Trancing: What Is It and Why Does Your Dog Do It?
You may have witnessed it before: If your dog has ever seemed transfixed by an object, be it overhanging foliage, a tablecloth, or curtains, and walked toward it in very slow motion, then you have seen your dog exhibiting a curious behavior called trancing.
Dog trancing is so mysterious that even some veterinarians and behaviorists are unable to explain the phenomenon. Most of the research on the subject has been able to determine that trancing has nothing to do with a neurological issue or cries for attention. It's not a seizure or other condition that usually warrants a visit to the vet. They seemingly just fall into trance.
Since neurological problems and seizures have generally been ruled out as possible causes behind the trancing behavior in dogs, what triggers it? The behavior is most often seen in Greyhound and Bull Terrier breeds, but other dogs have been witnessed as trancers, too. According to researchers from the British Veterinary Association, the trancing (or "ghost-walking") seems to have no social or instinctual purpose or medical cause behind it; they cited 84 Bull Terriers that exhibited the behavior and 197 Bull Terriers that were "control dogs" and did not trance. Neurological tests were conducted on the dogs, and the researchers could not link the results to this strange behavior.
Some behaviorists theorize that dogs trance because they are fascinated by a draping object such as a plant. The slow motion walk around it, with the leaves brushing gently across the dog's back, could be that the sensation from the light touch of the plant is very pleasant. When asked about trancing, Dr. Alice Moon Fanelli of Tufts Behavioral Clinic had this to say: "While trancing is an abnormal behavior, I now view it as separate from tail-chasing. In other words, if any of you have a Bullie that's currently walking in slo-mo under your Norfolk Pine as you read this—don't panic that this will eventually evolve into tail-chasing!"
In general, you do not need to do anything if your dog engages in trancing behavior. It doesn't seem to harm the dogs in any way nor does it indicate a medical or behavior problem that requires treatment. The only time you may want to curb the behavior is if your dog were fascinated by a poisonous or toxic plant or a potentially dangerous object.