Circling behavior in dogs can be due to a variety of medical conditions, some of the immediately serious. If your dog is walking in circles, please see your vet right away. In senior dogs, circling is often due to canine vestibular disease or canine cognitive dysfunction (a.k.a dementia or Doggie Alzheimer’s).
My dog Cricket had canine cognitive dysfunction and showed many of the typical symptoms of that condition. She paced, she stood in corners, she got stuck behind furniture, and she forgot what she was doing. She also circled, and it was always counterclockwise. Here is a short video of what it looked like.
Circling can be very obvious once the dog has an advanced case of dementia, but it doesn’t necessarily start out that way. Cricket was doing it for several months before I noticed. At the beginning she didn’t stand in one place and twirl; her counterclockwise movements was integrated into how she walked around. When I would see it, I attributed it to other things.
She even pulled consistently to the left when I walked her on leash. At first, I thought she was focused on the neighbors’ yards, but then I realized she wasn’t really focused on anything at all. She was trying to move counterclockwise.
Circling by dogs with cognitive dysfunction is categorized by some researchers as a “spatial orientation” issue. Related problems are wandering, standing in corners or small spaces, and interacting abnormally with ordinary household objects.
You probably can’t get your dog to stop this type of movement if she has dementia. But there are medications that help with canine cognitive dysfunction, and they can possibly reduce circling and other abnormal behaviors. If your dog is stressed or anxious, your vet may be able to prescribe something for that as well.
Remember: only a veterinarian can diagnose your dog, so if he or she is circling or performing other repetitive or confused behaviors, go to the vet right away.
Copyright 2018 Eileen Anderson