it. They need to make sure none of the humans get to it!

A Case of The Zoomies

All dogs get a case of the zoomies every once in a while. This is when the dog feels an uncontrollable need to run around for no reason at all. If you’ve ever watched your dog get a case of the zoomies, you know how entertaining it can be.

It’s a Learned Habit

They may have been restless once or twice in the past and saw how much attention it got them. Now they might be in the habit of pacing around when they want attention. Yup, dogs can be drama queens!

Article Summary: My Dog is Restless And Won't Sit Still

When your dog is restless and won’t sit still, it usually means something is “off.” A content dog is relaxed. A stressed dog is restless. Many things could cause restlessness in dogs. They can all be broken down into two categories.

  1. Medical
  2. Behavioral

If you think something might be medically wrong, be sure to schedule an appointment with the vet as soon as possible.

Recommended For You