/Dog Pacing – Why It Happens and How to Help Your Pacing Dog

Dog Pacing – Why It Happens and How to Help Your Pacing Dog

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Just how pacing in humans is often associated with restlessness or anxiety, dogs might begin pacing if feeling anxious or experiencing stress. In most cases, dog pacing is not a serious health issue — rather, merely a behavioral response to general nervousness or anxiety.
“When a dog paces they are usually walking back and forth from one spot to another,” says Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM. “Sometimes they will just be walking around the house without a destination in mind.”
Dogs might pace while waiting for someone or something — like for a family member to come home or waiting for mealtime. Some dogs pace for awhile with a high-value toy or treat in their mouth and may even whine. Because dog pacing isn’t technically a medical issue, “treatment” is all about helping your dog feel more comfortable. The more comfortable a dog is, the less likely he is to feel anxious. If the anxiety is targeted and treated, then the dog might stop pacing.
“It is easy to identify a dog who has a pacing problem. A dog is pacing when she is walking back and forth in a repetitive pattern,” says Amanda Gagnon, certified professional dog trainer and graduate researcher of anthrozoology at Canisius College. “When pacing occurs for a short period of time, it is nothing to worry about. However, if a dog paces for an extended length of time or cannot be deterred from the activity, it may be time to call a professional dog trainer.”
Some kinds of pacing are considered normal and most can be treated with the help of a training specialist, who can provide easy solutions to distract the dog and discourage pacing.
“Normal dog pacing is usually caused by excitement, the need for attention or an alert to something unusual in the environment,” says Kristen Papile-Kranjc, CMDT, of Long Island Canine Class. “This type of pacing can be addressed by a dog trainer or behavioral specialist. Distraction techniques such as giving the dog a high-value toy or bone that he doesn’t see often to keep him busy, playing with your dog or taking him out for a walk are some simple solutions.”
Why does dog pacing happen?
According to Dr. Ochoa, pacing in dogs is generally caused by stress or anxiety. However, sources of anxiety and stress could be a variety of things: trips to the vet, waiting for someone or something to happen, having to pee or poop, or general restlessness.
“Most dogs will pace at home or at the vet clinic,” Dr. Ochoa explains. “At home, they may pace back and forth near the front door waiting