Pacing & Restlessness
If your dog paces around when you’re getting ready to leave or after you’re gone, they may be suffering from separation anxiety. In mild cases, a dog will walk in circles or back and forth without a specific purpose or destination in mind. However, they’ll manage to settle down in between brief episodes of pacing or stop after ten or fifteen minutes.
In more severe cases, the dog will seem distressed or panicked. They’ll trot or even run between exit points almost constantly. Dogs in this state will often exhibit other separation anxiety symptoms, such as vocalizing, escaping and panting.
For an example of what pacing looks like in a dog with separation anxiety, check out this video of how a dog reacts immediately after being left alone.
To learn if your dog’s pacing may be a sign of separation anxiety, take our quick quiz.
Is Your Dog’s Pacing Separation Anxiety or Something Else?
There are a variety of reasons a dog might pace, which are unrelated to separation anxiety:
If a dog is in pain, they’re more likely to pace because they can’t get comfortable or it hurts to sit or lie down. Other conditions, such as Cushing’s disease, vision loss or a compulsive disorder can also cause a dog to pace. It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out a medical cause.
Canine cognitive dysfunction:
As a dog gets older, their mental function can decline, causing them to feel confused and disoriented. This condition is also referred to as dog dementia. If your dog is a senior and has started pacing, especially in the evenings, talk with your veterinarian. They can assess your dog’s health and needs to help make them more comfortable.
Lack of exercise/boredom:
A dog that isn’t getting enough physical exercise or mental stimulation will often pace around to burn off excess energy.
A dog that that hears or sees something outside might get excited or anxious and start pacing. Or they might be alerting to rodents or other pests around or inside the home.
For some dogs, thunderstorms, fireworks or other noises can create stress, causing them to pace.
Searching for something:
A pacing dog could simply be hunting for their favorite toy or a snack.
Looking for a mate:
Unspayed females in heat might pace due to restlessness and unneutered males might smell a female in heat and pace due to their desire to mate.
Decoding Your Dog’s Pacing
To find out if your dog is pacing when you’re gone — and how severe the behavior might be — we recommend setting up a pet camera. Here are some things to watch for:
- How long after you leave does your dog start pacing?
- How long does their pacing last?
- Do they settle down in between episodes?
- Are there any external factors (sights or sounds) that might be triggering their behavior?
- Is your dog showing other symptoms of separation anxiety, such as vocalizing, watchful waiting or panting?
Other Resources for Pacing and Restlessness
- How Can I Tell If My Dog Is In Pain?
- Dementia in Senior Dogs
- How to Help an Older Dog with Arthritis and Other Mobility Issues
- Prevent Boredom — Give Your Dog a Puzzle
Treating Pacing and Restlessness Related to Separation Anxiety
If your dog’s vocalization is due to separation anxiety, there are options for treatment, including the Calmer Canine Anxiety Treatment System, behavior modification training, compression wearables, and more.