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If your dog is constantly running in circles, you may be wondering what is going on in his head. Until the day dogs can talk, we can only make some assumptions. However, with some close observations, and learning some basics on canine psychology,  we can at least try to make some educated guesses. 

A dog running in circles may be communicate a variety of things. Not all running in circles indeed is created equally. 

 Discover several possible causes for a dog's fixation with running in circles.

What's Up With Dogs Constantly Running in Circles? 

I remember this scene as if it was yesterday. There was this dog running in circles around a small tree, and upon the owner calling him, the dog looked up and then went back to his favorite hobby.

At that time, I had no idea what was really going on. It seemed as if the dog had found a pastime and was really enjoying himself. 

Today, as a dog trainer and behavior consultant, I know there was much more likely going on. 

In all likeliness, this dog was basically suffering from a sort of obsessive-compulsive disorder and it must have been of a pretty severe form since the owner was unable to get him to stop. 

I remember indeed that he had to clip his leash on and physically pull him in another direction and only then the dog appeared to wake up from a debilitating trance.

Did you know? Since dogs don't have obsessive thoughts as humans do, the term obsessive has run out of favor, and therefore, dogs are said to suffer from Canine Compulsive Disorders. 

Canine Compulsive Disorder

Dogs constantly running in circles go hand in hand with dogs constantly chasing their tails. They are both compulsive behaviors that may be challenging to get rid of. 

They both likely stem from some underlying psychological disorder being provoked by either boredom, fear, frustration or anxiety. The underlying cause needs treated in order for the manifestation to disappear.

 Getting rid of this habit may be challenging and may need a dog behaviorist to solve, especially in the most severe cases that have settled and become chronic. 

Dog Running in Circles

Tips For Dogs Constantly Running Around in Circles 

Below are some tips that may help reduce the circling behavior and at best eradicate it before becoming chronic.

Try to Ignore

If the problem just started, make sure you do not reinforce it. 

Reinforcement can stem from your behalf or a family member.

 It could have happened that one day that your dog ran in a circle and somebody either laughed about it or it attracted attention so the dog has learned that this habit would entertain or bring attention and therefore, has repeated it over and over.

 It does not matter if the attention was derived from either looking at him or scolding him or laughing. These all are attention grabber sources that he has learned to look forwards to. 

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Your reaction to his running in circles should therefore be from NOW on, as neutral as possible: no laughing, no scolding no looking, actually if you can, simply leave the room.

Warning: behaviors that have been fueled by attention for some time, will undergo a strong extinction burst before extinguishing. Being aware of this phenomenon is paramount considering that its manifestation may lead to people thinking that ignoring doesn't work. 

If you keep ignoring the behavior, after the initial extinction burst, where the behavior becomes stronger, you should notice it gradually decreasing. Stick to your plan and it should eventually extinguish if attention was the real reinforcer. 


Try your best to have your dog out as much as you can and encourage him to play and interact with you..

Try engaging him in a game of frisbee or just going for long walks in the park. 

Exercise will tire your dog out, thus, this should decrease his energy levels and tendency to run around in circles.

Relieve Anxiety

Anxiety may sometimes be the culprit. It has been observed that compulsive behaviors tends to begin following a major stress period such as a move, surgery, being left alone for long periods of time, a new person moving in, or a new baby. 

Consider investigating if anything may have possibly caused some anxiety. 

This compulsive behavior can be alleviated by having the vet prescribe some anti-anxiety medication. Ask your vet about which medication he believes may be helpful, if any.

Mental Enrichment 

Try to provide many toys to distract your dog, give him dog safe bones or better food puzzles such as Kongs which you can stuff with delicious cheese filling. 

Hopefully this should keep him distracted from his running around as they are entertaining and tasty too!

See a Vet

If your dog is running in circles because he is ultimately trying to reach for his tail, have your dog see the vet to determine whether there may be an underlying health issue at play. 

Consult With a Dog Behaviorist

If none of the above tips have seemed to work or your dog has not shown any sign of improvement consult with a good dog behaviorist. He or she should be able to go to the root of the problem and find possible solutions geared to make your dog feel better.

Running in circles may seem an innocent game but when it starts to be repeated over and over it signals a problem that threatens your dog's well being.

 Please have your dog seen as early as possible if the running in circles endures regardless of your attempts to stop it. A

s with any medical condition, prompt treatment may make the difference between a minor issue or a challenging issue hard to eradicate.

*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.

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