If your German Shepherd has been pacing or walking in circles, this post will show you why and what you can do about it.

So, why does my German Shepherd pace or walk in circles? Possible reasons are that it’s anxious, it’s an obsessive compulsive disorder, you have inadvertently rewarded it for doing it, someone mistreated it or that it has a medical condition.

There are a number of nuances to consider when trying to figure out why it might be doing it. There are also a number of things that you can do about it, depending on the cause.

Why your German Shepherd walks in circles

Each of the different reasons that your GSD does it will likely come with some clues.

Below, I will mention a number of reasons why it might walk around in circles or pace and what would make them more likely.

It’s anxious

The cause could be that something is making it feel anxious. The reason that it feels anxious could be due to things such as separation anxiety, being in a new home, another pet passing away or a change in its schedule. Anxiety would be more likely to be the reason if it started doing it at around the same time that something happened that might cause it to become anxious.

I have written more about why your German Shepherd might be anxious in this article.

Obsessive-compulsive behavior

It could be the case that your German Shepherd is doing it compulsively. This is where your German Shepherd has an irresistible urge to repeat the behavior. This would be more likely to be the case if your German Shepherd has been pacing repeatedly over the course of weeks or months.

It would also be more likely if it started pacing or walking in circles excessively when something happened that would cause it to develop behavioral issues.

Possible things that could have happened could include:

  • Someone mistreated it
  • Another dog was aggressive towards it
  • It was separated from another dog

Look here for more information about compulsive behavior in dogs.

You have inadvertently rewarded the behavior

It could be the case that you have inadvertently trained it to walk in circles by giving it things that it wants when it does it. If you tend to give it things such as attention, toys or treats, when it does it, then it will learn that walking in circles will get it what it wants so it will do it more.

Instead of rewarding it, when it walks in circles, it would help to reward it when it is well behaved and to avoid giving it what it wants when it is not.

Someone has mistreated it

It could be the case that someone mistreated it and it has caused it to start walking in circles. This would be more likely if it started doing it at around the same time that someone mistreated it or if it only seems to do it when a certain person is around. It could also be the case if your German Shepherd is adopted from a shelter.

It has a medical condition

It could be the result of a medical condition such as dementia (source). This would be more likely if it started acting unusually in other ways as well such as by pulling to one side when on a leash.

If it does seem like your dog might have a medical condition then the best option would be to take it to a vet.

Things to consider

Below, I will mention some things to consider when trying to figure out why your GSD might be doing it.

When it first started walking in circles or pacing

It would help to consider when your GSD first started doing it since there could have been an event that triggered it.

If your German Shepherd started doing it suddenly then it would be more likely to be due to things such as a medical condition, anxiety or being mistreated. It would help to consider what else happened at around the same time that it started doing it.

Whereas, if it has always done it then it would be more likely that you inadvertently trained it to do it, it’s due to an obsessive-compulsive disorder or there could be a medical issue.

When it tends to walk in circles or pace

The timing of when it does it would also be something to consider.

If it only seems to do it at a certain time then it would help to consider what else happens at that time. For example, if it only does it when a certain person is around then it could be the case that it is anxious or that the person has trained it to walk in circles by rewarding it.

How to get your dog to stop walking in circles

The best thing for you to do will depend on the cause. However, I will mention a number of options that you have below.

Take it to a vet

If you are unsure of why your GSD has been pacing or walking in circles it would help to take it to a vet. This would be especially important if it has started doing it suddenly and it has been acting unusually in other ways as well.

Avoid rewarding it

As mentioned above, it could be the case that you have trained it to do it by giving it what it wants when it does it.

Instead, of giving it what it wants when it does it, try to reward it when it is well behaved and to avoid giving it attention when it is not unless you really need to.

Take it for annual checkups

It is also important to take your GSD for checkups at the vet at least annually. By doing so you will be able to identify and treat issues such as ear infections before they become problematic.

If you would like learn everything that you need to know about how to have a happy, healthy and well-behaved German Shepherd, take a look at the German Shepherd Handbook

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