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Canine Behavior/Dog wont stop spinning!!


Hi, I have a Jack Russel mix that is 7 years old named Buster. He has always had strange "quirks" that a normal dog just doesnt do (we also have another JR that acts like any typical dog). The one that he has begun recently is constant spinning in circles. This happens when you use a cell phone in any way, a remote control, or even if you hold your hand in a certain position. When he sees this he begins whining then starts spinning uncontrollably and barking. He will do this until he falls over or I grab him. You can tell he is very dizzy and disoriented when done because he cant walk and his head is leaning to the side. Its gotten to the point that he gets put in his crate or we have to watch what we do so that he wont get hysterical. Problem is that we have a 1 yr old and like to take lots of pics. This tends to put a damper on any cute videos because there is a whacko dog in the background.

Does this seem like something neurological or treatable with some kind of meds or therapy?

It sounds like he's been reinforced (probably unintentionally) for the behavior of spinning, and certain things in the environment have become cues to begin the behavior. Now, that being said, it also sounds like it's gotten out of control, causing him stress/anxiety (whining before he begins the behavior) and continuing until he's made himself thoroughly dizzy. We need to remember that dogs (like all animals, including humans) only do behaviors that are beneficial to them in some way. This can be as simple as "it's fun!" or that he is getting some other need met such as food, attention, affection, access to preferred locations, etc. So, if he initially spun a couple times (e.g. chasing his tail), it may have just been a fun way to expel some energy. If someone initially laughed at him and played with him at that time, then they reinforced the tail-chasing/spinning behavior. Then, perhaps he got ignored when he spun for just 5 seconds, but if he kept it up for 8 or 10 seconds, someone engaged with him, and so he learned quickly that he should keep spinning as he'll get reinforced eventually. Now, it may be that your grabbing him is reinforcing because it's physical interaction. But, he's also experiencing an anxiety surrounding the behavior. Perhaps it's not so fun anymore, but he's still compelled to do it...

It could be that the behavior falls on the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) scale, but that's something for a vet to diagnose. Some canine seizures can be very odd in the way they manifest, so I suppose it's possible that this could be related to a neurological condition that's being triggered (as opposed to a behavioral issue that's being triggered).

In either case, we want to help your guy eliminate this behavior from his repertoire. I would begin with a complete exam (including blood work) with your regular vet, this will help us make sure he's healthy. Next, I would meet with a veterinary behaviorist (this is a vet who has continued on to earn a Master's in animal behavior) - they are the psychiatrists of the animal world. They will want the report for exam from your regular vet, so it's easiest to just start with your regular vet. If there are no vet behaviorists near you, your vet can contact any vet behaviorist in the nation for a free (usually free) phone consultation. They may want video of an example of the behavior (ideally from 10-90 seconds before the onset of the behavior until he stops the behavior on his own, or the typical way the humans stop the behavior) for review.

It may be determined that medication is necessary to help your pup. But, meds are never to be prescribed as the entire treatment. They are only to be used in conjunction with a proper behavior modification protocol. The vet behaviorist will devise the protocol and help you implement it, or they're work with a local trainer who will do the actual training part with you. Generally, the meds are used only temporarily while the training is happening, then once we get "over the hump" of the behavior issue, the meds are weaned out if possible.

The behavior modification protocol will include interrupting and redirecting the dog's behavior to another, more acceptable activity. Then, it will build on that to teach the dog incompatible behaviors (e.g. if he's laying down, he can't also be spinning). Then we teach him that the cues that normally trigger the spinning behavior, are now cues to do the incompatible behavior.

Good luck. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance (or just to update me on the diagnosis/prognosis/treatment).

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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