My Dog is Restless and Won't Sit Still
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If your dog is pacing and won't lie down, they are agitated for some reason. These reasons can be physical or psychological, as well as acute or chronic. If it is acute, it is likely the dog is restless because they are responding to some specific stimuli in their environment. If they are chronically restless, it is likely a deeper concern. It is normal for dogs to be restless at certain points of the day, such as when they are waiting to be fed in the morning. For this reason, we need to look at the context of the restless behavior to determine the dog's specific problem.
At AnimalWised, we discover why my dog is restless and won't sit still. After finding out the reasons for this restlessness in dogs, we provide some practical tips to help them feel more calm and stable.
Why is my dog restless and won't sit still?
There is no catchall answer to why a dog is restless and won't stop moving. A dog’s behavior can be influenced by different environmental factors and its own physiology. If your dog is restless and won't sit still, you will need to pay attention to their behavior, lifestyle and environment to try to identify the cause of the problem.
To help you in this process, here is a summary of the most common reasons why dogs may become restless. Also, remember that you should always seek professional help from a veterinarian if your canine best friend shows any symptoms of pain or illness.
Pain can cause unusual behavior in dogs or even significantly change their character. Some of the most obvious symptoms of pain in canines are reduced energy and interest in performing daily activities (playing, walking, etc.). They may also have a tendency to hide or move away in order to avoid being touched, which would increase discomfort. If you notice that your dog is exhibiting this behavior, you should immediately take them to the veterinarian for the necessary care.
Pain can occur as a consequence of trauma (a fall, a blow or some accident), but it is also a common symptom of chronic or degenerative diseases, including hip and elbow dysplasia. Moreover, aging causes dogs to become more vulnerable to pain and certain afflictions such as osteoarthritis.
In the last stage of their lives, our dogs also lose sensory abilities and become more susceptible to neurodegenerative conditions. This can include cognitive dysfunction syndrome, better known as Alzheimer's or senile dementia, the main symptoms of which are manifested through changes in the dog's behavior. In these cases, dogs may behave strangely, become more restless or nervous. They can even become aggressive due to confusion.
For these reasons, if you see a dog that suddenly becomes very nervous or cries, whether it is an adult or an senior dog, pain is usually the most common cause.
In addition to the diseases that cause pain, there are some neurological disorders that can produce alterations in the behavior of your dog. For example, vestibular syndrome directly impacts the dog's spatial orientation and balance, causing them to appear disoriented, suffer dizziness or vertigo. They may perform certain unusual behaviors, such as walking in circles or walking with their head cocked to one side.
There are also some congenital problems, such as malformations and hydrocephalus, that can cause your dog to be restless and continually move around the house.
Again, in all these cases, the best thing to do is to seek veterinary care as soon as possible to evaluate any possible neurological disorders and provide the best treatment according to their needs.
If you notice that your dog is pacing and won't lie still, you should also consider the possibility of internal or external parasites (fleas, ticks or mites). The latter are usually easier to identify, since their bites commonly leave traces on the animal's skin, causing redness and other signs of skin inflammation. These bites often cause itching or discomfort to the dog, making them want to scratch constantly and behave in a more agitated manner than usual.
To confirm or rule out the presence of external parasites in your dog, we advise you to check their whole body including ‘hidden’ areas. These include the inner part of the ears, the lower part of the paws and the region between the toes.
On the other hand, intestinal parasites can develop unnoticed in the dog's organism and only cause noticeable signs in more advanced stages. In this case, you should pay attention to the following symptoms:
- Alterations in stool (diarrhea, color changes, foreign bodies, blood or white spots)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss (often appearing too skinny but still eating)
- Abdominal swelling
- Pale coloration of the mucous membranes (associated with anemia)
Puppies that have not yet been dewormed are especially susceptible to suffering from intestinal parasite infestations. In addition to abdominal inflammation, it is quite common to observe that the puppy is very restless as a result of the discomfort experienced. Abdominal pain is especially worrying, especially if their belly is hard. For this reason, it is essential to visit the veterinarian.
Regardless of whether we are talking about internal or external parasites, the best strategy is always prevention. To prevent any compromise to your puppy's health and well-being, you should deworm your puppy with the products most appropriate to their age and characteristics, and with the correct dosage or frequency.
Stress and/or anxiety
If your dog is restless and agitated or panting a lot and you have ruled out the possibility of any pathology, neurological disorder or parasite infestation, then you should analyze their routine and lifestyle. It is no coincidence that hyperactivity or nervous behavior appears very frequently in sedentary dogs or dogs that live in small apartments without access to an enriched environment.
Sedentary lifestyles and lack of physical and mental stimulation are some of the most common causes of stress and anxiety in dogs. A stressed or anxious dog will tend to manifest undesirable or dangerous behavior to relieve the tension accumulated in their body. This tension is due to the lack of an adequate routine of exercises, games and activities that allow him to expend his energy and express himself in a positive way.
In this situation, owners are often alarmed to see that their dogs behave differently. They can be very nervous, run laps around the house or even become destructive, breaking furniture and other household objects. If you notice that your dog is restless and won't stop moving, and you have ruled out any health problems, then they are most probably stressed for one of the above mentioned reasons.
The negative effects of stress in dogs can become even more serious, mainly when exposure to stressors becomes continuous or permanent. In these cases, we are dealing with a case of chronic stress that may seriously affect the dog's physical and mental health. This can lead to very complex behavioral problems, such as aggression, or even the appearance of stereotypies (repeated behaviors without obvious purpose).
To prevent the health and well-being of your dog from being compromised, carry out appropriate deworming and vaccination schedules. These will be determined by your veterinarian.
What to do if my dog is restless and won't sit still
The first thing to do if you notice that your dog is restless and will not stop moving is to identify the cause. If this behavior is a consequence of a health problem or parasites, you should follow the instructions of a veterinarian. However, if it is due to stress or anxiety, whether the dog is a puppy, an adult or an elderly dog, you should pay attention to the following factors:
- Socialization: this is an essential process in the education of all dogs, allowing them to learn to coexist in a positive way with other individuals and stimuli in their environment. If you want your dog to be obedient, calm and self-confident, you should start socialization while they are still a puppy. Similarly, if you have not had this opportunity and/or have adopted an adult dog, you should follow the below tips on how to socialize your dog correctly.
- Daily physical activity: generally speaking, it is recommended that dogs have at least 2 or 3 walks of 20 to 40 minutes a day. However, some dogs are naturally more energetic and may require a higher level of physical activity. In this case, a good idea is to consider sports, such as agility for dogs.
- Environmental enrichment: even if your dog goes for daily walks, it is also important that they can entertain themselves and exercise both body and mind indoors. This is especially important when alone. If your dog lives in an environment enriched with games, toys and other sensory stimuli, they will probably exhibit more stable behavior and be less susceptible to stress and other behavioral problems.
- Training: this the most complete exercise you can introduce to your best friend. When you train your dog, you allow them to expend energy and build intelligence. You also encourage balanced and safe behavior patterns for the dog themselves and other close individuals. Here, at AnimalWised, is everything you need to know about how to train a dog correctly.
- Seek professional help: if you have put these key guidelines into practice and your dog is still restless and won't stop moving, you should seek the help of a dog trainer. However, if you identify signs of aggression or stereotypies in your best friend, the ideal next step is to consult a canine ethology expert.
Why is my dog restless and not sleeping?
Dogs can suffer from insomnia and sleep disturbances just like us. Sleep has vital functions for all species, allowing the whole body, including the brain, to recover from the effects of each day. However, it is not just a matter of sleeping a certain number of hours, but also of achieving restful sleep, the quality of sleep being as important as the number of hours slept.
In addition to those mentioned in previous sections, one cause of restless behavior could be lack of rest. This is totally normal in recently adopted dogs as they can be restless and have trouble sleeping due to the change, as with dogs who are adjusting after moving house.
Lack of rest
Poor quality sleep has a significant impact on physical and mental health and can cause mood swings, fatigue, weakness and nervousness or irritability. What is more, it can make it difficult to manage a healthy weight and maintain a strong immune system, increasing the risk of developing numerous health problems. These can include diabetes, infections, cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety.
If your dog does not sleep properly, you will quickly notice repercussions in their behavior and health. In this context, symptoms of stress, anxiety and behavioral problems, such as destructiveness or even aggressiveness, may appear or intensify. Here we share some tips to help your dog sleep better:
- To begin with, it is important to pay attention to their environment. Does your dog have an environment that favors good rest and restorative sleep? Evaluate both internal and external factors of the home.
- Does your dog have comfortable sleeping accessories, such as a bed, pillow, cushion and blanket that provides the necessary comfort?
- Is its sleeping area kept well sanitized with the right products? Remember that products that cause irritation or that have very strong odors can damage your dog's mucous membranes and cause allergies, dermatitis, among other conditions.
- Is it too cold or too hot in your dog's sleeping area? Do not let your dog sleep outdoors and avoid exposing its resting area to direct sunlight, wind, snow or other climatic conditions.
- Are there lots of stimuli where your dog sleeps? Loud noises or odors, as well as excessive brightness, are detrimental to the quality of your dog's sleep.
On the other hand, if you have recently moved, it is possible that your dog is still getting used to their new home and resting space. Remember that adaptation is a process and each pet takes its own time to complete it successfully. Likewise, a newly adopted dog will have to adjust to a lot of changes in a very short time, regardless of whether they are a puppy or an adult, so nervousness and problems falling asleep may be due to this.
Finally, we want to reinforce the importance of verifying that your dog is healthy, free of pain, parasites and any other disease that may influence their health, behavior or quality of sleep. Ideally, you should make at least one preventive visit to the veterinarian every year to do the necessary tests to check their state of health, in addition to always keeping their vaccination and deworming schedule up to date.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog is Restless and Won't Sit Still, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.
- Beerda, B., Schilder, M. B., van Hooff, J. A., & de Vries, H. W. (1997). Manifestations of chronic and acute stress in dogs. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 52(3-4), 307-319.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Website): Sleep and sleep disorders. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
- Kis, A., Szakadát, S., Gácsi, M., Kovács, E., Simor, P., Török, C., & Topál, J. (2017). The interrelated effect of sleep and learning in dogs (Canis familiaris); an EEG and behavioral study. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1-6.
- Mason, G. J. (1991). Critical Report on Stereotypies. Animal Behavior, 41, 1057-1037.