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It’s a fact of life that some dogs spin. It’s what they do, and it’s not uncommon. But just because spinning can be a dog’s usual behavior and is sometimes completely harmless, don’t write it off as your dog just being a dog. Circling can also be a signal for medical or emotional problems, so it’s important to figure out why your dog is spinning to rule those out. Here are a few things that spinning could indicate.
Spinning Before Bed
This is one of the innocuous causes of a dog spinning in circles. In the wild, dogs have to dig out a den to sleep in and spin in circles to examine their digging work and chase out any bugs. When your domesticated dog spins in a circle before bed, it’s just a leftover instinctual behavior from his or her wild ancestors. Your dog is checking that the “den” is safe and cozy before settling in for the night.
Spinning Before Potty Time
If your dog spins in circles and sniffs the ground, that often indicates that he or she needs to go outside and take care of business. This behavior is exceptionally important to know when you’re house training a puppy.
Spinning as a Compulsive Behavior
Sometimes spinning isn’t an innocent, instinctual behavior, but a manifestation of stress in your dog’s life. If your dog spins compulsively, chases shadows, snaps at the air or barks for seemingly no reason, your dog could have compulsive behavior due to stress. If you think this may be the case, start looking at your dog’s lifestyle and see where you can make modifications. Maybe your dog doesn’t get enough attention and is left alone a lot. He or she could be craving human companionship. If this may be the case, spend as much time as you can with your pup and consider getting a friend, neighbor or dog walker to come visit during the day while you’re at work. You could also look into doggie daycare so your dog gets the human interaction he or she is craving. You can partner with your vet and a dog trainer to get to the root of the problem so you can work to solve it.
Spinning from Anxiety
If your dog spins when he or she is introduced to a new dog, during a thunderstorm or when you turn the vacuum on, the stress could definitely be cuing your dog to spin. Dogs who don’t know how to handle stress will often spin because they are panicking. Get input from your vet and dog trainer about how to help your dog better handle stress.
Spinning from Health Problems
If your dog has just started spinning and has never done it before, especially if you have an older dog, it’s time to visit the vet. Spinning can indicate problems with vision, hearing or memory. It can also indicate neurological problems like brain tumors. The sooner you take your dog to the vet after he or she begins a new behavior like this, the better.
Like all behaviors in dogs, spinning is one you should pay attention to. Don’t panic – it may be perfectly normal for your dog – but don’t ignore it either. If you have questions, contact Head of the Class Dog Training for recommendations.
Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.
Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.
She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.
Why Does My Dog Spin?