Why Do Bull Terriers and Some Other Dogs Ghost Walk? Understanding Trancing in Dogs

Why Do Bull Terriers and Some Other Dogs Ghost Walk? Understanding Trancing in Dogs

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The Mystery of the Ghost-Walking Dogs

It's one of the oddest behaviors you will ever see a dog do and one that once you see it, you may never forget. We're talking about dogs who ghost walk in a trance-like state. Also known as trancing, this weird dog behavior is not very common, but countless dog owners are reporting their dogs performing it. What exactly is trancing and most of all, why would dogs walk in a trance-like state?

In the human world, when we talk about trancing, we're likely to think about being in a semi-conscious state, somewhere in between sleeping and being awake. We may think about the trance-like effects associated with hypnosis, deep meditation, or prayer, or perhaps the aftermath of some sort of paranormal activity or arcane ritual as seen in some cultures across the world. But what about dogs? It's not like you'll ever find Rover going for a round of hypnosis or smoking weed (at least, we hope not)!

So What in the World Is Trancing in Dogs?

Turns out, many dog owners report that their dogs start walking in a trance-like fashion when they feel something that gently touches their heads and backs as they walk by. Tactile stimuli that seem to trigger this behavior are low hanging branches, bushes, curtains, tablecloths, clothes hanging down and Christmas trees. Affected dogs will walk very slowly, their eyes glazed as they walk back and forth under the item that touches their backs.

According to Black's Veterinary Dictionary, these episodes tend to last anywhere between a handful of seconds to more than half an hour. This is one of those behaviors that you can't really describe without seeing it. They say seeing is believing, so we are going to add s couple of videos of dogs trancing for the skeptics out there. You'll see videos of bull terriers trancing in the next few paragraphs.

Bull Terrier Trancing Under Curtain

What Causes Trancing in Dogs?

Turns out, some dog breeds seem to be more prone to ghost walking than other breeds. When it comes to this behavior, the egg-headed bull terriers are the winners so much so that bull terrier owners have started referring to it as "The Bull Terrier Ghost Walk.” However, many other breeds can be affected and this includes Basset Hounds, Salukis, Greyhounds, and Jack Russell Terriers. There is no real explanation as of yet as to why these breeds seem to be affected more often than other breeds.

We have seen that tactile stimuli trigger the behavior, but what causes trancing in dogs in the first place? Among the many odd behaviors dogs engage in, this is one that still needs some research. Owners are rightfully concerned about this behavior, especially when it happens the first time as they wonder if their dog is suffering from some odd neurological disorder or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. As of now, the behavior seems to not have been associated with any medical or behavioral disorder.

A while back, in 2004, the Bull Terrier Neurological Disorder Resources, conducted a survey to try to shed some light on the behavior. The poll in which bull terrier owners participated in, revealed that 86 percent of the dogs were considered normal while 14 percent were showing neurological issues and out of the dogs that were considered normal 73 percent would trance while 27 percent would not. This seems to suggest that the majority of dogs who engaged in the trancing behaviors were normal, happy dogs.

Alice Moon-Fanelli, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist with Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, has shown a keen interest in the behavior and has conducted some research on it by collecting data from many bull terrier owners. While she has noted that a great amount of bull terriers trance, she didn't find a connection with the behavior of tail chasing, which is quite common in this breed. She reassures dog owners claiming that trancing should not be considered a precursor to tail-chasing behavior.

As seen, trancing is one of those behaviors that will seem odd, but anecdotal evidence and the few surveys we have, seem to suggest that it, fortunately, appears to be harmless. What should a dog owner do if he notices his dog trancing back and forth? Trying to snap him out of it by asking the dog to perform another behavior may go a bit to deaf ears as affected dogs may not be responsive, explain D. Caroline Coile and Margaret H. Bonham in the book "Why Do Dogs Like Balls?" Interrupting the behavior may also cause the dog to be a bit irritated, therefore letting the dog be and allowing him to enjoy this innocent "high," may the best solution, just as kitty gets to enjoy his catnip.

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!"

— Alice Moon Fanelli

Bull Terrier Trancing Under House Plant

JenBen on August 29, 2020:

My French Bulldog started trancing after a surgery for an eye injury.

Deborah Benner on July 16, 2020:

I adopted an 8 uear old Bull Terrier in Feb and this was the first time i had seen this behavior. If i let her she would do this trancing for long periods of time. She seems to thoroughly enjoy it and i like watching her. She is an absolute joy along with her many quirks and i am forever grateful to have her, my April-Rose.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 28, 2019:

Hayley, if this is a totally new behavior for your dog it may be still worthy of mentioning to your vet just to play it safe.

Hayley on May 21, 2019:

Oh thank you, though my Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Honey) had something wrong with her in the brain tumour way. Quick google search confirms she is ghost /trance walking, it’s such an odd thing for a dog to do, she’s nearly 9 and I’ve never seen her do it before. First seen her do it coming out of the bush in garden, then when she was under the net curtains.....

Marcy on April 27, 2019:

My cockapoo does this on anything hanging low. She especially likes my curtains and house plant. I swear she keeps eye contact while she does it which is a bit creepy haha!

She always seems so happy I would feel after doing yoga so I let her be.

Anna on April 02, 2019:

Watching my boyfriends Basset do it makes me crack up

Kevin Mccoy on September 16, 2018:

may the best solution


Brenda Gilliss on March 06, 2017:

My pug does this all the time. Sometimes it is Because he wants something like food. water or to go out but other times there seems to be nothing that he want, he just keeps walking around in a slow walk for hours.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 21, 2017:

Valeries, love the slo-mo description for the behavior, it really gives the idea!

Valerie J Duhr on February 17, 2017:

I have a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon that is 7 years old. She has done what I call the "slo-mo walk" for years, but I never thought about it too much because the breed is so goofy and silly anyway. Being a pointer, the breed is very obsessive anyway and, when pointing, they do freeze into pointing mode when focusing on a bird or lizard or whatever, which might look like the slo-mo stance, except she's not moving at all while pointing. When she slo-mo walks, she has never brushed against anything while doing it. She simply wanders around verrrry slowly like the videos of other dogs I've seen doing the same thing; head down as if in a trance. Otherwise, she's a healthy, puppy-like, loveable, loving goofball with tons of energy like most hunting breeds.

Michelle mccauley on January 02, 2017:

It won't let me wat h the videos but my Shepard boxer mix will go under the dining room table or in the closet and look as though she is stalking something there has been numerous times we have tried to pull her out of looking at what ever it was but she will go right back at it.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 02, 2016:

I haven't had the luck to see this happen in front of my eyes as of yet. Didn't get to work much with bull terries or salukis, and the Jack Russells and basset hounds I have met didn't do it. I hope to see it one day though, trancing seems fascinating to watch!

Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on May 02, 2016:

I have seen a few dogs do this and I never really knew why. The music in the video is so funny.

Dog Trancing: You're Gonna Need to See This Video

Ivy Sue was the greatest of Danes — all 147 pounds (66 kilograms) of her. Yet, she was a bit neurotic, or so I thought. Although she outweighed every cat in the house by at least 135 pounds (61 kilograms), Ivy never walked up the stairs if one was in her way. At night, she'd spin around and around and around on her bed (10 to 15 times) before she slammed her body down to go to sleep. I suspect she was checking for snakes.

She also used to do something very curious — something that I thought very odd, but wasn't overly concerned about: She'd slowly walk to the Rose of Sharon (Ivy did everything slowly) on the side of the house and slink under its boughs, staring straight ahead as if she was in a trance.

She'd stand there for 10 to 15 minutes. She did it so much that when she passed we put a memorial plaque with her name under the bush. To be honest, she also used to stand under the big maple in the back and hang out under its weighty branches. She also used to cuddle up to a huge tuft of tiger grass in the rock garden.

It wasn't until the other day that I found out I was not the only dog owner whose pets exhibited this strange behavior. It even has a name — "trancing" or ghost-walking. It's when a dog creeps under the branches of a bush or tree, or under the curtains in the living room and lets the branches or curtains brush along their back, seemingly going into a trance.

The behavior, as best as anyone has been able to tell, is harmless, albeit weird. One study published in the journal Veterinary Record found trancing in bull terriers (a breed that tops the list in trancing) is "apparently purposeless." It seems to be something that dogs just do for reasons no one can decide.

What should you do if your dog is trancing? Some experts recommend asking your pet to do something else, although they might not listen to you. As for me, I just let Ivy be Ivy. As long as she was happy, so was I.

Chasing a tail is another one of those things dogs do. Why do they do it? Simply, they do it to amuse themselves and to get some exercise. They'll also do it to catch your attention and get you to play with them.

6 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About Yorkshire Terriers

As one of the AKC’s top 10 breeds year after year, Yorkshire Terriers are popular toy dogs, offering a big personality in a tiny package.

Here are six surprising facts about Yorkies and the people who love them:

1. Yorkies are called the “Tomboy Toy.”

Don’t be fooled by this toy breed’s tiny stature—they are five to seven pounds of pure tomboy. This spunky personality has earned the Yorkie its nickname, “the tomboy toy.” The breed standard references the breed’s trademark confidence and courage, saying, “The dog’s high head carriage and confident manner should give the appearance of vigor and self-importance.” Because of these traits, Yorkshire Terriers do well at everything from dog sports, like agility, to therapy work and makes them great travel companions as well as family dogs.

2. The Yorkie’s coat has a similar texture to human hair.

Yorkies are known for their long, flowing, silky coats, which swish around the show ring. But this beautiful feature is also incredibly time-consuming to care for. Because the coat is similar to human hair, it tangles into knots if the owner doesn’t brush it every day (it can also break easily when brushing against carpets in the home). The bonus is that Yorkies don’t have an undercoat so their coat doesn’t shed anymore than your hair does. Many breeders recommend that owners keep their pet Yorkies in a “puppy cut,” which is short and easily to maintain.

3. Yorkies have a blue-collar background.

Sure, today they may wear bows in their top knots and their self-important air may make them seem like they have royal roots, but Yorkies have a rather unglamorous background of catching rats and other vermin in underground tunnels. This instinct still comes out in their play (offer a Yorkie a stuffed mouse, and you’ll see what we mean), and owners can put it to work in non-competitive AKC Earthdog tests. This sport allows dogs to test their ability to pursue caged rats underground.

4. Yorkies may have been the inspiration for Toto.

This fact will remain a point of contention among Cairn Terrier and Yorkshire Terrier fans alike. The original drawings in the first edition of L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz depict Toto as what some say seems to be a Yorkie. The assumption makes sense, considering the breed was popular at the time and that the illustrator W.W. Denslow owned one. We will never know for sure, but we are certain that in the movie, Toto is played by a Cairn Terrier.

5. One Yorkie was a war hero.

In World War II, a Yorkie named Smoky is credited with saving the lives of soldiers by dragging a communications cable through an 8-inch-wide, 60-foot-long drainage culvert. She is also thought to be the world’s first therapy dog, visiting wounded soldiers in hospitals. Smoky was found by an American soldier in 1944 in a Papua New Guinea jungle, and when he brought the little dog back to the barracks, U.S. Army Corporal William Wynne took her under his wing. He later wrote a book about Smoky called Yorkie Doodle Dandy. There are six U.S.-based memorials honoring Smoky, including one in AKC’s Museum of the Dog, and one international memorial in Australia.

6. Yorkies aren’t afraid of the big city (when trained properly).

Even a dog as small as a Yorkie can succeed in the Big Apple and other large urban environments. In fact, Yorkies routinely make the top of the list of NYC’s most popular breeds (although they’ve dropped in numbers over the past few years). That confident manner comes in handy when a truck backfires or a crowd scurries around him on the sidewalk. By providing proper socialization from a young age and leading them through the Canine Good Citizen test, you can help ensure that your pint-sized pup has a New York state of mind.

In addition to the five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing), dogs also possess a sixth sense — that “gut” feeling we get when something doesn’t feel right. The difference though is that dogs are more open to trusting what they feel and acting on those feelings accordingly, while most people’s minds analyze what’s going on and deny the possibility that auroras or spirits exist. “Dogs are remarkable creatures, with senses that far exceed a human’s,” explains Dr. Burch.

When a dog runs and sits by the door waiting for his owner, Dr. Burch explains this behavior could be a habit simply learned through repetition. But if the owner comes home much earlier than usual, and the dog still sits by the door within minutes of his arrival, that unexplained behavior could appear to be his sixth sense.

Dogs also have the ability to detect impending disasters before they happen, thanks to their powerful sense of smell. “Barometric pressure and all natural phenomena have odors associated with them,” says Hartstein. “They are beyond the capacity of our noses to recognize, but dogs can sense these changes immediately.”

English Bull Terriers: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

English Bull Terrier temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

There is a Standard Bull Terrier (medium-sized) and a Miniature Bull Terrier (mid-sized) that are considered separate breeds.

But they have similar temperaments: sweet-tempered, yet also rowdy and clownish, full of fire and determination.

This muscular, forceful, vigorous dog does best with active families, for he has a high energy level that comes in spurts and bursts.

He needs frequent brisk walks, occasional vigorous games of ball, and total immersion in the family, i.e. LOTS of companionship and interactive play sessions.

If ignored, Standard and Miniature Bull Terriers will become bored, and mischief will surely follow. Youngsters who are neglected can be especially rambunctious: happily devouring your furniture and excavating great caverns in your yard.

Most Bullies greet strangers with enthusiastic bounding (often knocking the guest over) and face kissing. However, aggression and timidity are present in some lines, and early socialization is important to develop a stable attitude.

An English Bull Terrier should not be kept with another dog of the same sex, and cats may or may not be safe. Bull Terriers can be very possessive of their food – do not allow another pet or a child to approach a Bull Terrier when he is eating..

At some point, if you have not raised this breed with consistent leadership, he will likely challenge your ability to control his actions. Such dominance attempts must be met with calm assertiveness. Keep training sessions brief but frequent to keep drilling home the commands he needs to learn.

Some Bull Terriers are enthusiastic "talkers" who grunt and mumble to themselves it's quite amusing.

  • Is moderately sized with a muscular build
  • Looks very unusual, with an egg-shaped head, large prick ears, and tiny triangular eyes sunk deeply in his head
  • Has a short easy-care coat
  • Is rowdy and clownish, full of energy and fire
  • Thrives on lots of exercise and vigorous athletic games
  • Looks imposing, so makes an effective deterrent, but is usually non-aggressive with strangers

A Standard or Miniature English Bull Terrier may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with.

  • Rowdiness, exuberant jumping, and a tendency to play rough
  • Destructiveness when bored or left alone too much
  • Aggression or fearfulness toward people in some lines, or when not socialized enough
  • Aggression toward other dogs and cats
  • Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
  • Shedding – lots of it
  • Serious health problems
  • Legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)

A Standard or Miniature English Bull Terrier may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Bull Terriers have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
  • Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your English Bull Terrier to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

More traits and characteristics of the English Bull Terrier

If I was considering a Bull Terrier, I would be most concerned about.

  1. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Bull Terriers, whether Standard or Miniature, are very active dogs who need lots of opportunities to vent their high energy. Otherwise they will become rambunctious and bored – which they usually express by destructive chewing. Bored Bull Terriers are famous for chewing through drywall, ripping the stuffing out of sofas, and turning your yard into a moonscape of giant craters.
  2. Bounciness. Bull Terriers (up to about three years old) can be bulls in a china shop. When they romp and jump, they do so with great vigor, and things can go flying. If you have small children, or if you or anyone who lives with you is elderly or infirm, I do not recommend Bull Terriers, especially those of Standard size. (Unless you happen to find a calm adult dog for adoption.) The temptation to play roughly is simply too strong in young Bull Terrier.

  • Providing enough socialization. Many Bull Terriers are friendly and love everyone, but some have protective instincts toward strangers. All Bull Terriers need extensive exposure to friendly people so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then they can recognize the difference when someone acts abnormally. Without careful socialization, they may be suspicious of everyone, which is very difficult to live with.
  • Potential animal aggression. Many Bull Terriers will not tolerate another dog of the same sex. Some won't tolerate the opposite sex, either. Many Bull Terriers have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures.
  • The strong temperament. Bull Terriers have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. They can be manipulative, and many are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.

    To teach your Bull Terrier to listen to you, I recommend "Respect Training." My Bull Terrier Training Page discusses the program you need.

  • Shedding and irritating hairs. Bull Terriers shed much more than you might think. Their short rough hairs stick tenaciously to your clothing and furnishings. In addition, people with sensitive skin may develop a rash from contact with the harsh hairs.
  • Potential health problems. From heart disease to kidney disease to eye disease to deafness, Bull Terriers are risky in the health department. Read Bull Terrier Health.
  • Legal liabilities. An English Bull Terrier is a completely different breed from an American Pit Bull Terrier, but they are often lumped together by public officials and the media as potentially dangerous dogs. Thus, English Bull Terriers may be targeted for future "banning" in certain areas, or refusal of homeowner insurance policies. In this day and age, the legal liabilities of owning any breed that looks intimidating and has a fighting heritage should be seriously considered. People are quicker to sue if such a dog does anything even remotely questionable.

    Frankly, most Bull Terriers, both Standard and Miniature, are "too much dog" for the average household to manage.

    About the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

    To help you train and care for your dog

    Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

    The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

    Watch the video: Bull terrier trancing. ghost walking