Large brown dog running back and forth along his fence on snowy ground.

Why Does My Dog Run Back and Forth Like She is Crazed?

Last updated on May 16th, 2023 at 09:24 pm

When I first adopted and brought home my two six year old dogs, I felt very fortunate that I had a small backyard they could run around in. Our yard had a nice wooden fence allowing them to safely get some fresh air and explore. Unfortunately, one of my dogs developed the habit of frequently running back and forth like a crazed animal, sniffing the air and barking her head off. Ugh! Why was she doing that?

I did some research and discovered why dogs sometimes run back and forth in a frenzied way. Running back and forth is often related to a dog’s hunting and guarding instinct and is also a way to let off some pent-up energy. A frustrated, bored, or fearful dog may run around to vent those negative emotions. In some cases, running around is also due to a sudden burst of energy that dogs, especially puppies, often get. The common thread is the sudden release of energy that results in your dog impulsively running back and forth for no apparent reason. Keep reading to find out more!

Dogs May Run Back and Forth Due to their Hunting Instinct

In the wild, running fast was critical to hunt for food. Some breeds of dogs have a strong hunting instinct and may run back and forth as a way to simulate chasing prey. Therefore, a dog living in a confined area in which he cannot run for long distances, may end up running back and forth in response to birds or other small critters near his home.

One of my dogs who has a lot of Pug DNA frequently runs out into the backyard at night in hot pursuit of some unknown critters that dare come near her fence. We live next to an alley and probably have all sorts of skunks, squirrels, opossums, and ferral cats who hang out near our property at night. She will run back and forth and all around barking her head off until I bring her back inside.

Fence Running

Instinctive Guarding Behavior

Guarding or protecting the property line is another instinctive habit that some dogs develop to defend their territory. My other dog who has more Cattle Dog DNA loves to run back and forth along the entire fence every morning and bark at every little noise she hears. She will bark at large crows, people walking by in the alley, people talking in a nearby parking lot, owners and dogs going for a walk, and the list goes on!

Even though she cannot see them due to our tall wooden fence, she can hear and smell them. And it sets her off every time! She runs back and forth and jumps up and down sniffing the air, listening, and barking. When she gets into this reactive mode there is no reachng her! I have to put my hands on her shoulders and just hold her to calm her so I can bring her inside. And boy, can she run fast!

Reaction to Electronic Fences

Dog fence running refers to a behavior where a dog runs along the perimeter of an electronic dog fence, such as an invisible fence, in an attempt to escape. Electronic dog fences use a wire buried underground or a radio signal to create an invisible boundary that the dog is trained not to cross. If the dog approaches the boundary, they receive a warning signal followed by a mild electric shock if they continue to cross it.

Some dogs may become afraid of the electric shock and try to avoid it by running back and forth along the boundary line. This behavior is known as dog fence running or “fence racing.” It can be a sign that the dog is experiencing anxiety or stress and is not comfortable with the boundary. It can also be a sign that the dog is not properly trained to understand the boundaries of the electronic fence.

Electronic fences as well as electric shock collars are often considered to be poor ways to contain your dog. They are more of a punishment than a training method. Your dog will not understand why he is getting shocked, even if it results in restraining him from running off.

Many trainers consider this to be cruel and recommend the more positive reinforcement of real fences, verbal recall commands, and appropriate leash and harness restraints when walking a dog. See this great article at wholedogjournal about how to properly keep your dog in a fenced-in area and deal with fence running in a positive way.


Boredom, Frustration, Anxiety Can Trigger Running Back and Forth

There could be several other reasons why your dog is running around the perimeter of your fence. Some possible reasons include:

  • Boredom: Dogs that don’t get enough physical and mental exercise may engage in running along the fence as a way to entertain themselves.
  • Anxiety: Dogs that are anxious or stressed may engage in repetitive behaviors, such as running around the perimeter of the fence.
  • Frustration: If your dog sees something outside the fence, such as a squirrel or another dog, they may run along the fence as a way to express their frustration at not being able to reach it.
  • Territory marking: Dogs have a strong sense of territory, and running along the fence may be a way for your dog to mark their territory and defend it against intruders.
  • Separation anxiety: If your dog is left alone in the yard for long periods, they may run along the fence as a way to cope with separation anxiety.

To determine the underlying cause of your dog’s fence running behavior, observe your dog’s behavior and try to identify any triggers that may be causing the behavior. If you’re concerned about your dog’s behavior or are unsure about how to address it, consider consulting with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer.

Your Dog Has the Zoomies!

Zoomies! A Beagle and fluffy off-white dog running down the stairs chasing each other.
Zoomies. Two dogs chasing each other on the stairs.

Dog zoomies refer to a sudden burst of energy that dogs exhibit by running around in circles, jumping, and often appearing to be very excited or playful. Zoomies are a common behavior in dogs and usually happen during periods of high excitement or playfulness.

Some of the reasons why dogs experience zoomies include:

  • Excess energy: Dogs have a lot of energy, and sometimes they just need to release it. Zoomies can be a way for dogs to burn off excess energy.
  • Playfulness: Dogs love to play and sometimes zoomies are just a way for them to show their playful side.
  • Happiness or excitement: Dogs may experience zoomies when they’re feeling particularly happy or excited, such as when they see their owner return home after being away.
  • Stress relief: Zoomies can be a way for dogs to release stress or anxiety.
  • Puppies: Puppies are known for their zoomies, and this behavior is often a sign of their high energy levels and playfulness.

Zoomies are usually harmless and can be entertaining to watch. A lot of puppies get them, often just before they are ready to collapse for an overdue nap. It is that little burst of energy they get when “wired-tired”, just like a human two-year old who has been playing hard all afternoon and wants one more round before he crashes into bed.

Dog supplies and accessories--my mixed breed tan and black colored dogs lying on their day bed under the stairwell.
Finally settled after zoomies!

One of my dogs who acts like a puppy but is actually ten years old, gets the zoomies frequently. Every night around 9p.m. she gets this little burst of energy and and runs all over the living around. Then she dives into her daybed under the stairwell and starts digging at it furiously prior to circling around and then crashing. It is hilarious!

Final Thoughts

In most cases it is normal for your dog to run back and forth in the yard or during a case of the zoomies. But if it seems excessive, make sure your pooch is getting enough exercise and attention. If barking during running becomes a problem, think about how to better manage your dog. Make sure your dog is not left alone out in the yard while you are away. Bring him in immediately if he starts to bark or tear around the yard for long periods. We can’t change our dog’s nature but we can manage it.

And, enjoy the zoomies! Know that your dog is just having fun and is full of youthful energy, even if she is a senior.

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