Nutty dog runs in circles

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

Teddy Bear

Throw it now!
Barked: Sat Sep 19, '09 9:19pm PST 
Weird, I added our new dog Molly as a profile, but it won't update. Our dearly departed Teddy's picture shows instead...

We adopted a 3 year old Wheaten Terrier about 6 weeks ago. She's housebroken, knows some commands, is reasonably socialized and non-aggressive except for some herding and heeling "play nipping" (doesn't actually bite, just nips at the air). She heels and herds our 5 year old and we've had to break her of dragging his shoes off his feet.

But our big concern with Molly is that she runs in circles incessantly. I've been watching her going around the coffee table for about 45 minutes and this isn't anything new. She will also turn around in tight circles when she wants to go outside, or is agitated or confused about something. It can be kind of annoying, and I wonder if she's bonkers.

Sometimes she changes directions or stops to get a drink, but then starts again. She got quite a bit of exercise today, so I don't think it's just excess energy. I think sometimes her behavior is because she knows there are cats or squirrels outside. We've had problems with her chasing cats - our poor cats haven't been in the house much since we got Molly and we're going to have to train Molly not to chase them by the time the weather gets cold. She is definitely all terrier and wants to get those vermin. But she hasn't earned her keep by killing any moles yet :-(.

Could the dog have OCD? Our neighbor informed us today that when we're at work the dog starts barking and continues all day. We didn't know this and I wish she had told us sooner since it's probably a symptom of her neurosis (and I also don't want to torture our neighbors!). We're on a couple of acres so they're the only people that would hear Molly. Molly has a dog door opening to a fenced area and is probably barking at the squirrels in the fir trees. Does the dog have separation anxiety? Or just a serious yen to eat squirrel butt?

Should we think about a citronella collar? We're going to have to start confining her to the house when we're at work and 10 hours is a long time to hold it. What about shock collars or Prozac? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Edited by author Sat Sep 19, '09 9:24pm PST

Jessica CGC

Will work for- food
Barked: Sat Sep 19, '09 9:31pm PST 
No shock or citronella collars! My major concern is the dog harming herself physically from circling nonstop for 45 minutes. She must be exhausted, physically and mentally.

First and formost, you should consult a behaviorist, one pref. with experience in OCD (not that i am saying i think she has OCD, i can't make that call, no one here can)

Leave the medication for later after you try behavior work. imo.

ETA, p.s. for herding dogs, it isn't always about them needing so much exercise, as they need to have a job and mental exercise. my Border collie mix was an unhappy dog (and it showed...) until I provided for his daily "job". It's been said if herding dogs don't have a daily job, they do become neurotic. Giving medication, can treat symptoms, it can't fix the need for a job though.

Eta2: omd I have brainfreeze or something. Your dog isn't a herding breed...
well..terrier's are "mind dogs" in a way, they are very good problem solvers..weird how your wheaten has the herding behaviors like nipping the feet and circling..
Anyway, i'd still say the same advice for your terrier.

Edited by author Sat Sep 19, '09 9:39pm PST

Teddy Bear

Throw it now!
Barked: Sat Sep 19, '09 10:04pm PST 
Thanks for responding. As far as exhausting herself, she always stops when she's tired. She's crazy but not that crazy. I think it's just nervous energy and maybe she's just bored stiff.

Although she's a terrier, Wheatens were bred as all-around farm dogs which might explain her serious herding instinct.

Here's the Wiki:
The Wheaten was originally bred in Ireland to be an all-purpose farm dog whose duties would have included herding, watching and guarding livestock, and vermin hunting. This is probably why they are not as aggressive as other terriers, who were primarily vermin hunters. They are believed to be related to the Kerry Blue Terrier. Today Wheaten terriers also compete in obedience, agility, and tracking, and many are used in animal-assisted therapy as well.

Teddy Bear

Throw it now!
Barked: Sat Sep 19, '09 10:10pm PST 
I think I need to explain a little more - the 45 minutes isn't whirling in place getting dizzy, but going around and around the coffee table, periodically getting a drink, resting, and changing direction. It doesn't seem like a neurological issue. She got tired after about an hour and is sleeping now. She doesn't do this every day, and usually not more than about a half hour. But we don't know if she does it during the day when we're gone. I'm thinking about getting a webcam and seeing what she does.
Tucker, CGC,- TDI

Bloggin' Dog
Barked: Sat Sep 19, '09 10:25pm PST 
First, congratulations on your new family member. I'm sorry to hear about Teddy.

Now, about Molly. What is her history, as much of it as you know? Not sure what, if anything, it could tell us about why Molly is exhibiting this behavior, but I still think the more we know about her past, the better able we will all be to offer suggestions that may help.

I must agree with Jessica - shock or citronella collars are NOT the answer, and while I have seen psychotropic drugs work wonders in a couple of different dogs over the years, I don't think it should be something that should be done immediately - more as a last resort, or at the very least used in conjunction with behavioral modifcation, not as a stand-alone therapy.

I could be off base here, but I see this obsessive circling as possibly a self-soothing behavior that Molly learned during what was probably a less than ideal past. It is now up to you to show Molly that she no longer needs to engage in such behavior to soothe herself. Try to engage her in interactive play, get her interested in Kongs or stuffed marrow bones or Buster Cubes or bullysticks - something that is either really tasty and high value and/or will stimulate not just her appetite but also her mind.

I would also intervene if she starts to do the circling behavior. If she starts to circle, divert her attention to something else. Praise her for engaging in those other activities. If she seems unable to stop herself from the circling behavior when she is at liberty, try having her on a tether instead.

And, although you clearly have a nice big yard, focused exercise is going to be important for her. She shouldn't just be running around willy-nilly all the time, although opportunity to get the ya-yas out is important for any dog. However, I believe that for a dog like Molly, focused training walks are vitally important. Bring treats and "work" her during the course of the walk. Teach her to do an automatic sit at a curb, practice sit and down. Alternate jogs and fast walks where you change direction frequently with slower ones where you encourage and reward her for staying beside you. You want to burn energy but do it in a focused manner so that she learns that there is more to life than racing around in a circle.

If she does not have a crate already, get one, and turn it into a cozy, comfy haven for Molly. Then encourage her to spend time there without locking her inside of it at first . In another recent thread, Asher posted what I thought was a brilliant suggestion to teach a dog that the crate is a place that they want to be, which was to take something of really high value - such as cooked hamburger - and put it in the crate, but lock the dog out instead of in! I'd never heard of this approach before, and I thought it was brilliant!

Also, although I agree with you that ten hours is too long for Molly to be expected to "hold it", I also don't think that at this point a doggie door is the answer, either. Molly is new to your home, and although I know nothing of her history, I would venture to say it was not ideal. She doesn't need to be on her own for that many hours a day, especially not in this situation where she is working herself up into a frenzy as well as disturbing your neighbors.

Is it possible for you and your spouse to take turns coming home mid-day to let Molly out and play with her a bit? Do either of you have a dog-friendly work place where Molly could accompany you some of the time? Would it be possible to get a dog sitter to come in?

My feeling is that if Molly is given enough exercise, some training (agility might be great for her, as it is a wonderful way to build a dog's confidence - all those yummy treats and positive reinforcement can't help but make a dog feel good about life and about him/herself!), some enforced down time when she knows it is ok to just switch off and relax, plus just some additional time in your family to feel comfortable and know that this is her home, all will be well.

Meanwhile, please be especially mindful of your probably stressed-out felines. Perhaps set up a sanctuary room for them with a big cat tree next to a sunny window, a litter box, and their food and water bowls, that you can gate off from Molly,so that they have a place to feel secure.
Shayne CGC,- RL2

Shayne- Disc Doggin in- the 'Burgh!
Barked: Sun Sep 20, '09 1:05pm PST 
I want to say that this can be a very serous problem if not addressed.

There are many reasons for dogs to spin. Not enough physical exercise, not enough mental exercise, a self rewarding behavior done to relieve stress from a bad situation, or neurological issues (just to name some of the most common).

The reason this can be so dangerous is that if a dog gets really bad, it is spinning and spinning so much that they can get to a point where it is hard to keep weight on the dog and regardless of caloric intake they are still losing weight. Essentially these dogs can die of starvation or heart issues because their heart is always working hard.

I am NOT saying this is what is going on with Molly but i'm just giving these examples so you can see why it's important to work on this issue.

While physical exercise can help this problem, it can also make things worse if the spinning continues. So make sure she's getting enough exercise but dont overdue it.

What is often helpful is to up the mental exercise. Play thinking games, work on training behaviors, take up a canine sport, give her new and interesting experiences that where she is using a lot of mental energy sniffing or exploring.

It's hard to give good advice without having more of an idea of WHY she is spinning. The more detail you give the better advice you will receive.

What is she eating, when is she eating. How does she get exercised, for how long, does the spinning occur before exercise will it continue after exercise. How much training does she do--what type of training? Does she get to play thinking games? When does she spin--in the am, in the pm, does it matter? When does she not spin? Keeping a diary of when she is spinning and what was going on when it happened can be helpful in discovering the REASONS to her spinning can help you solve the problem.
Teddy Bear

Throw it now!
Barked: Mon Sep 21, '09 2:34pm PST 
Thanks so much for the responses

We are concerned that she’s spinning when we’re not home. Out in the yard under the trees there’s a circle in the dirt. The neighbor has been hearing her bark and I imagine she’s doing it while she spins.

We started telling her “stop” when she twirls, and praising her when she does. She stops, but looks like she wants to do it again. But of course that won’t work if we’re not home.

Today we left her inside since the neighbor complained about barking, and arranged for our other neighbor is going to take her out after lunch. Doris arrived, called the dog, and she didn’t come. She went to the bedroom and Molly was half asleep on the bed watching Animal Planet . My husband thought I was nuts when I said I was going to leave the TV on for her.

Molly didn’t want to come, so Doris went to get her leash and Molly had gone under the bed! I’ve never seen her do that! Anyway, Doris called me and asked if I wanted her to drag her out and of course I said no. But she didn’t hear any barking today. She's going back around 3 to see if Molly wants to go outside.

Another neighbor has 6 boys and home-schools (!), and I’m going to see if the boys would like a job and take Molly out every afternoon. Two of the boys go jogging and maybe they could take Molly for a run. They don’t have a dog so they’d probably enjoy it.

You asked about Molly’s history. From when she was 6 months old, she lived with a family with two special-needs kids. One was blind, the other had cerebral palsy, so Molly didn’t get a lot of exercise. They took her to the dog park sometimes. They weren’t actively looking for a new home for her, but knew that it wasn’t working out. Molly just spent a lot of time alone, and they felt bad about it. She was with them for 2 ½ years. I ran an ad on craigslist looking for a “small to midsized used dog, relatively late-model” and mentioned that we had a wonderful wheaten cross that had died. Molly’s mom periodically searched under “wheaten” and saw my ad. She wanted an owner that knew the breed and grooming requirements, and I’d had two terriers and groomed them myself. She also wanted the new owner that understood that wheatens are high energy.

I don’t know if spinning was an issue – they crated Molly during the day. We left Molly’s crate out the first week but she never went in it, and preferred sleeping in the dog beds around the house during the day, and at the foot of our bed at night. I’m going to bring it back in – maybe she did go in during the day.
She is pretty skinny. We’ve been leaving Kirkland Lamb and Rice (what she was getting before) out on demand, and also give her Nature’s Pet (I think that’s what it’s called – those giant sausage things) once or twice a day. I stuff that into a kong, too. She also gets people food – whatever the 5 year old doesn’t finish, and some leftovers. She likes corn, apples, carrots, hot dogs, whatever. I don’t think she’s unhealthily thin, but I’m going to take her to the vet to be sure.

You both mentioned “thinking games” and “stimulating activity”. What kind of games? I think Cranium is out.

She doesn’t know how to fetch, and I’ve been meaning to look on the web for some ideas on how to teach her. I’ve been teaching her to walk on the leash – she pulls, and freaked when I tried to fit her with a chain collar at the pet store. I got an Easy-Walk harness for her and it solves the problem of pulling, but it’s hard to get her to heel on one side. She wants to go around us - more of that herding behavior! We work on it every few days and I reward her with little treats or hot dog pieces.

She likes squeaky toys, but just runs off with them. I gave her a pigs ear today but she didn’t have a whole lot of interest in it. We’ve taken her to the dog park some, and when she’s around big dogs she can be surprisingly scrappy if they bully her. It’s actually kind of gratifying to see her hold her own – she seems kind of wimpy sometimes but not then. I take her to the regular park with my son and she’s very good around kids and people. They only aggression she’s shown is towards one neighbor who she barked and snarled at (the same neighbor who mentioned the barking), and I don’t know why. I doubt she’d bite, but after that one incident I’m a little concerned she could be a fear biter under particular circumstances.

A couple of weeks after we adopted her, we went camping for two weeks. She was great – not fearful and great in the truck. We tried to keep her leashed in the campsite, but even if she wasn’t she stayed within the boundaries without being told. She wasn’t unduly interested in passers-by, nor did she bark much (unless there was a squirrel). She did take off after some horses though and scared the hell out of us and was always on the leash after that! She was trying to herd horses – not too bright and something a dog can get shot for in Oregon, legally. I think she’s probably be great at agility, but between working full-time, and taking my son to swimming and gymnastics, I don’t know when we’d have the time.

Let's play!
Barked: Mon Sep 21, '09 5:24pm PST 
Sorry to hear about Teddy. The reason why your posts are as Teddy is because you are logged in as Teddy. If you want to change pet author you will need to log in as one of the other dogs or when you post or answer a post look down below the box you type in and select the other dog under "Pet Author". It's just below to the left.
Shayne CGC,- RL2

Shayne- Disc Doggin in- the 'Burgh!
Barked: Tue Sep 22, '09 6:19am PST 
Crating a high energy dog for extended periods of time (literally most of the day) (especially if that puppy is a high energy pup) can make some dogs start to spin. They have all of this excess energy and no where to run or play so they learn to spin in their crates. In order to create type of behavior in a crate this poor pup had to have been stuck in that crate all the time and never really let outside to play. Although, she very well could have come from a puppy mill where she learned that behavior from mum.

So for thinking games:
Three cup game: put a piece of yummy food under one of the cups (be sure to show her which cup) and let her get the food (she'll have to learn to push the cup over). Once she gets the idea, conceal which cup has the food underneath

Muffin pan: Put a piece of yumminess in each cup of the muffin tin. Put tennis balls in 1/2 of the cups (over the yum). she'll get the ones w/o tennis balls first but have to figure out how to get the yum from under the balls. IF she is struggling you can lift up one ball to show her the treat but put the ball back down before she gets it and let her figure it out on her own.

Dinner in a box: This allows the dog to also burn energy by eventually destroying boxes lol.

I start this process by putting a few pieces of yum put under an overturned clear jar/cup. The dog needs to learn to simply nudge the jar over to get the food--dont help her...let her think through this... if she needs a little reminder tip the jar so she can get a better sniff of the yum. When she starts tipping the jar quickly switch the game.

Now, start putting the yum IN the jar and leaving it standing. She'll have to learn to tip it over and roll it around to let the yum fall out. When this becomes too easy, you can put some tape across the opening to make it more difficult.

You can do this with what i call dinner in a box, start with just putting yum in an open box. Repeat for a while (shaking it around to make some sound if the yum is hard). Then put one of the flaps down to close the box--repeat. Eventually get both flaps down (but not latched). Then close all four flaps in the interlocking manner. When she's good with that you can tape it shut. I use a lot of different boxes thick, thin, big, small, etc. Shayne bites, chews, scratches, tips tosses the box working to get her kibble out... Here's a video of shayne's dinner in a box. They really have to think and try to figure out how to get their dinner out... it's a little destructive but it burns a lot of energy!

Here are some other mental exercise ideas from youtube
Really cool hand made toy... i couldn't make it but it would be AWESOME!

A variety of games, some that i have explained as well

Do some training, on of the best ways i've discovered to play fetch (if your dog likes to play tug) is to star vary short, have two toys (if you have two fo the same that is best) one behind your back and pretty much hand the dog the other toy and tug with it for a little bit. If your dog knows how to "drop it" on cue use the cue. If she doesn't know "drop it" turn the toy into a dead toy--stop tugging, hold on to the toy but just be really loose... if she tugs fine, but dont tug back, eventually she will get bored and let go, when she does reward her with the second toy to play tug with. Repeat this frequently until she's loving to tug.. then instead of handing her to the toy, drop it on the ground right in front of you, hopefully she'll pick it up and give it to you to tug... reward. Repeat (still using the two toy method to reward). SLOWLY you can toss the toy a little distance (a foot at first) and always reward her returning it with a game of tug. (**there are other ways to teach a retrieve but i like this one if a dog likes to play tug..if they dont like tug there are other ways... )

You can just do some training at your own home and play at home. Do you watch an hour of tv at night? Those 4-6 commercial breaks are excellent times to do some obedience training with your pup.... more mental work.
~Emma~ RL1

Mixed breed,- Pure heart
Barked: Tue Sep 22, '09 8:47am PST 
Shayne always has such good advice. Just wanted to add...

We have used a Buster ball toy to dispense her food. Basically, it's a ball with a hole and when the dog pushes it around, it drops kibble (or treats) out. Emm enjoys that one. Emm has to earn a lot of her food, so this helped, but we have also used her meals for training sessions as well.

We also play Hide and Seek. She adores this one. We have even started to move it outside. My parents have a nice yard with little spaces to hide, then someone lets her out, and she has to find me. Loads of fun, big laugh

I love the little training sessions, like Shayne described. We do that as well.

Also, Emm, though a mix, likes to herd cats, and would herd dogs as well, if I let her. Though she has not gone as far as nipping heels, thank dog laugh out loudlaugh out loud.

Can't wait to see a picture, hope you get that solved soon.way to go