An Irish Setter.
An Irish Setter. Photography by DragoNika / Shutterstock.

Dog Trancing — What Is It and Why Does Your Dog Do It?

Dog trancing happens when dogs creep as objects lightly touch their backs. So, are certain breeds more prone to dog trancing, and should you ever be concerned about dog trancing?
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Also called “ghost-walking” or “weed-walking,” trancing (is that even a word?) refers to a behavior in which some dogs walk — no, creep — excruciatingly slowly, in an almost trance-like manner, usually under hanging leaves, tablecloths or clothes that lightly touch the dog’s back. But dog trancing sometimes happens just walking to the water bowl!

If your dog does it, you know what I’m talking about. If he doesn’t, here’s an example of dog trancing:

How dogs behave when trancing

The first time I encountered dog trancing was with a friend’s Saluki, who liked to trance in her closet under her clothes. My friend called it “playing slo-mo dog.”

Since then, I’ve had a Saluki of my own who tranced when he walked under a particular bush in the yard. No, he wasn’t having a focal seizure, as some people who’d never seen dog trancing have suggested. You could call him out of it (with effort), or interrupt him, and he’d be back to normal, although noticeably miffed at having his trance time interrupted. Dogs who trance seem to enjoy doing it immensely.

Donna Moran’s Greyhound, Festus, is prone to dog trancing. “His favorite place to trance is under our crape myrtle,” Moran says. “He goes into a deep trance and we judge how deep he is by how high he raises his tail. While in a deep trance you can call, whistle or squeak a toy and you will not distract him, you no longer exist nor do any of the other hounds. Festus’ trances last three to five minutes; when he comes out of them he trots off, happy-go-lucky, all is right with the world.”

Her little male Whippet, Tigger, has watched Festus and now trances for a very short period of time under the same tree, but she has never been quick enough with the camera to capture him.

What triggers dog trancing? Why do dogs trance?

A dog trancing.
A dog trancing. Photography courtesy the author.

It’s not the scent that appears to trigger dog trancing, as various dogs choose different types of bushes, and some prefer hanging clothes. Some even prefer odder things, but most have in common something that hangs down and scarcely touches them. Kathy Vogel, who owns the Hunt Club Boarding Kennel in Virginia Beach, Virginia, recalls a Saluki whose owner warned her of her dog’s odd behavior.

“She told us not to worry if he did it; apparently they thought it was a seizure when they first saw it happen!” she says. “This dog did it when we opened the guillotine doors in the kennel; the cable was overhead and if you just held it instead of opening and closing the door the cable fell suspended over his head bringing on the trance like state — very strange to witness.”

Are certain breeds more prone to dog trancing?

Some people think certain breeds are more prone to dog trancing than others, and it’s probably true. Greyhounds and Bull Terriers seem to head the list. But Salukis also seem to have more than their share, as do Basset Hounds. I’ve also heard of it in at least one Whippet, Jack Russell, Labrador, Irish Setter, Cane Corso, Cavalier, Australian Cattle Dog and Puggle.

Is dog trancing associated with any neurological disorders or even OCD in dogs?

Back in 2004, a group of Bull Terrier owners conducted a survey to see if there was any correlation between dog trancing and neurological problems. They found none.

There was also some thought that dog trancing could be a type of obsessive compulsive disorder, which are more commonly seen in Bull Terriers. Maybe, but if so, it’s not going to lead to other obsessive behaviors. A leading researcher, Dr. Alice Moon Fanelli of Tufts Behavioral Clinic, had this to say: “I should mention that an extraordinarily large number of Bull Terriers trance. Some tail chase while others do not. While dog trancing is an abnormal behavior, I now view it as separate from tail chasing. In other words, if any of you have a Bullie that’s currently walking in slo-mo under your Norfolk Pine as you read this — don’t panic that this will eventually evolve into tail chasing!”

So, should you be concerned about dog trancing?

Probably not. It’s not associated with known neurological disorders, doesn’t seem to be a cry for attention (as one site suggested), doesn’t seem to take over the dog’s life, and doesn’t seem to leave anyone worse off. It just seems to be something they greatly enjoy. Of course, there are always those who want to whip you into a panic. One person who asked on a pet dog forum about her Irish Setter trancing was warned not to touch him, as “bully breeds that were interrupted when trancing often attacked.” We couldn’t find even one report of such trance-attacks, but would be interested in hearing about them if they exist.

Tell us: Does your dog trance? Tell us his breed and tell us what sets him off!

Thumbnail: Photography by DragoNika / Shutterstock.

This piece was originally published in 2010.

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

Learn more about weird dog behaviors with Dogster.com:

119 thoughts on “Dog Trancing — What Is It and Why Does Your Dog Do It?”

  1. My rescue beagle does this through my patio plants. I thought she was simulating hunting and stalking as she appears to have been a hunter before I got her.

  2. Deanna A Doehler

    I would love to be able to post a video. I adopted a dog from the Humane Society and she does it in the backyard under a certain tree. I watched her do it for at least two or three minutes before I started videoing her. It's quite comical

  3. So nice to know that it's nothing to worry about. My Pug loves to gently and slowly walk under bushes, Christmas trees and any other foliage that would gently brush her back.Her favourite is my silk dressing gown, or the gowns that my clients wear (I'm a hairdredser), she is well known for pacing slowly backward and forward through the gowns to get her fix. She fits right in with our family, we're all a bit special 😁

  4. I get this "trance" with ASMR
    It may also be caused by light touches and brushing against the skin such as effleurage.
    Canines get tingles too

  5. Our 7 year old Mastiff/German Shepard just started "trancing" often. We just bought an indoor palm tree that she LOVES to slowly walk around. Now that we see this … remembering her walking slowly under throw blankets on couches & chairs. It just wasn't as often and for as long.

  6. Our Portuguese Water Dog is 11 and has done it all her life under tree branches. It looks so much like Chinese Tai Chi that we call it Tree-Chi. Neither her breeder nor our vet knew what it was, so after 11 years of mystery I was delighted to run across this article.

  7. I have a 8 year old Dalmatian and she trances all the time, even when we take her out to do her business, we call it ninja-ing, she loves doing it every time there’s something hanging she can go through it, we don’t even care anymore, it’s super cute and she comes out of it easily.

  8. I have a 2 year old Yorkshire Terrier who just started doing this in the closet under where my dresses hang. I’m glad to have found this post, as I was quite worried that this was some type of seizure. Turns out he’s just a weirdo who likes to walk slow under dresses!! Lol

  9. My Poodle Bichon mix is a transfer. He enjoys trancing under the living room curtains, under a blanket draped over a chair, and the bathroom shower curtain. He snaps out of his trance when I say, "Has anyone seen Winston"? It seems similar to stalking or cat like.

  10. Jo-Anne Palmer

    Our Golden Labrador Toffee trances every second day in the house with no real trigger and nothing overhead.

    1. Do you think it could be epilepsy? Our Retriever/Lab, Luke, had epilepsy at the age of 4. He had had some bad seizures that we medicated him for.

  11. I had a Great Dane who would do this! Under my potted ficus tree. At first I thought she was having some sort of seizure (I had a Dalmatian previously who was prone to those) and got concerned and started googling.. turns out she’s just weird! 😂

  12. My pit pup started doing the trance walk this past Christmas. I find it the most oddly interesting thing to watch.

  13. we have a 8 yr male patterdale , who does exactly this , under bushes ,clothes ext , thankyou for this post has we were getting worried, been to the vets had bloods which were ok , but vets didnt know what it is x

  14. My dog (maltipoo) has done it on quite a few occasions. I thought he was unwell and was worried. It’s like there in slow motion. Until reading this and watching the video. Like u said it doesn’t last long.

  15. My dog is a golden retriever.. she traces all the time. Without needing to glide under clothes or anything else. We call it her slow mo walk it’s quite funny. She’s done it since she was a puppy.

  16. David Hamilton

    Our dog is Lhasa Poo and does this under our bed everyday. We call it her “ninja walk” . We have never been worried about it, just thought it was super funny and eccentric. But of course that is what makes Bella so special.

  17. My shih tzu cross does it to the water bowl nothing touches her back shes quite small.. I have video footage a good few videos of her doing it I just always thought she was a wierdo.. it doesn’t matter what house we’ve lived in or where we at either

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