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Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles? - Full Dog Behavior Guide

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Introduction :

As a dog owner, you probably wondered why do dogs walk in circles. It is one of the cutest behaviors ever that dogs tend to do. We all like it when our dog keeping circling us when we come home. It is just heart-warming.

In fact, dogs tend to display all sorts of weird and uncommon behaviors. As human beings we kind of struggle to fully understand these behaviors. We wonder about the purpose of why they do these things such as circling.

Dog behaviors are a reflection on what is going on inside his or her mind and body. Although, circling is totally normal for dogs. Many dogs tend to start walking in circles just before lying down, urinating, or defecating.

Well, this behavior is kind of intriguing. We curious human beings like to dig deeper behind why are our dogs doing this. Well, we are right to dig deeper. Although circling sounds and is normal behavior, sometimes it means way more than that.

For example, we ask ourselves questions such as why do dogs walk in complete circles? It almost looks like your dog is searching for something. The dog seems like s/he has lost her/his sense of direction. However, it is well known that dogs obtain a flawless sense of direction and smell by instinct.

Factually, slowly or quickly spinning and walking in circles can be serious. It might be a sign of an underlying health issue. So, if you notice your dog starting to circle more often than before or if s/he starts doing it suddenly, don’t ignore it.

Read this article carefully, to make up your mind whether your dog needs to be examined by a professional veterinarian or not.

Some say :

It is said that circling is a hereditary behavior. As it dates back to before dogs become domesticated. In which before settling in the grass or dirt outdoors at night, dogs used to circle around the area.

This way they would push the grass or dirt down. This makes it more comfortable. Some say that they even scratch the grass to make it soft for a deep, dreamy, sleep.

So, according to this, people think that our dogs still instinctively display that same old behavior today. Even though, now they tend to settle into a nice cozy bed. Your dog may have been doing a few circles before settling down for the night. Well, it is true or not!

Why do dogs walk in circles?

Well, we can categorize the reasons for dogs’ circling into tow categories. First, we have the category of natural reasons. You do not need to worry about these things. They have to do with dogs’ instinctive habits.

Second, we have got the reason that might be a sign of some medical issues. These require professional veterinary intervention.

Category 1: A Hereditary Behavior. (Don’t worry about this)

1- The breed: it’s genetic! :

The breed has a massive effect on the dog’s behavior. There are some breeds that tend to display circling behavior more often than other breeds.

These specific breeds have this skill innately. I mean even if you do not breed it for specifically herding. They can’t “turn off” this innate skill in an urban civilian environment. This is why so many herding dogs keep circling their families.

  • The Bull Terriers: This specific breed is identified to keep spinning spontaneously. Some say that they just like to chase their tails.

Many herding dogs tend to struggle in an urban environment. However, bear in mind that herding breeds tend to be incredibly intelligent. They require constant physical exercise and specific daily mental stimulation.

If a herding dog is not provided with a “job” to fulfil their need for mental stimulation, they will find ways to be “helpful”, which are not always the same things that humans find helpful. While herding children may be helpful to parents in certain circumstances, it has the potential to become problematic if your dog nips as they herd.

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2- Boredom :

Just like us human when we get bored, we start doing unnecessary things that do not necessarily reflect something. Boredom is very common among dogs.

Bored dogs tend to circle their owners. In an attempt of occupying themselves, they chase their tails or spin in circles.

3- Stress and Anxiety :

Dogs’ circling behavior may be the result of stress and anxiety. As you may know, dogs who stay alone for a long time tend to develop anxiety. No only loneliness, the lack of mental and physical stimulation could bring on boredom, stress, anxiety.

This is why proper mental physical stimulation is highly significant. Try to increase walks with your dog. Besides, there some best dog toys that would do the job for you.

You can, also, schedule time for an appropriate training exercise. This may aid providing your pet with the needed mental and physical stimulation.

4- Getting ready for sleep :

Before getting domesticated, dogs had several behaviors that meet with their wild environment. Circling before sleep is one of these behaviors.

  • The wind direction: Wild dogs used to circle before settling for sleep. They look for the wind direction. This way they can pick the best direction to sleep. When they sleep and the wind has to be in their noses’ direction.

Dogs used to use scent to sense potential threats. This way the scent will wake them up quickly. The wind direction allows them to catch the scent of a potential prey animal or a predator more rapidly. Eventually, this is an important survival skill.

  • A Comfortable Sleep Area: Before laying down, wild dogs tend to circle seeking a comfortable area. it’s the wilderness remember! so it is not that of a comfortable place.

By circling, wild dogs can move away from all annoying items such as debris. The way they move prepares the place for them. Also, circling allows dogs unwanted guests like bugs.

  • A suitable Temperature: This more common for wild dogs who live in hot climates. The temperature tends to ruin their sleep. Plus, in such an environment, the soil is blistering. Through circling, dogs expose a cooler layer of soil before laying down for rest.

On the other hand, wild dogs who live in cold climates still circle because of temperature too but they look for warmth instead. They try to look for a warm place to curl up in a tight ball. As they sleep, this helps to preserve their body’s heat.


Category 2: Possible Medical Issue. (Here something to worry about)

Although circling is a dog thing, sometimes it may go back to serious reasons. In case your dog is walking in circles and unable to stop a vet visit is severely recommended.

Also, if you see your dog crashing into walls and getting stuck in corners due to circling this may be an indicator for a serious condition. the vet will make a checkup to diagnose the following conditions.

1- Ear Infection :

The most usual reasons why do dogs walk in circles is having an ear infection. Usually, in addition to circling, this condition tends to accompany several other additional symptoms.

If your dog’s ear intensively smells and you notice some sort of redness in it, then ear infection may possibly be the reason. In the case of ear infection, your dog will keep on shaking his head more often. Plus, the dog will cause scratches on his ear.

If your dog suffers from an ear infection, you must instantly expose it to you vet for a check. For the reason that infections can go deeper into your dog’s ear. This would cause more serious complications later.

The treatment for ear infections usually includes a deep ear cleaning. This type of cleaning must be performed by a vet to dodge possible damage in the dog’s inner ear. Besides, medical prescription involves certain types of antibiotics.

2- Arthritis :

Arthritis is one of the most common conditions for many dogs. It is an inflammation of the joints. If your dog is suffering from arthritis, then the cartilage within his joints is damaged. Arthritis makes the joints less smooth. This results in the bones in the joint rubbing together.

Similar to ear infections, Arthritis comes with many other symptoms other than circling. A dog suffering from arthritis tends to move in circles due to joint pain. Plus, the dog will seem to hesitate before lowering herself/himself to the ground.

Circling is a big part of Arthritis. This is why arthritic dogs are more prone to circle for a long period comparing to dogs without this condition. They circle because of how hard it is to lay down. Besides, circling gets them some sort of comfort.

Inflammations, such as Arthritis, cause dogs’ discomfort and interfere with their balance. Thus, it’s highly recommended to check a professional vet. This veterinary intervention can determine what is the issue and prescribe the needed treatment.

3- Vestibular Syndrome :

This condition refers to a group of diseases associated with the dog’s balance. This is why it is also called the vestibular system. This condition often occurs in older dogs. The Vestibular syndrome disturbs the dog’s inner ear which is responsible for setting the dog’s balance.

It is not known what causes the Vestibular syndrome. However, animal health experts believe that the cause of this condition is not limited to one origin. For example, it might be the result of ear damage, infection, abnormal tissue growth, or even a nutritional deficiency.

Because the damage vestibular syndrome causes to the dog’s balance, it results in constant circling. There are other symptoms apart from circling. Dogs with the vestibular syndrome tend to fall down more often. In addition, your dog would be walking with the head down and excessively drooling.

The good news about the vestibular syndrome is that it is not dangerous not painful. However, if you notice its symptoms on your dog, it would be better to taker/him to be examined by a vet.

4- Canine Cognitive Dysfunction :

The canine cognitive dysfunction disease is also known as doggie Alzheimer or dementia. Circling is part of the early stage of this condition. Other symptoms include pacing and getting stuck in corners.

You can’t go and diagnose your dog for having dementia by yourself. You should check a vet because only a professional vet can diagnose your dog. The vet will examine your pup to rule out.

5- Neurological Disease or Bodily Injury :

Another concerning reason that may affect your dog to walk in circles is having damage in her/his neurological system. The following section of this article contains the possible diseases that may cause incoordination and result in circling:

  • Distemper : this one right here is a deadly disease that you should be aware of. Distemper includes many symptoms other than circling.

Try to observe whether your dog suffers from constant nasal discharge, aggressive behavior, lethargy, and excessive thirst. Plus, obviously, incoordination and wandering play an important role in reviling distemper.

  • Neosporosis : this disease is also a potentially deadly one. It is spread by parasites which reside in some raw meat in the feces of diseased animals.
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) : you probably heard of lupus which is a very dangerous disease. It is an autoimmune condition. Some breeds are more genetically predisposed to be affected by it such as the German shepherd, Shetland sheepdog, collie, poodle, beagle, Afghan hound and Irish setter.

6- Head Injury :

Having a head injury may cause your dog to walk in circles. You can tell if your dog has head injury if s/he has a pupil dilation and loss of appetite. Your dog also will appear to be in pain when you pat his head.

In case, you suspect a head injury don’t hesitate to get your dog to be examined by a vet for treatment immediately! As a matter of fact, a head, back, or neck injury can impact negatively on the neurological system and simultaneously cause incoordination.

For a comprehensive diagnosis and immediate treatment, again a trip to the vet is highly recommended.


Conclusion :

Usually, the reason why do dogs walk in circles goes back to their wild ancestors and their genes. circling is a normal dog behavior. Therefore, it is not something to worry about.

Dogs walking in circles is a frequently occurring behavior. Plus, it is one of the most heart-warming too. Especially when your dog keeps spinning around you when you are getting ready for a walk.

However, this might get tricky. In which your dog might be suffering from a serious medical condition which you are standing there admiring his circling naively.

If you are unsure if your dog is experiencing arthritis, joint issues, or any neurological disease, I can’t stress this more but got to the vet!

In the case of stress and anxiety, you may want to consult an experienced dog trainer or behaviorist. This would help your dog manage anxiety. They may offer you some training exercises and behavior modifications to aid your dog control her/his stress and anxiety.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Rand Erick

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