As you watch your dog continually walk back and forth across your living room floor, you might wonder – why do dogs pace? Humans may pace when they’re anxious or deep in thought. Is it the same for your furry best friend? Is something wrong?
There could be a lot of reasons why your dog is pacing. Some of them are behavioral, but others are medical in nature. The good news is, no matter what the cause of your dog’s behavior may be, there are safe, effective ways to address the issue.
Here’s a look at why dogs pace, and some of the things that can be done to help your canine companion.
Info For Pet Parents: Why Do Dogs Pace? And Is There Anything You Can Do To Help?
One of the most common reasons for canine pacing is anxiety. It can be a way for your pup to express nervous energy. An anxious dog may simply want to go outside and enjoy a walk. Or your dog may just need to do their business and they’re trying to get your attention.1
In some cases, a pet will pace out of a sense of duty. Yes, it sounds strange, but some dogs walk around and around because they’re patrolling their home, which they consider to be their territory. They want to make sure everything – and everyone – they love are safe and sound.2
A pet will sometimes pace for no reason at all, other than it’s a part of their routine. There are a lot of examples of this type of compulsive behavior other than pacing. Your pet may, for instance chase their tail or bite at the air. This is usually harmless, but if your dog continues to do this, and you have concerns, see a veterinary behaviorist to get to the root of the issue.3
Separation Anxiety In Your Canine Companion: What Are Some Of The Signs?
One form of anxiety many dogs go through is known as separation anxiety. As the name implies, a dog with this condition may get very agitated when their pet parents aren’t around. They may go through this because they were previously in a shelter and suffered some sort of traumatic experience. It may occur due to some sort of change in routine in the home.4
A dog with separation anxiety may sometimes pace – either in a circular pattern, or in a straight line. There are other signs as well. A pet may chew up furniture or even a portion of a door. Pets may howl or bark excessively. Some will try to escape. A vet or a professional dog trainer may be able to help if your dog’s behavior is due to this very troubling issue.5
Pet Your Dog Gently, Give Them Mental Stimulation, And Provide Positive Reinforcement
If your dog tends to pace excessively, there are some things you can try to do in an effort to calm them down. Try giving a lot of affection in the form of physical contact. This might help soothe any anxiety your pet is experiencing. You can even find calming music made especially for pets that may help.6
Exercise is important for your dog’s health, and it also provides them with plenty of mental stimulation. Some dogs will pace because they have a lot of pent up energy. As it turns out, exercise not only relieves stress in humans, but also in pets.7 Get outside with your furry family member for a walk. You might find that it helps both of you.
An anxious dog might try to tug on the leash while you walk around the neighborhood. A method of training known as loose leash walking might help to reduce that tugging, making the experience a lot more pleasurable for both you and your pet.8 In a nutshell, loose leash walking is a way to get your dog to walk by your side, rather than pulling you forward.9 A local dog trainer can help if you’re interested in learning more.
Other Things To Try
There are some other things you can try if your pet has separation anxiety.
- If you know you’ll be leaving the house, try not to feel nervous or guilty. Your dog might pick up on your feelings.
- Take some time and confidently project to your dog that everything will be fine while you’re gone.
- If you have a hard time finding music for your pet, play an audiobook instead. If your dog hears a human voice, that might help them relax.10
Do Dogs Pace Due To Other Reasons?
Older dogs will sometimes pace due to a cognitive issue. Pets can, unfortunately, develop dementia as they get older, just like humans can. Dementia can sometimes alter a dog’s sleep-wake cycle. If your pet is pacing at night rather than getting a good night’s sleep, this may be a possible reason. Dogs that are blind or hard of hearing will also sometimes pace excessively.11
A veterinarian can often address dementia in ways that can slow down the progression of the problem. These methods are often successful in helping increase a dog’s activity level, and can also make them more alert. Dietary changes can also be effective in some cases.12
Dogs In Pain Will Sometimes Pace
Now, there could be a medical cause for your dog’s behavior. Has your dog started pacing out of the blue? Has their gait changed? Your pet might have suffered some sort of injury. Pain due to an illness might be another reason why your dog is pacing.13
Your dog should also be examined if you’ve noticed any other out of the ordinary behavior, such as abnormal and excessive panting.14 Get your dog to the vet to rule out this issue.
Anxiety In Dogs: When To Seek Help
If your vet believes your dog’s pacing isn’t the result of a medical issue, it might be time to bring in a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. Experts like these can often help.
As you can see, it’s pretty common for dogs to engage in this behavior, and it’s usually harmless. There are also many ways to help a dog who seems to be pacing excessively. Give your pup plenty of exercise, stimulation and love. If the pacing persists, seek professional care. There’s a good chance your pup will be back to normal in no time.
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