5 Reasons Why Your Dog Walks Circles Around You

by Stuart | Last Updated:   February 12, 2021

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Have you ever asked yourself why dogs walk around in circles? Or simply why they act the way they do?

While this behavior of walking around you in circles is entirely harmless, if you notice that your dog is circling and unable to settle down or aggressively biting his tail,  it could be a cause for concern.

This guide helps you understand why dogs walk in circles around their owners, whether or not this behavior is problematic, and if it is becoming a problem, how to reduce or eliminate this odd behavior.

Consider some of the following things when trying to figure out the exact reason why your dog circles around you. Once you have a clear idea of the cause, you should find it easier to reduce or eliminate the behavior.

Several reasons are to be said as to why dogs circle around their owners.

dog with leather leash waiting to go walkies

1. The Most Common Reason Is That Your Dog Is Excited

Many dogs like to circle around their owners when they are excited that their owners are finally back home.

Another way your dog may be excitedly circling around you may be because they know they are about to have some fun, go on a walk or a ride in the car.

2. Your Dog May Be Trying To Tell You Something

If your dog behaves in this sense, it could be looking for your attention. Attention seeking could look playful, or it could look like your dog is trying to let you know that it is hungry.

If your dog sees your response as a method that works to get you to do something they want or need by doing so, your dog will notice your reaction and create a habit out of this.

If your dog is circling you to seek attention, remember not to reward this behavior as it can result in adverse outcomes. What you should do instead is ignore their behavior and redirect them with a strong “sit” command.

This behavior can be frustrating, so be sure you address it with redirection and proper training. In this case, reward your dog when it is well behaved and follow the tips mentioned below to stop doing it.

3. Your Dog Is Trying To Be Dominating

It might be the case that your dog circles you because it is dominating. If you have a dog with a very dominating personality trait, this action could be because it wants you to move. You probably have to introduce your dog to specialized training in order to stop these behaviors.

If this behavior is new to your dog, as in they never used to act this way before, it is possible that something happened to your dog for these behaviors to show up.

Consider reflecting on what might’ve happened. Was your dog recently hurt by another dog or animal? We’re you gone for an extended period, leaving your pup alone for that time?

4. Hereditary Behavior

A dog’s breed can play an essential part in why they practice this behavior; sometimes, dogs of a distinct class are more likely to circle than others.

Herding Breeds

Typical dogs that are considered herding breeds are the following:

  1. Australian Shepherds
  2. Australian Cattle Dog
  3. Beauceron
  4. Bearded Collie
  5. Belgian Laekenois
  6. Belgian Malinois
  7. Belgian Sheepdog
  8. Belgian Tervuren
  9. Berger Picard
  10. Bergamasco Sheepdog
  11. Border Collies

The above breeds have been bred particularly for their capacity to herd livestock. In some cases, dogs that are herders can’t always turn off this trait as quickly as we’d like to think.

Before dogs were ever domesticated, they enacted the same cute circle “dance” to settle down. Back in the day, they would push down the grounds surface area, be it dirt or grass, to make it comfortable for sleeping by circling and sometimes digging. By scratching the surface area, the dog would be making it softer to sleep well.

Today, we see this exact behavior in our dogs, but only now they’re sleeping in cozy spots on our own or their own plush bed.

5. Your Dog Might Be in Pain or Is Stressed

If your dog doesn’t always circle around you, pay attention to what is different when he does. Consider reflecting on what might’ve happened to your dog. Was it recently hurt by another dog or animal? We’re you gone for an extended period, leaving your dog alone for that time?

Because you will know your dog best, if you notice that your dog seems abnormally off and is pacing and circling often, there may be a more severe health issue or concern.

One concern if your pup is in pain could be arthritis.

Arthritis in Dogs

If you have a dog that suffers from arthritis, it may move in circles and hesitate before laying down due to joint pain. It’s good to note that a dog with arthritis could be circling around longer than a dog without this condition.

If you are unsure if your dog has arthritis or joint issues, speak with a veterinarian to consult on the best ways to help your dog be more comfortable.

Your Dog Is Stressed or Has Anxiety

If you have recently adopted a new fur member into your family, you may notice that your dog may not want to leave your side. Or if you are seeing that your pup starts to act clingy when you are leaving the house, this is because your new dog has developed separation anxiety. Don’t be too worried, as this is very common amongst shelter pets.

Anxiety can lead to so many damaging behaviors in dogs. Your dog might be circling around you due to stress. Steps you can take to help reduce your dog’s anxiety would be going on daily walks, and if you can, more than once.

If you find that your dog gets anxious before leaving the house for work, try to take it outside to go to the bathroom so they aren’t waiting too long.

How to Put an End to This Strange Behavior

If you are frustrated with your dog always walking around you, try the following tips.

Tip #1: Walk in the opposite direction

Tip #2: Avoid giving it negative reinforcement with treats while doing it

Tip #3: Start professional training to help reduce or eliminate this behavior

While it’s true that most dogs will walk circles around their owners purely out of excitement, the unusual circling behavior of dogs is more complicated than many people believe.

The result could be a combination of any of the above mentioned, but if you are looking for direct answers, it’s best to consult a trained professional, as they will be able to diagnose the real reason your dog is walking circles around you.

Dog Training

  • The Emmy-winning host of “Lucky Dog”, Brandon McMillan is an expert trainer dedicated to building relationships between humans and animals. In his MasterClass, Brandon shares his simple, effective training system to help you develop trust and control with your dog.

Have You Ever Wondered Why Your Dog Circles Before Laying Down?

Surprisingly to some, there are numerous reasons why your dog always circles around you or before they lower themselves to relax. The three main reasons are the following:

Reason #1: Scent

Dogs in the wild will circle around to choose which how to sleep. By doing this and indicating where the wind is coming from, the wild dog will be able to tell any new scents, especially those of a predator.

Reason #2: Comfort

Before laying down to get comfortable so that they can rest, wild dogs will circle around. Sometimes by circling, they will move debris such as sticks or leaves out of the way.

Reason #3: Temperature

It comes down to simple science. If a wild dog lives in an area that is always hot, they will circle around to uncover a much cooler patch of the ground and vice versa for any dogs that live in colder regions.

What Medical Conditions Prompt Circling In Dogs?

Several medical conditions may cause dogs to display the act of circling around you, such as the following:

Infections And Parasites

It is possible that your pet is suffering from some type of infection or parasite. One common issue is with dog anal glands that, if not treated, can become infected.

If you are able to spot this, you can take your dog to a grooming station or veterinarian specialist, and they can assist in “expressing” their glands. You could see if your dog is in pain if they are scooting on the carpet to scratch the area.

Be careful not to let your dog do this often, as it can result in additional injuries and bleeding.

Vestibular Disease

The vestibular system regulates your balance. When dogs become affected by this disease, they may start to circle around you, or in general. This is due to the conditional effect on their coordination and stability.

Arthritis

As mentioned above, dogs that can suffer from arthritis may move in circles but also delay themselves dropping down because their joints are in pain.

Liver Disease

If your dog has any liver damage or disease, it could cause it to pace or circle around you.

Dementia

Yes, dogs can get dementia too! Dogs develop this disease as they age, it typically will affect their brains and circling, and the inability to respond to commands can come from being disoriented.

Related Reading:

  1. Why Has My Dog Started Barking at Night?
  2. Why Does My Dog Follow Me And Not My Husband?
  3. Why Does My Dog Lay On Me?
  4. Why Does My Dog Walk Circles Around Me?
  5. Why Your Dog’s Paw Pads Are Turning Pink

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Stuart loves blogging about his hobbies and passions. Sir Doggie is a place for him to share what he learns while being a pet parent. Click here to read more.
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