Whether it's before they lay down, during their bathroom routine, or when they're excited, dogs seem to love spinning, but why do dogs walk in circles? The truth is that circling behavior in dogs is usually normal, but occasionally it could mean a behavioral or medical issue.

Stop Googling - Ask a Real Vet

In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind this behavior and explore its various manifestations, including when walking in circles could be a signal of neurological problems. So, let's uncover the secrets behind our canine companions' circular movements.


  1. Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Lay Down
  2. Why Do Dogs Spin in Circles Before They Poop
  3. Why Do Dogs Spin in Circles When Excited
  4. What Does It Mean When A Dog Walks In Circles Around Me
  5. Why Is My Senior Dog Walking In Circles
  6. Final Thoughts

Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Lay Down

If you've ever observed your dog preparing for a nap or settling down for the night, you may have noticed them circling a few times before finally plopping down. This behavior has its roots in their ancestors' instinctive behavior.

In the wild, dogs would circle their sleeping area to flatten the grass, create a comfortable spot, and check for potential threats (like spiders) or nearby predators. Circling before lying down is also part of why dogs scratch at their beds before resting, as they instinctively dig little burrows in the ground to lie in.

This behavior has been passed down through generations and is still observed in domesticated dogs today.

However, when dogs start circling incessantly and won't stop, you may have a problem. Dogs occasionally develop canine-compulsive disorders, which include walking in circles for hours. Another problem that can crop up is forebrain dysfunction, vestibular syndrome, or other neurological issues that cause dogs to circle.

If you suspect your dog's walking in circles is abnormal, monitoring them remotely with a Petcube Camera is best. Recording the feed allows you to show the behavior to your vet or a canine behaviorist to get quick feedback on what this behavior could mean.

Why Do Dogs Spin in Circles Before They Poop

Dogs typically walk in circles before they poop, mostly because they sniff the area and gather information. Studies on canine behavior show that walking stimulates movement in their intestines (peristalsis), and the scent of places where dogs have pooped before encourages dogs to poop there too.

Dogs also have scent glands on their paws, and it's possible that by circling the area before they poop, they maximize the amount of scent they leave behind. This is a way to advertise that they were here and can be a form of scent marking.

Why Do Dogs Spin in Circles When Excited

Excitement is a common emotion experienced by dogs, especially when they're anticipating something they enjoy, such as mealtime, playtime, or going for a walk. When dogs become excited, they often display positive, high-energy behaviors, and spinning in circles is a typical display of joy and high excitement.

Spinning when excited can be seen as a way for dogs to release excess energy and happiness, much like people jump for joy. It may also be an instinctive behavior associated with chasing or herding prey, reflecting their ancestral hunting instincts.

When dogs start circling, whirling, or chasing their tail excessively, it could become a problem behavior that falls under canine compulsive disorder. Obsessive circling can happen in any breed, but it seems most common in white Staffordshire Bull Terriers and German Shepherds. In some cases, it's also related to epileptic seizures, where dogs sometimes walk in circles when confused and disoriented.

What Does It Mean When A Dog Walks In Circles Around Me

Dogs often circle people as a way to investigate visitors and show affection. It can be seen as a gesture of curiosity and a desire to be close to their human companions. This behavior is typically not a cause for concern but an endearing display of your dog's bond with you.

Another reason dogs often circle you is when they're trying to "herd" you. This is most common in herding breeds like collies, but any dog may circle you to get you moving toward their food bowl at dinner time.

However, pay attention if a dog is circling you with stiff body language. This may happen when you visit a home and the family dog views you as a possible intruder. It's best to ask the owners to remove the circling dog if the behavior shows signs of aggression. If this is not an option, consider removing yourself from the area.

Why Is My Senior Dog Walking In Circles

When it comes to dogs, especially older dogs, walking in circles (sometimes for hours), it is time to see a veterinarian. Dogs that circle for extended periods or in a repetitive manner may be experiencing:

  • forebrain dysfunction,
  • dementia,
  • strokes,
  • brain inflammation (encephalitis)
  • hydrocephalus (fluid building up in the brain),
  • vestibular syndrome,
  • brain tumors or other neurological problems.

If you observe such behavior in your senior dog, it is essential to consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis.

Dogs walking in small, tight circles can indicate vestibular syndrome, while large circles around the room can signal forebrain dysfunction.

Since a dog that starts circling suddenly may be a sign of a medical emergency like a stroke, it's vital to be prepared for unexpected vet bills. To support pet owners during difficult times, the Petcube Emergency Fund has been established. This fund offers coverage of up to $3000 in veterinary bills for a minimal cost of $1 a day.

Final Thoughts

The circling behavior displayed by dogs has various meanings and origins. Whether it's before they lay down, before they go potty, or when they're excited, these circular movements have deep roots in their instincts and behaviors. Understanding the reasons behind this behavior allows us to gain insight into our canine companions and recognize potential health problems like doggy dementia or canine-compulsive disorder.

Was this article helpful?

Help us make our articles even better

Yes No

Thank you for your feedback