Dogs are opportunistic animals with a purpose and have much better things to do than engaging in aimless circling for most of the day. If your dog is walking in circles and getting nowhere, most likely there is a problem. However, as much as walking in circles may appear like a pointless activity, at times it may actually have a functional purpose for your canine companion.
If your dog has always displayed normal behavior and now is suddenly walking in circles, take him to the veterinarian. Indeed, the circling behavior may stem from a secondary medical problem. Pain, discomfort or itching in the tail area, hind legs or back end may trigger a bout of circling and tail chasing. Potential causes for what may appear to be a pointless behavior may be pesky parasites, skin infections and anal gland problems.
If Rover appears in a trance, almost as if he's in another world and totally ignores your plea to stop circling, he may be dealing with a nervous system disorder that's not under his control. Sometimes seizures or other forms of brain dysfunction may be at the heart of the problem, according to DVM360.com. Other possibilities are head trauma, an infection of the middle ear and distemper.
If your dog is repeatedly walking in circles without a purpose, he may be suffering from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. Yes, dogs can have OCD, but don't worry; Rover most likely will not be stuck on the psychiatrist's couch. Anti-anxiety medication along with a behavior modification program may help your pup learn a substitute behavior for the obsessive-compulsive one.
As much as dogs appear to be domesticated, they may still exhibit behaviors reminiscent of their past in the wild. If Rover is walking in several circles before lying down, he is most likely doing so because his ancestors had to stamp down grass, leaves or snow to create a comfy place to sleep. Some high-strung fellows may also run in circles when they are frustrated or aroused, and puppies seem to enjoy an occasional game of spinning in circles while chasing their tail. While the occasional circling behavior is most likely not pathological unless it starts interfering with your dog's life, don't fuel this behavior with any form of attention. Otherwise, you may be stuck in a "vicious circle" that may be difficult to eradicate.
By Adrienne Farricelli
Vet Street: Why Does My Dog Walk in a Circle Before Lying Down?
Pet MD: Anxiety and Compulsive Disorders in Dogs
DVM360.com: 10 Life Threatening Behavior Myths in Dogs
What's Wrong with my Dog; Jake Tedaldi
About the Author
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.