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Why Is My Dog Pacing? 10 Vet-Reviewed Reasons & How to Help

Written by: Dogster Team

Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog pacing

Why Is My Dog Pacing? 10 Vet-Reviewed Reasons & How to Help


Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo


Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Back and forth, back and forth. If you’ve noticed your dog pacing, you’re likely wondering why this behavior started and what is causing it. And, of course, how to fix it! Older dogs are often more prone to pacing, but it can also occur in younger and middle-aged dogs. Pacing can be a sign of various underlying issues, ranging from behavioral to medical to emotional irregularities. Understanding the reasons behind your dog’s pacing is important for fixing the root cause and for providing your pup with appropriate care.

Here are 10 possible reasons why your dog might be pacing and some tips on how to help them feel healthy and safe again.

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The 10 Reasons Your Dog May Be Pacing

1. They’re Anxious or Stressed Out

dog hiding under the table
Image Credit: Patrick H, Shutterstock

Dogs may pace when something is causing them anxiety or stress. Changes in their environment, their routine, or the presence of new people or animals can trigger behaviors like pacing.

  • How to Help: Create a calm and predictable environment for your dog to live in, provide a safe space that they know is theirs, and consider using calming aids recommended by your vet.

2. They’re Bored

Dogs can become restless and pace if they’re bored or lack mental and physical stimulation. They need something to do, and pacing might be their only option.

  • How to Help: Increase playtime, provide interactive toys, and engage in regular exercise and training sessions to keep your dog mentally and physically active.

3. They’re Sick or Injured

sick old dachshund dog lying on the floor
Image Credit: Renko Aleks, Shutterstock

Pain or discomfort from underlying health issues, such as arthritis or digestive problems, or from a hidden injury can cause pacing.

  • How to Help: Consult with a veterinarian to rule out any potential medical concerns. Treatment or pain management may be necessary.

4. They’re Hungry or Thirsty

If your dog is hungry or thirsty, pacing may be a way of expressing their needs. They might be looking for food or water in their surroundings.

  • How to Help: Ensure your dog has access to fresh water and is fed a high-quality, balanced diet at regular intervals.

5. They Need to Pee or Poop

Labrador retriever dog poops in the green park
Image Credit: SasaStock, Shutterstock

Dogs may pace when they need to go outside to relieve themselves. You might be familiar with that feeling: you have to pee and are struggling to hold it in! Your dog might be feeling the same thing!

  • How to Help: Establish a consistent bathroom routine and ensure your dog has regular access to outdoor spaces. Make sure your dog isn’t showing any signs of an illness such as diarrhea, vomiting, frequent urination, or straining to urinate or defecate.

6. They Want Some Attention

Dogs may pace to get your attention, especially if they associate pacing with receiving interaction or treats.

  • How to Help: Have your pup checked out by a vet if they are showing other signs. Reinforce calm behavior with positive attention and rewards. Avoid rewarding pacing to discourage the behavior.

7. They’re Following Their Nesting Instinct

chihuahua dog standing at the doorstep
Image Credit: Meteoritka, Shutterstock

Female dogs, especially those that are unspayed, may exhibit pacing behaviors when they are in heat and have a nesting instinct.

  • How to Help: Spaying can help reduce such behaviors. Provide a comfortable and secure space for your dog.

8. They’re an Old Dude (or Dudette)

Senior dogs may pace due to cognitive dysfunction or discomfort associated with aging.

  • How to Help: Consult with a veterinarian for appropriate care and consider adjustments in the environment to accommodate their changing needs.

9. They’re Full of Excitement or Anticipation

border collie dog sitting on the floor and looking up
Image Credit: smrm1977, Shutterstock

Dogs may pace when they are excited or anticipating an event, such as going for a walk or receiving a meal.

  • How to Help: Maintain a consistent routine, provide mental stimulation, and practice patience to help your dog learn to wait calmly for anticipated events.

10. They’re Lacking Routine

Dogs thrive on routine, and changes to their schedule can cause anxiety or restlessness.

  • How to Help: Establish and maintain a consistent daily routine to provide a sense of predictability for your dog.

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A pacing dog is typically an unhappy dog. If your dog’s pacing persists or is accompanied by other concerning behaviors, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian or a certified dog behaviorist as soon as possible for a thorough assessment. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause is key to helping your dog feel more comfortable and content. We hope this article gave you some possible reasons for the need to pace and ways to help your pooch feel comfy again.

Featured Image Credit: Vincent Scherer/Getty Images

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