I can’t say I have had a dog that has done this to me, but then again my dogs were from other breed groups. It looks kind of crazy at first, you look down to see what your dog is doing and they are running circles around you…literally.
Why does my dog circle me? The circling your dog is doing is them trying to herd you. However, it could also be that your dog is very excited or anxious.
Circling is a behavior found in many herding dog breeds and is your dog trying to “round you up”.
I use this specific terminology because this behavior is your dog trying to herd you as if you were a sheep and they are the herding dog.
Why Does My Dog Circle Me?
While you might know it as circling it is also known as herding. Herding dog breeds instinctually have this behavior from birth.
Since they do not have any sheep to herd, they might just end up trying to herd you or even your children!
These are “Herding” dog breeds because many years ago they were bred to herd livestock for farmers without hurting the animals.
They also were taught to do other duties for their humans like being a protector which made them even better for their work as herding dogs.
What is surprising about the herding dog breed group is the range of different dogs. There are several different looking dogs with different strengths and weaknesses.
To demonstrate the variety, in the herding dog breed group there are Border Collies, German Shepherds, and Corgis!
However, this behavior can be found in any dog and has no limitation to one breed or breed group.
Many dog breeds can be taught to herd but no other breed group has the frequency or instinctual behavior of herding.
Why You Might Want To Stop Your Dog From Doing This
During my research, I found that this behavior isn’t harmful or a necessary change you need to make, but it can be very intruding.
When you are trying to walk around and your dog is circling your legs and try to herd you, it might be fun at first but it can get old quick.
Another reason you might want to stop your dog from doing this because it might be caused by a need for attention.
And if you grant your dog this attention you might be encouraging them to continue with this behavior.
But it isn’t absolutely necessary to train this behavior out of your dog.
In fact, there are several ways that you can replace, reduce, or remove this behavior which you can decide depending on your dog.
How To Fix Dog Circling?
There are a few different ways that you can fix dog circling and they are all fairly simple to use on your dog.
Most of the time the solution is right in front of you already it is just putting it to use and repeating it always.
First, you should make sure you are properly exercising your dog. They might have an excess of energy that isn’t being spent.
Get your dog outside and get them to run around, or play fetch or whatever game your dog likes to play, play it with them.
Don’t complicate it! Sure this might not be the solution if you want to train the behavior out of them, but this is much easier and fun.
If a dog is tired they won’t spend their time chasing your guests and trying to guide them to their toys!
Second, use your stern “teaching voice” and inform your dog of that misdoing. Like any relationship, you need to communicate.
This is especially important when educating your dog. How will your dog know they did something wrong if you haven’t told them?
The most important thing when teaching your dog is to be consistent.
Often times dog owners will fade off or give certain exemptions to their dogs maybe when they are too tired or they have guests over.
Do not do this because your dog will continue herding and nibbling at ankles.
Third, replace the behavior with a new behavior that you prefer. It can be very effective to swap one behavior for another you prefer and can handle.
It also will teach your dog a new command they can listen to in order to immediately stop their herding.
I’m not saying that you need to teach your dog to do something extraordinary either. Basic commands like sitting and laying down do the trick just fine.
If your dog has already been taught these commands they can hear it, stop what they are doing, and sit or lay down.
Fourth, why fight instinctual behaviors when you can support them? If you can, bring your dog to a ranch or farm where there is livestock and introduce your dog to them.
With proper teaching, you might even be able to let your dog guide the livestock at a farm with permission.
On this topic, there are actually events called herding trials and tests! In herding trials and tests, your dog will practice herding real sheep.
The difference between the two is: a test is a non-competitive livestock herding format with a passing or failing grade, and trials are the competitive format where dogs will compete on skill-based off their graded score.
What you are probably wondering is: how can I get into herding trials or tests for my herding breed?
Well, there are some great hosts out there including the reputable AKC, however, they have specific eligibilities that your dog must satisfy.
Fifth, the root of herding is your dog doing their inherited job because they are born with this behavior.
Some dogs might be willing to take a different job in order to serve their owner, aka you!
Bear with me here as some of these suggestions may sound odd.
Jobs that include receiving items for their owners are usually good, even something as simple as the newspaper.
Wikihow even says turning the lights on/off is a good job for your dog, although, small dogs can’t do this.
I hope you now know why your dog circles you, this research comes from some of the most popular and educational dog resources around the internet.
Circling isn’t harmful and you didn’t teach your dog to do something wrong.
This instinctual behavior is something that your dog will do by default, so you have two paths to train it out of your dog or to refocus how your dog is using their instinctual capability.
However, you should make the decision of what you should do based on your dog.