Have you ever felt as if you were running in circles wasting your time in a pointless activity? Rest assured, canines have much better things to do than aimless wandering. If your dog is running in circles, mostly likely he has his good reasons for doing so.
Before assuming Rover is bored, consider your dog's spinning behavior may be secondary to certain medical problems, explains board certified veterinary behaviorist, Valarie V. Tynes. Discomfort, pain or itching in the tail area, hind legs or back end may cause a bout of spinning and tail chasing. Parasites, skin infections and anal gland problems may be at the heart of the problem. Seek the advice of a veterinarian to determine the presence of a physical problem.
Is Rover ignoring your requests to stop circling or does he appear as if he was in another world? When the circling behavior is due to a disorder of the nervous system, the behavior is often not under the dog's control. Usually, dogs suffering from a neurological problem find it challenging to move in the opposite direction of the one they are circling in, explains veterinarian Jake Tedaldi in the book "What's Wrong With My Dog?" Head traumas, seizures, an infection of the middle ear and distemper are a few examples of problems that may lead to neurological disorders and circling behaviors.
Is it time for Rover to lie on the psychiatrist's bed? Dogs prone to stress, frustration or facing conflicting situations may develop a pattern of running in circles when exposed to certain triggers. Many times the issue simply stems from boredom, insufficient exercise and lack of mental stimulation. While your dog does not need to do crossword puzzles or Sudoku to feel stimulated, some additional environmental enrichment and interaction with his family may help keep his mind off the spinning behavior.
Interestingly, the breed of your dog may play a role in the behavior. Some dogs appear to be genetically predisposed to the problem. You may observe bull terriers pacing in wide circles, while some German shepherds engage in repeated pacing and circling, at times even running in large figure eights, explains veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman.
Less Worrisome Causes
If your pooch looks healthy and happy, you can give out a sigh of relief because some causes for circling are not always serious. Some high-strung dogs like to run around in circles when they are excited about something, such as when you are about to toss a ball or when they are frustrated from seeing a trigger outside the fence. Puppies and young dogs may also enjoy an occasional game of tail-chasing and spinning every now and then, and numerous dogs will walk in a few circles just before laying down. While spinning occasionally is not pathological in itself as long as it does not interfere with your dog's life, do not fuel this behavior with any form of attention.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.