Why Is My Dog Walking in Circles? Twirling Trails!

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Author: Jeanette Hampton

The classic doggy doughnut, where the dog runs in round and round like a step which we don’t understand but adore! But you may wonder “Why is my dog walking in circles?“🐶🔁

Dogs walking in circles is common and most of the time⌛ it’s harmless and spinning gets better over time. There are various reasons behind this behaviour, let’s understand them better in this article.

Why is my dog walking in circles

Why Is My Dog Walking in Circles?

Dogs running in circles may seem an odd behaviour but actually, there is more to this. This behaviour is descended from wolves and foxes, their wild ancestors.🐺🦊

“This circling flattens grass for a nesting area, marks territory and provides overall comfort before resting. It makes them feel safe and secure. Circling also marks their territory, making them feel safe and in control“, confirms Dr Ryan Llera from VCA Hospitals.🏥

The circling habit has stuck with dogs, even though they live with us now, it shows their connection to their wild beginnings. Let’s see what are the other factors behind this circling behaviour of dogs.

1. Sensory Exploration

Dogs have a superpower of an extraordinary sense of smell[1]. When your dog takes a stroll in circles, 🐶🔁they’re not just stretching their legs, they’re diving into a world filled with stories carried by scents.

  • Each sniff is a clue, and by leaving their scent behind, they’re saying, “I was here, and I’ve got the nose to prove it!” It’s their way of talking to other dogs and animals without saying a word.
  • While the nose does the heavy lifting, your dog’s eyes are the trusty sidekick. As they circle, their eyes are scanning for anything that catches their attention. 👀
  • It’s not just about sniffing, it’s about seeing the bigger picture. This combo of scent and sight helps them create a mental map of their world.
  • In the wild, survival meant being on high alert. Your dog, despite the cosy domestic life, keeps this ancient instinct alive.
  • When they circle, they’re not just having a spin, they’re doing a security check. It’s their way of making sure there are no surprises waiting for them, a habit passed down from their wild ancestors.🐺🦊
dog walking in the circles on the road

Sometimes it’s a routine that comes before a good rest, a way of making sure their surroundings are cosy and secure. By pacing around their chosen spot, they’re not just being fussy; they’re saying, “This is my safe zone.”

2. Comfort and Rest

In the wild, dogs didn’t have fancy beds🛏️ or fluffy blankets, so they had to make do with what nature offered. Your dog, with their domesticated luxury, retains this age-old habit of preparing a comfortable resting spot.

In the wild,🏞️ a poorly chosen resting spot could mean vulnerability to predators.

By walking in circles, they are flattening the grass, leaves, or bedding beneath them. It’s their way of sculpting the perfect sleeping arrangement.

3. Medical Considerations

Sometimes, when your dog starts twirling in circles, it might be a subtle way your dog expresses that they are not feeling their best.

For dogs, ear infections can do just that, making them feel dizzy and unsteady[2]. If your dog is walking in circles🐶🔁 and avoiding putting weight on a particular leg or joint, it could be a sign of discomfort.

dog walking in the circles on the beach

Just like we might limp when something hurts, dogs may express pain through changes in their movement.

While the occasional spin may just be part of your dog’s routine, constant circling that seems out of the ordinary is a cue to play detective. A trip to the vet becomes crucial.

Remember, your dog can’t tell you when something hurts or feels off. So, if something’s not right, the vet can help put your dog back on the path to twirling with joy, rather than discomfort.

If your dog seems to be in pain while walking, consider getting them some of the best dog walking boots to provide extra support and cushioning for their paws and joints

4. Behavioural Factors

Dogs, like us, can feel stress and anxiety. They might not express it in words, but their actions can speak volumes. When you see your dog pacing in circles, it could be a signal that something is making them feel uncomfortable.

Excessive barking on walks could also be a sign your dog is feeling anxious or overwhelmed by their surroundings. Check our guide on, ‘How do I stop my dog from barking when out walking’ for gentle guidance.

  • Dogs have their version of fidgeting: circling. It’s a coping mechanism, a way for them to release pent-up energy or tension.
  • So, when the world feels a bit overwhelming, a few spins might be their way of finding a moment of calm in the storm.🌪️
  • Dogs are creatures of habit. They like routine and familiarity. Your dog might feel a bit like that when there are changes in their environment.
  • Whether it’s a new piece of furniture or a different smell, these alterations can stir up their world. Circling can be their response to this change, a way of figuring out the ‘new normal.’

Understanding your dog’s behavioural quirks is like learning their secret language. It’s a way for them to communicate when words are not an option.🚫

Training and Behaviour Modification

Just as we love a pat on the back when we do something good. Dogs are just like that, they thrive on positive reinforcement. If your dog is walking in circles🐶🔁 appropriately, like before lying down, praise them! Let them know they’re doing a great job.

dog sleeping on the rug
Example: When your dog circles and then settles down on their bed,🛏️ give them a treat and a gentle stroke to show you appreciate their routine.

If your dog’s circling behaviour is linked to a specific activity, like finding a comfy spot, you can encourage and shape it. Guide them to a designated area where you want them to circle before lying down.

Use treats and praise to reinforce this behaviour. This way, you’re not stopping the circles but directing them to a more suitable location.

Example: If you want your dog to circle🐶🔁 before lying on their designated bed, guide them there and reward the circle with positive reinforcement.

Sometimes, the circular dance can become a bit too much. If your dog is circling excessively or in inappropriate situations, training can help divert this behaviour.

You can use commands like “enough” or “settle” to signal that it’s time to stop. Pair this with positive reinforcement when they comply. Redirecting excessive circling is about providing clear cues and alternatives.

Example: If your dog is circling endlessly before a walk, use a command like "ready"🚦 to signal that it's time to go, and reward them for following the cue.

Try redirecting your dog’s energy into more constructive activities. Long walks aren’t always possible, especially when walking dog in rain, so provide indoor exercise options too


❓Why Does My Dog Walk in Circles?

Dogs may walk in circles due to various reasons such as disorientation, neurological issues, compulsive behaviour, fear, anxiety, or even boredom. Identifying the issue and triggers is the first step in helping your dog stop this behaviour.

❓What Should I Do if My Dog Is Walking in Circles?

If your dog is walking in circles, it’s best to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions. If there are no medical issues, you can try to identify the cause of the behaviour and address it accordingly.

❓Can Anxiety Cause a Dog to Walk in Circles?

Yes, anxiety can cause a dog to walk in circles. Dogs may circle when they are anxious or stressed, and it’s important to identify the source of their anxiety and address it.

❓Can a Dog Walk in Circles Due to Ear Infections?

Yes, ear infections can cause a dog to walk in circles. Ear infections can cause inflammation in the inner ear, leading to balance issues and circling behaviour.

❓How Can I Help My Dog Stop Walking in Circles?

The best way to help your dog stop walking in circles is to identify the underlying cause of the behaviour and address it accordingly. If the behaviour is due to a medical condition, consult a veterinarian. If it’s due to anxiety or stress, try to identify the source of the anxiety and address it. You can also try to create a calm and safe environment for your dog.


In conclusion “Why is my dog walking in circles?“🐶🔁 It’s not just a random dance, it’s their natural instinct something they have evolved with. In a world of sofas and dog beds, they still carry the wisdom of the wild! 🧠

But if you find this behaviour consistent then don’t be shy to consult with your vet. They may help you in understanding this behaviour and help to crack this canice code. Remember, it’s our responsibility to keep our dogs happy and healthy.


  1. Sniffing out your dog’s superpowers – Connecticut Science Center. (2023, January 25). Connecticut Science Center.
  2. Inner ear infection (Otitis interna) in dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals.
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Jeanette Hampton
Jeanette Hampton is a content writer at WWD and an expert on all things pets. She’s been writing pet blogs for over 5 years and knows everything there is to know about dogs. Jeanette enjoys writing about pet-related topics because she enjoys helping people learn more about their furry friends.

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