Why Does My Dog Walk in Circles Around Me?

By John Martin - May 3, 2021

Dog walking in circles around couple

Dogs are funny little creatures. They do all sorts of weird things.

But these things are weird only as long as we don’t understand why they are doing what they are doing. And sometimes, it can be a fun little thing to dismiss.

But you should almost always try to figure out why they are repeating certain behaviors to make sure that your canine buddy isn’t passing on a message that is totally lost on you. Here’s the low down on why they walk in circles around you.

Why It Happens

This happens for more reasons than one and some need more attention while others should be ignored so that you don’t encourage that behavior.


More often than not, dogs circle you because they are excited.

This typically happens when you come home after being away for a while. This could happen at the end of the day after you were away for a few hours or when you come home from a trip after a few days.

They might also be doing this when they want to be fed. So, that’s something to take note of as a responsible dog parent.

Maybe you have a toy or a bag of treats on you that they want. But mostly, if it’s excitement, they are happy to see you and it’s something to treasure.

Herding Instincts

The second reason for dogs to circle you is because they belong to a breed of herding dogs. It is a natural instinct in them.

These dogs, such as corgis, shepherds or collies, like to gather and this behavior might also include nipping at your heels. It can and should be stopped with a few training exercises.

Asserting Dominance

The third aspect of this behavior is to do with them showing their dominant nature. If you have a dog that belongs to a breed of alphas, this is but natural.

It is not harmful but you must not encourage this behavior for the safety of everyone in the house. So, an intervention is certainly in order.

It is also a good way to maintain a healthy relationship with your dog and promote loyalty instead of a power contest.

Seeking Attention

Then there is the issue of attention seeking. If your dog is being playful but not particularly for a reason (like excitement because it’s seeing you after a while) you might want to take a break and give them some attention.

This is also common when they are hungry or anxious for some reason and want you to pay attention to their needs. This is likely to happen if they have tried a couple of other tricks and you haven’t noticed them.

Ideally, this should not be rewarded either but obviously, you cannot ignore their hunger if it is mealtime. If it is unreasonable hunger, you might want to develop some commands to redirect their attention.

They could also be seeking attention because they are in pain. In that case, pay attention to their gait.

If they are moving slowly or being stiff with a part of their body, it absolutely has to be investigated.

But if it is simple attention seeking, the way to do it right is to give them enough time by playing or just curling up with them so that they don’t feel ignored. That way, they will not resort to circling every time they feel neglected which is a bad practice.

You have to address it properly so that they think this is the only way to get your love. If you don’t, it might frustrate them and also make them feel unsafe.

If It’s a Wild Dog…

This is to do with your dog’s ancestry. If you have a wild dog breed, there are a few reasons that are nothing to worry about.

These breeds of dogs like to figure out the best place to sleep. It is usually the opposite direction of the wind so that it isn’t blowing into their nose.

They also look for the scent of a predator or prey even when they are fairly domesticated. It’s just instincts that they are working on.

They also like to do this before lying down to make sure there are no bugs or other uncomfortable particles in their space.

Some wild dogs that are in hotter climate regions like to find a cool enough place to lie down. And those in colder climate regions like to find a place that’s hot enough so that they can curl up and sleep.

Related: Will My Dog Be Okay in Boarding Kennels?

Is It a Bad Thing?

But those are the non-alarming reasons. Dogs also like to circle you when they have health problems and this is more serious.

Running Champ Having a Good Time

If you’re on a run and your dog starts circling you, they are trying to tell you that they’re excited about the much-needed exercise they are getting. This typically happens when you’re running at full speed.

Some dogs like to go at a slower pace and in that case, the reason is something else.

Possible Ear Infection

Dogs use their ears to maintain balance. So, if they have a problem with the inside of the ear, they might be uncoordinated.

This doesn’t always translate into circling you but going in circles in general. And they are likely to do it only when it has reached the inner ear and is disorienting them.

That’s a serious problem and you need to rush to the vet. If you see redness and soreness around the outside ear, you can’t really be wrong about the infection.

Head Injury

The same is the logic for head injuries. If they have a concussion or things are likely to be just as bad, they lose their balance (as you’d expect).

Circling their human is just one symptom. They could also have dilated pupils, vomiting and lost appetite.

This is another reason to rush to the vet.


In humans, we like to joke about these things. But did you know that this was a thing among dogs too?

It is not very common so it is possible that you were unaware. But if your dog is circling you for no reason, you might want to figure out if any other parts of their behavior are strange or repetitive.

This might also show up with uneven temper or destructive chewing habits. They might be doing this out of stress or frustration, just like humans would in their shoes.

OCD is often diagnosed among rescue dogs or those who have undergone trauma. It can be tricky to treat, but if left ignored, it gets worse and might even become chronic.

This is not something that goes away on its own.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

This is an illness that affects the dog’s memory. It’s like dementia and messes up their spatial awareness too.

So, you see the pattern here. Once again, they feel disoriented and go in circles.

If your dog has cognitive dysfunction, you might find them wandering aimlessly and that can sometimes translate into circles around you. It is possible that they are comforted by your presence or the familiarity of your scent.

As you would expect, this is more common among senior dogs but the little ones are not immune to it either. And unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia.

But if they are still in the earlier stages, you can get some medicines to help them out.

Vestibular Disease

This is another disease that is commonly diagnosed in senior dogs. It starts with an ear infection and disorients them.

You will find that your dog not only circles you (among other things) but also knocks into objects or falls easily. You will also notice that the dog has uncharacteristic facial expressions and wobbles from time to time.

There are many things that can cause this problem from old age to a head injury. These are all symptoms and can be a rather painful thing to watch.

The When, Where and What

If the reason for this behavior is something disconcerting, you want to act on stopping it right away. There are a few things you can do to get started.

Start by figuring out the time period when your dog has started acting this way. That way you can figure out if there is a specific incident that caused it.

And based on that, you can deduce if they are excited, throwing a temper tantrum, were injured or are following their natural herding instincts. If they are seeking attention, you might want to see if this is happening because you may have accidentally rewarded this behavior.

Thinking back in time can also help you locate the “where” of this behavior which might give you a clue.

Then there is the “what”. If it is a behavioral thing, you might want to focus on training.

Whether it is due to herding instincts or trying to get your attention, circling is not something to reward.

It is not an impossible thing to fix so you can try training the dog at home. But you can take them to classes which are more effective.

This also gives them a reason to socialize in a hyperactive environment. So with the trainer’s eye on them, you might find out other tips and tricks to fix their behavior even before it develops into a bad habit.

Related: How to Stop Dog Urine From Killing Grass

The Bottom Line

So if your dog starts circling you, take a good look at them and try to figure out the reason. From health issues to the general excitement of seeing you, there are many reasons for them to do this.

As mentioned above, some of them can and should be stopped while others are fairly harmless. If their balance is off, you might want to take them to a vet right away because it might be because of disorientation caused by a health problem.