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?
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on email
Email

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:

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

  1. So this is what my French Mastiff is doing! I thought he was just finding creative ways to pet himself. (He is very dramatic.)

    1. Georgina E Hermsdorf

      I have a pitbull boxer that does this around tables kitchen from time to time coffee doesn't matter which and I wonder if it could be some kind anxiety stress management thing he is doing. He has been through a lot his buddy BR has been thru a lot I have been alot we have all 3 BB even alot.

  2. Yes, we think she’s a husky mix. 6/7 years old. The 1st time we saw it, she was doing on an indoor plant (some type of cane plant) and now we catch her on a weekly basis weaving in and out of a weed/bush on the side of the house. We were going to cut it down but she seems to enjoy herself. I have many videos of this oddly hilarious behavior.

  3. We have a deaf Australian Cattle dog who trances several times a day under/against anything she can find; bushes, plants, clothes, bedspread… for the cold winters in NY, we have created a wall lined with a fake Christmas tree, plants and curtains…she will weave in and out trancing…we don’t disturb her because it makes her so happy and content!

  4. We had a bouvier des flandres that used to trance. Started at about age 2. Under tree branches, hanging clothes, table clothes etc. Did more often after grooming. We would get home from a groom and he would head straight to a bush and start. We used to call it doing his tai chi!

  5. Our pitbull terrier mix trances frequently in/around our live Christmas tree! We have not seen her do it anywhere else. Unfortunately, she also has severe OCD issues and will chase her tail when she does not get enough mental stimulation or physical exercise.

  6. My 3 year old French Bulldog started doing this under the areca palm plant in our hallway this year and at first I was concerned that it might be a medical or behavioural issue but now, especially after reading the above, I think he just seems to love how the fronds feel on his back as he moves slowly underneath it. He does it several times a day and I consider it his little meditation time-out as he seems so relaxed and his ears are right back in peak relaxation mode!

  7. Omg my soft coated wheaten terrier does this. I’ll have a blanket hanging off the end of my recliner and she’ll just go back and forth trancing under it?

  8. I have a border collie/pitbull and she does this specifically with pygmy plants/bushes. My boyfriend and myself were completely confused when she did this because usually she’s running around, barking at other dogs when we go out to parks or hikes. This time she stood under the bush in a trance state, eyes slightly closed , a little bit of slobber and just slowly moving. Started played a few minutes later.

  9. i have a pug that does it to our christmas tree , every year, it can be real or fake, she just loves to do it. She was adopted at 3 , i have had her 5 years now, and i have a video of her doing it.

  10. Our Bouvier does it. I thought it might have to do with spirits. She did it in our previous house too. She goes for months not doing it but lately it’s a number of times a day. I’m glad to finally put a name to it. Thank you

  11. We have quite a few videos of our mix (lab, pit, border collie) doing this at any chance she gets and for as long as she is able to. She is high anxiety and definitely has obsessive-compulsive behaviors (seems that her first owner did not treat her well). We just thought it was another one of her strange, new affinities. It’s cracking me up reading all of these other stories, so thank you for this article and to everyone for sharing!

  12. Im happy to find this article! My son brought home a 4 year old RED TICK HOUND. From the very first day he started tracing my large house plants. Then we realized he does it outside too. He loves and drooping plant or bush. He does it every day. No rhyme or reason. I can touch him to break him out or wait a couple minutes until he is done. I say ” he’s being a goober”. He has a goofy playful personality so if fits him. Im glad to see it’s nothing to worry about, thank you

  13. Michele Pena Clark

    I have a pit bull that started doing this around me when I was diagnosed with cancer and started chemo treatment. I thought maybe he could sense something was going on with me. Two years after treatment and he still trances around me, usually when I’m not feeling well.

  14. Our bull terrier does it when I have my night gown on and cooking in the kitchen. We’ve always thought it was the weirdest thing until I read this article. Thank you.

  15. My 11-year-old Silky Terrier has started doing this. My son was visiting and said he did it all the time under the dust ruffle in the guest room where my son stayed. I recently covered the furniture with sheets after steam cleaning ‘dog’ out of everything. I was really alarmed and thought he might have developed doggy dementia. I’m so relieved to find this post!

  16. I have a lab/pit mix who does this. She’s done it for years, under curtains, my kitchen apron… I finally googled the behavior today and came across this article. We always worried if it had something to do with her past (she is a rescue, and we suspect abuse in her puppy years), but I am glad to see that it’s mostly “normal” and something she likely does for enjoyment. I admittedly chuckled at the suggestion it could be an OCD behavior, considering myself and my daughter have OCD as well. She fits right in! 🙂

  17. My chihuahua trances a lot almost always under our bamboo bush but sometimes now under the lavender too !! We call it his scared stroll !! He seems to enjoy it and comes away happily trotting along 🙂

  18. My 7 year old female Pekingese Mia does it, she has since she was young. But it doesn’t have anything to do w touching her back. We’ll be in the open back yard n she does it or even in the house. We always called it her “stealth walk”. My 5 year old male Pekingese Buddy has never done it.

  19. My Havanese has “tranced” since she was one year old. I did not know what on earth she was doing at first. She has a foot stool that just “skims” the top of her wool, and carefully walks through it, (underneath), gently turns around, and comes back through it the other way. She will have one foot in the air, then gently put it down,(as if teepee-creeping). Sometimes she does this for 10 minutes at a time…..but it seems she gets great comfort from this. She will disappear during the day………and I know that she is doing her “trancing”. comes out happy as a bug!! Would love to hear from other dog owners on their actions?? Thanks

    1. My havanese does it too!! Always after I groom her! She’s doing it right now! My friend’s husky mix did it too! My havenese doesn’t even have to be touching something. Just be under something lol My other dogs will even sniff at her and she still slow motions around!

  20. I have a pit bull and I also did not know what he was doing until I looked it up. He started off years ago while I was standing in the bathroom mirror blow drying my hair. I would wear a long tee shirt when I got out of the shower and he would literally walk around and around and around me.. I did not realize at the time that my tee shirt just barely touched him as he was doing this. I thought he was guarding me or something lol.. Now he does it on the window curtains and the kitchen table cloth. Definitely amusing to watch and we can interrupt him at any time. He does not have a mean bone in his body. He is the only dog I have.. we have 5.. that does this behavior and he’s spoiled rotten

  21. My Jack Russel/Chihuahua does this on the way to his water bowl too. Like he’s sneaking up on it. I’ve just recently noticed it and he is about 11 years old.

  22. Maria Williams

    We have a 2 yr old Brussels Griffin terrier rescue. The foster mom told us she interacted great with other dogs, she had been rescued from a kill shelter and probably spent most of her life on the street. Her only quirk was “sneaking up on her water”. The first time I saw her I too thought it was a seizure. She only does it to her water dish, but does it everyday and every time she goes to the water dish. Thanks for the info. We were afraid she had been traumatized sometime in her short life.

  23. Jacqui Stephens

    Thank you for this page! We were very concerned about our Lhasa Apso doing this weird thing almost every day. It’s usually in the clothes that hang off the clothes horse but now she’s doing it under the doona on our bed! Her eyes don’t blink and her tongue is like a lizard. She goes really slowly, turns around then goes the other way. Lasts about 5 minutes. Now it has a name and other doggies do it too!! Phew!!

  24. My male standard poodle will walk in super slow motion, over to my female standard, and place his head over her back or suddenly grab her ear or neck. He does this multiple time a day and it has resulted in some serious fighting between them, as my female does not tolerate it well. My male is 1.2 yrs and my female is 4 yrs. Both dogs have been altered.

  25. I had two Staffy / Lab Cross brothers who used to love trancing under our Lomandra. Now we have a German Short Haired Pointer, Raymond, and he also loves the Lomandra but also the low branches of our Golden Cane palms. Sends him to nirvana! And sometimes, he completes the session with some zooming. Yes, our Ray Ray’s cray cray 🙂

  26. My mini bull terrier just started doing this a few months ago. She likes the bamboo hedges outside so I asked the gardener not to trim them anymore. She started trancing under the coat rack, too, where a long scarf touches her back. It’s so weird 🙂

    My previous standard bull terrier also tranced, once. I freaked out because I thought she was having a stroke or something so she never did it again. At least not in front of me.

    Neither are prone to ocd, and no tail chasing. Just a weird thing they like doing. My thoughts are that maybe they are seeking some kind of medicinal remedy from certain plants and are going through the motions on pure instinct. Or certain plant chemicals could be released that have a drug effect. My standard actually loved getting drunk off fermented fruits from our orchard. We had to close it off when we realized she was doing that. But looking back, she did it a lot.

  27. My 4 yr old pitbull trances. I was relieved to read this article because he was starting to worry me. He walks circles under my clothes in my closet, he looks like he is stalking something in slow motion.

  28. Recently adopted a 4 yr old Boxer. We noticed this behavior almost immediately. At first she would trance around a fern that is planted in a cast iron kettle on our patio. At first we thought it may be the scent (or something?) from the kettle. Shortly after she developed a fondness for my shower curtain and entertains herself by trancing back and forth with the curtain flowing over her back. Thankful for this article and posts that while may not explain the behavior, at least lets me know there are other “trancers” =)

  29. My Min Pin loves to trance our Christmas Tree. Christmas is the only time we get to see him trance. We put our tree up tonight, and as soon as he was able he started trancing. His littermate brothet teanced with him tonight for the first time. Watching them walk around in a trance is hysterical…silly dogs.

  30. My 3 year old cane Corso mix just started this around 2 years old. It is clothes hanging off a chair. He also closes his eyes when you get him.

  31. I find it strange how I see alot of comments that there dogs have started doing this as recently past couple years. I hope it is just something you have all taken a notice to or inaccurate an they have been doing it all there life kinda thing. My mind thinks negative sadly an asks ” what if there is something causing them to do this in the past few years?” Kinda thing lol.

  32. Jennifer Weeling

    I have three bull terrier and two trance. One more than anything else. He probably trances 4-6 times a day. He goes around the hanging leaves of my indoor plants. He will also sometimes trance under my hanging jeans in the closet. Plant leaves are his favorite though. I have three larger pots in the house that he meditates at multiple times a day.

  33. My Staffie boy does this only in our bathroom when I’m in the bath. I thought there might be a ghost in the room. I was very scared for him when he first did it but he’s fine years after his first episode and I now find it hilarious.

  34. Our 4 year old French Bulldog started doing this about a year and a half ago. It seems almost like doggie yoga that leaves her feeling relaxed. She especially does it when she is stressed out.

  35. I have an unusual mix for a dog. Her mother looked like a beautiful German Shepherd. But she was the product of Berlin Wall sentry dogs and a confused Coyote. She was kenneled when she was in heat, but a Pitt Bull that was new to the neighborhood found her. Thelma was born six years ago and has many peculiar traits. But this extremely slow motion activity through bushes is hilarious. I am glad to see there are other dogs with this same peculiar behavior.

  36. I have a 6 year old Shih Tzu that I adopted a few months ago and I noticed him doing this only when he’s walking up to his water bowl for a drink. he’s back to normal right after. I find it strange but he seems fine. I just hope there’s no underlying issue.

  37. My 9 year old Vizsla trances all the time. At my last home, one fence line was fully covered with honeysuckle. He would go outside and slide in between the fence and the hanging vines. Sometimes he would stay there for 10 to 15 minutes. In the lobby of the office where I work, we have a weeping fig tree. Most days when he comes to work with me, he dives right in as soon as we walk in the door. I just drop his leash and head to my desk – he comes back to greet everyone eventually. My co-workers think it is absolutely hilarious. I just tell them “Rexie is getting his tree-time this morning”.

  38. My Chihuahua does it! He’s about 8 years old and I got him through a rescue a year ago. He’s only done it a few times, but it sure is strange to watch!

  39. We have a beagle mix who trances. Thanks for giving it a name! She first did this in a closet with the clothes draping over her back. She seems so content and happy. She trances every night before we go to bed. She stands at the closet door waiting for me to open it. Recently she has started to trance under our hydrangea bush. Wherever she does it, when it is over, she shakes her head and then goes on about her regular business!

  40. Pingback: Dog Trancing — What Is It and Why Does Your Dog Do It? – dogcaz.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Get Dogster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.

Let Dogster answer all of your most baffling canine questions!

Starting at just
$14.95!

Related

Follow Us

Shopping Cart