Most of us understand when a pup wags his tail or makes friendly sounds, but sometimes our fur buddies exhibit behaviors that are a bit puzzling. If your pooch is walking in circles, you may wonder what’s wrong with them. Circling could mean something completely harmless, or it could signify an underlying problem.

In this post, we’ll explore some of the most common reasons dogs walk in circles.

What does circling mean for dogs?

Dogs often use gestures and movements to communicate, and circling pups could be trying to tell you something. This behavior may also indicate that your pooch may have a health issue, or they might be feeling extremely anxious.

dog lying in grass

If your fur buddy exhibits signs of anxiety or has a health problem, you should consult your veterinarian. As a precaution, keep an eye on your pet and to look for a pattern when they circle.

Why is my dog circling me?

two dogs circling a running girl
Circling at inappropriate times can sometimes injure you or your pet

Though it may be cute when they’re little puppies, circling behavior can become a real problem as canines grow older. If your furball circles around you or your child, there could be multiple reasons for this type of demeanor. Some include:

  • Your pet buddy may be trying to tell you that they’re excited to see you. When pups are excited, their instinct tells them to run around in circles or wag their tails vigorously.
  • Pups that are particularly happy sometimes show this by circling around their owner or another person.
  • Your fur buddy might be feeling anxious. If there has been a change in your household or their routine, they may circle around as a sign of anxiety. This behavior is often seen when dogs are alone or in a new environment.
  • They may be scared of something and want your attention. Dogs do that when they want to feel as if they’re close enough to their owner for protection.
  • Dogs that belong to herding breeds might circle as a natural instinct to gather and move livestock. It is a part of their nature that they can’t help. Training can get rid of this habit.
a herding-breed canine with a herd of goats
Herding breeds may occasionally test their skills on people and children

Why do dogs circle before going to sleep?

Usually, dogs circle before lying down because they’re trying to make themselves more comfortable. Just like people change sides, adjust their pillow, and try different sleeping positions, pups do the same by circling before going to bed.

dog lying in dog bed
Circling is a way for the pup to “feel out” his surroundings

Another reason is their habit of tracking potential threats before going to sleep. Some canines may circle because they want to scour the area before going to bed. Early canids and those in the wild today do that to get the lay of the land before going to sleep. This helps them check for a threat or intruder in their vicinity.

Why is my dog walking in circles on one side?

Circling one way can indicate that your pup has a physical health issue or an injury. Some injuries that could cause this condition include arthritis, hip dysplasia, joint pain, nerve disorders, back injury, seizures, degenerative myelopathy, vertebral disease, ear infection (Otitis), vestibular disease, dementia, and concussion.

Injured puppy lying on couch
Injuries to limbs can prevent the pup from walking straight

If your furry fellow has an injury on one side that’s causing them discomfort, they might walk in circles to try to move away from it or avoid moving altogether. A veterinarian can help diagnose the issue and provide treatment options.

Can medical issues cause dogs to circle?

Yes, a medical problem may trigger circling behavior. In this case, the pup might be circling due to pain or discomfort. There can be several medical issues that can cause canines to spin. Some of them are:


Black and brown dog lying on floor
Dementia can cause your pup to walk around in confusion

Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that affects the brain and causes changes in how your fur buddy thinks, learns, and behaves. Your dog may circle around objects because he has lost his sense of direction. It usually occurs in senior dogs, and circling is a common symptom.

Circling objects can be a sign of the brain deteriorating. If your pup starts to do this, consult with your veterinarian about what to do next.

Ear infection

dog with large ears spread out
Always take care of your fur buddy’s ears

An ear infection is also a common cause for dogs to circle in pain. An external ear infection can progress to the inner ear and cause damage to the semicircular canals. These canals regulate balance and orientation, and a disease causes them to go haywire. This can lead to dizziness and disorientation.

If your pooch’s ear canal is suffering from an infection, they may walk in circles because the balance centers in their ears are out. This causes them to seem dizzy and disorientated when walking.


an old dog
Aged canines may suffer from orthopedic issues

Senior canines may get arthritis, which causes pain in their joints. This condition can make your pet walk slowly and cause them to circle around objects without meaning to do so. If you suspect this is the case, consult with your veterinarian for alleviating the pain and preventing the condition from worsening.

Vestibular syndrome

Dog tilting his head
Head tilting may look cute, but it’s also a symptom of vestibular disorder

The vestibular syndrome is a complex inner ear disorder that affects the balance system. This can cause your furball to feel motion sickness and disorientation and even lead to circular walking. Other symptoms include head tilting, bumping into objects, and trouble standing.

If you suspect your pet has vestibular disease, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian right away. Timely treatment can eliminate the issue and make your pet buddy regain his sense of direction.


Dog crossing the streaat with a car approaching
An accident that resulted in a head injury may disturb your pup’s normal behavior

A concussion is when the brain suffers trauma and has been known to cause canines to walk in circles. This usually occurs if your pet was hit by something or had a nasty fall. Pups displaying circling behavior from concussions typically get better after getting adequate rest.

Liver disease

Dog getting medical treatment
Liver diseases can increase the level of harmful toxins

Liver disease can also cause dogs to walk in circles. This happens when the liver loses its ability to function normally and can’t get rid of toxins properly. An excessive buildup of harmful substances like ammonia can affect the brain, making your pooch disoriented and restless.

If your pet’s liver isn’t functioning right, they may experience a lack of balance and equilibrium. This condition requires immediate veterinary care.


dog getting a bath
Bathing can get rid of creepy crawling on your pet’s coat

Skin-dwelling parasites can irritate dogs, leading them to circle around themselves. Your pet may try to scratch their itchy parts and circle around trying to reach them. If you notice your pet buddy doing that, bath them and treat their coat with an effective anti-parasite chemical.

Don’t ignore your pet’s cricling behavior

dog being comforted by girl

Dog are wonderful pets who would do anything for their human’s wellbeing. But as their owners, it is our responsibility to take care of them as well. While there may not be a serious concern behind your canine companion’s circling, you should still have a vet check them for possible medical issues. You should also comfort your pet buddy if he’s feeling anxious, afraid, or uneasy. Your little buddy will feel much safer knowing you are there for him.

Categories: Pet blogs

Osama Abbasi

I write affiliate article reviews and blog articles on a variety of niches. My obsession with thorough research gives me the ability to provide high-quality and unique content for casual as well as niche-savvy audiences. Find me on Upwork!