The primary reason your dog walks in circles around you is because of herding instincts. This is especially true if your dog is a herding breed. Other reasons your dog is walking in circles around you include excitement, seeking attention, and anxiety. This behavior can be corrected with proper training.
It’s no surprise when I say dogs display a number of odd behaviors. But have you ever stopped to question why dogs act the way they do sometimes? One of the strangest things some dogs do is walk in circles around their owner.
This guide is split up into three sections. The first section will go over why dogs walk in circles around their owners. The second section will go over whether or not this behavior is problematic. Finally, in the third section, you’ll learn how to put an end to this strange behavior (if it’s becoming a problem).
Why Dogs Walk In Circles Around Their Owners
Many dogs have an instinct to herd or gather. Common breeds for this behavior include collies, corgis, sheepdogs, and shepherds. Often, they will chase and nip at the heels of other animals or their humans while circling. This behavior is natural for certain breeds but can be stopped with proper training.
You may find your dog circling you because they want your attention. This may be in a playful manner or letting you know they have a need (such as hunger).
Your dog may see this as a way to get a response from you when other methods haven’t worked. If you believe your dog is circling you for attention. It’s important to not reward their behavior. Instead, ignore the circling and redirect their behavior with a command such as “sit”.
If you only respond when your pup is circling, you will teach them that circling is how to get what they need from you. When you ignore the circling, they’ll realize it’s not an effective way to get your attention
This behavior can be frustrating and unsafe, so be sure you address it with redirection and training.
Your dog may circle you out of excitement. This can happen when they know it’s mealtime or when you arrive home after being gone for an extended period.
This is a way for your dog to express their excitement to see you and be in your presence. This can also happen when they hear their favorite bag of treat or their favorite toy. This is a natural expression of happiness.
You may find your dog is displaying dominance in their circling. This is natural for some dogs (especially alpha dogs), but is one that requires intervention. Through proper training and immediately addressing the behavior, you can redirect to build a healthy relationship and loyalty with your pup.
When Circling Becomes a Concern
If your dogs pacing and circling seems abnormal (you know your dog best), there may be a more serious health concern going on. Any time your dog’s behavior suddenly changes, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your vet. In some situations, circling may be a symptom of more significant concern.
Anxiety causes abnormal behavior in dogs. Whether it’s from a new person in the home, an over stimulated environment, car rides, or loud noises…many things can cause anxiety.
If you’ve adopted a dog with past trauma, you may find them more anxious in what would be normal circumstances for other pups.
Loud noises (such as fireworks or yelling) can also cause your dog to become anxious and on edge.
This can trigger a disorder that makes circling a way for them to cope. Be sure to comfort your dog if you see this happening. It’s also important to know their triggers so you can prevent them from happening again in the future.
The liver can cause damage to the nerves that may result in your dog pacing or circling.
When the liver is damaged, it also causes a buildup of toxins in the body (since the liver can’t eliminate the toxins). A buildup of toxins can cause odd behavior, such as circling.
Head pressing is another behavior that can result from damage to the nerves. Notify your veterinarian if you notice these behaviors.
Like humans, dogs can develop dementia as they age. This is typically seen in senior dogs and affects the brain. Circling, along with an inability to respond to commands, can come from being disoriented.
Dementia is a progressive illness that is best guided by your veterinarian. If your dog has dementia, be sure you are present with them and intervene if you find them circling. Ensure they have a place to rest and that all of their basic needs are met.
How to End This Behavior
If you believe your dog is circling for attention or from herding, training is the best intervention.
You can try training your dog yourself, but we’ve found a community class is a much better route. A community class is a great way to not only train your dog but to socialize them in an environment that can overstimulate.
This helps your dog learn control and to obey in situations outside of the home or when they’re overstimulated in the home.
A professional trainer is a great option if you want to address behaviors in the home as they occur. This provides one-on-one training that allows the trainer to see your behavioral concerns firsthand and make a personalized plan for your dog.
If you believe circling is abnormal behavior for your dog and notice other signs of illness, it’s important to take your dog to the vet immediately.
Though some behaviors may seem harmless to you, it could be your dog’s way of communicating that something is wrong.
With that said, circling usually isn’t anything to be concerned about from a health perspective. Most dogs will circle because of herding instincts or a desire to play.
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