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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Dare


A very sweet dog who I'll call Dani stays with me on occasion when her family is away, and she can be a little on the anxious side. One of the ways this manifests is in her pacing around the house and, although she's not doing anything wrong, per se, she's clearly not in a relaxed state and needs some help.

Dogs may pace for a variety of reasons. For instance, a dog who is overdue for a potty break may pace between you and the door as a way to signal the need to go out. Or, perhaps being under-exercised or anticipating an exciting activity will cause pacing.

But if you feel the root cause is anxiety and the dog doesn't seem to know how to settle themself down, you can step in to help. In my experience, it appears that some dogs are maintaining their anxious state by continuing to engage in the pacing and they don't know how to step out of that cycle on their own.

In Dani's case, I looped her 6' leash to my chair and clipped it to her collar, thus dramatically reducing her pacing options. Before long, she was simply standing still and I could quietly treat her for this. Then she seated herself and that was treated, too. And then, in less than a minute, she was quietly lying down near me. I randomly rewarded her while she remained in that relaxed position and then removed the leash a few minutes later.

Of course, regular exercise should be an important part of a dog's daily routine along with a variety of enrichment activities. Dani would probably benefit from the daily use of food puzzles, lick mats, and treasure hunts around the home. Teaching and rewarding a relaxed settle-on-bed behavior would also be very helpful.

If you're experiencing something similar with your dog, I would also suggest you be careful about what attention you might be doling out during the pacing episodes. If pacing regularly leads to our attention or other rewarding things, perhaps we could accidentally be rewarding the pacing behavior.

Dealing with some behaviors that you're not sure how to address?

Let's discuss options for in-person or remote training services.

You can reach me at

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