Why Does My Dog Walk In Circles Around Me?

Dogs have a lot of fascinating behaviors that are hard to understand sometimes. If your pup suddenly begins circling you, you may wonder, “Why does my dog circle me? What does it mean?”

Circling behavior often comes down to hereditary behavior or attention seeking. However, your dog may circle you because they are trying to tell you something or experiencing pain.

why does my dog walk in circles around me
Why does my dog walk in circles around me?

Because a circling habit can have a variety of meanings, it’s crucial to identify the cause. Once you know the root of the behavior, you can better help your favorite furry family member.

Reasons Your Dog May Circle You

There are a handful of reasons why your dog circles you. Here are a few, as well as solutions if you want the behavior to stop.

Your Dog Is Excited

Your dog may circle you if they’re excited you’re home or if you have something enticing in your hand. For example, if you’re holding a leash, your pup may feel a burst of excited energy to go on a walk and spin in circles to release energy.

dog excited
The Dalmatian was excited to see her owner!

If you have another pet that makes your dog excited, they’ll likely circle that pet for the same reason. Like a little kid jumping for joy, your pup shares excitement by bouncing around in circles.

What To Do

If your dog circles you out of excitement, you have nothing to worry about. Jumping, wagging its tail, and running around in circles are typical behaviors for an excited pup.

You should teach your dog basic commands. If they know their commands well, you can say “sit” or “stay” to interrupt the habit and calm an overly-excited dog.

Your Dog May Be Trying To Tell You Something

If there doesn’t seem to be a reason for your dog to be excited, it may be trying to tell you something. Your pup may want to play with you or be hungry, circling you to grab your attention. If your dog ran around in a circle before and you gave them attention, they may think circling is a way to meet their needs. 

A Goldendoodle puppy that is well-trained can be a great companion!
A Goldendoodle puppy looks up

What To Do

If you suspect your pup is circling to seek attention, don’t reward the behavior. Instead, ignore the behavior and use a basic command like “sit.”

Only reward your dog with attention, food, or other needs when they’re behaving. This training is vital to stop unwanted behaviors if you haven’t taught your basic dog commands.

Hereditary Behavior

Some dog breeds have hereditary traits that cause them to circle. Certain breeds, like herding breeds, are more likely to circle than others. Some herding dog breeds include:

  • Border Collie
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Belgian Sheepdog
  • Bergamasco Sheepdog
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Berger Picard
  • Beauceron
  • Australian Shepherd
Border Collie follows owner
Border Collie follows owner in the field.

Additionally, wild dogs would either scratch the ground or circle it to pat down the grass to make it a more comfortable place to sleep. Although dogs are domesticated now, they still carry many of the same habits as their ancestors.

What To Do

Herding dogs are known for their intelligence and work ethic. These dogs need plenty of mental stimulation and exercise. Ensure your pup gets the required physical activity and “work” daily to keep them from being too energetic during downtime.

Teach your dog plenty of commands to give it something to learn and work on consistently. Typically, a quick stroll around the block won’t be enough, so be sure to play games of fetch or go on jogs with such breeds.

Your Dog Is Stressed, Anxious, or In Pain

If your dog suddenly starts the circling behavior, pay attention to any other unusual actions from your pup. When stressed, dogs may act differently than they usually would to self-soothe or try to get your attention.

Great Pyrenees at the farm
Great Pyrenees guarding at the farm and looking at his owner.

Similarly, dogs in pain will try to communicate with body language since they cannot tell you what’s wrong. You know your dog better than anyone, so trust your gut if you think something is off.

What To Do

If your dog is suddenly exhibiting strange behaviors, something unusual may have happened recently. Have you recently left for longer than you usually would? Did you move into a new home or have a baby in the last month?

Sudden lifestyle changes may cause anxiety in dogs. Dogs can experience anxiety similar to humans, though the most common forms are separation anxiety, fear anxiety, and aging anxiety.

However, strange behavior can also be an indicator of injury or pain. Look for signs and symptoms like:

  • Shaking
  • Flattened ears
  • Low posture
  • Change in temperament
  • Panting or crying
  • Looking “stiff”
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Not wanting to exercise or play

Consult your veterinarian if your dog may be stressed, anxious, or in pain. Tell the vet your dog’s signs and symptoms so they can determine the best treatment plan.

Dominating Behavior

Your dog may circle you because it’s trying to express its dominance. Dogs that have more dominant personalities may walk around you to encourage you to move out of their way.

grinning Jack Russell
Jack Russell being aggressive by showing teeth.

Dogs can be neutral, submissive, or dominant toward people. If your dog is dominant, it may show other behaviors like:

  • Resisting obeying known commands
  • Standing in your way
  • Nudging you to get petted
  • Defends toys or foods from you
  • Resists handling by you or others
  • Growling or showing teeth

If the circling behavior seems sudden, it may signal something is wrong. Some medical conditions, like thyroid issues, may trigger dominant behavior.

Although frustrating, if your dog starts circling you or exhibiting any of the signs mentioned above, it may be a cry for help.

What To Do

Pay attention to any strange behaviors you notice your dog exhibiting. The dominant behavior may be fear-based, due to anxiety, or because of a medical issue.

Talk with a veterinarian to narrow down the cause of the unwanted behavior, and they can devise the best action plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions that people also have when asking, “Why does my dog circle me?”

Dalmatian circling on a blue floor
The Dalmatian circling on a clean blue floor.

Why does my dog spin in circles when he sees me?

After not seeing you for a few hours, or sometimes even just a few minutes, your dog will be happy to see you. When your dog spins in circles when you get back, this is like a happy dance. They’re excited you’re home and dancing with joy!

Why do dogs circle before they pee or poop?

Many dogs will spin in a circle as they get into the proper position to urinate or defecate. The circling behavior is an instinct to keep them safe from a wild attack when in a vulnerable position.

Why do dogs walk in circles before lying down?

Circling before lying down for a nap or sleep is a survival instinct dogs have. They do it to ensure they can protect themselves from attacks. Additionally, dogs would rotate around the grass or ground to smooth it out and make it comfortable to sleep.

For domesticated dogs, circling before bed is a habit from their ancestors.

Should I stop my dog from circling?

If your dog is circling randomly with no apparent reason to do so, contact your veterinarian. Circling behavior in older dogs may signify canine cognitive dysfunction or the equivalent of Alzheimer’s Disease in dogs.

So, Why Does My Dog Circle Me?

There may be several reasons your dog suddenly circles you or has done so all its life and most are nothing to fear. However, if you notice any other strange behaviors or sudden symptoms in your pup, consult a veterinarian. Tell the vet anything unusual you’ve seen to rule out severe conditions and keep your fluffy friend safe and happy.