Why Do Dogs Stare at Walls?

Adrienne Farricelli

Why do dogs stare at walls? Let's face it, your dog's staring-at-the-wall behavior may make you wonder if some form of paranormal activity must be going on, but before putting "ghost busters" on your speed dial, it may be worthy putting your investigative hat on.

Why do dogs stare at walls? Let's face it, your dog's staring-at-the-wall behavior may make you wonder if some form of paranormal activity must be going on, but before putting "ghost busters" on your speed dial, it may be worthy putting your investigative hat on.

There are several reasons why dogs may be staring at corners, at the ceiling or at a wall, and rather than calling a paranormal counselor, it may be far more productive giving a call to your vet. Some cases of dogs staring at walls end up being due to medical conditions.

Call the Exterminator

Why do dogs stare at walls? To get to unwanted critters! If your dog stares intently at a wall, door, ceiling or a corner of the house, put your investigative hat on and try to see if there's something triggering such behavior.

A good place to start is grabbing a chair and sitting next to your dog. Watch your dog, stay quiet and look around or listen to any unusual noises.

There may be chances that your bored, under-stimulated dog may have found his own form of entertainment by watching a colony of ants, a lizard who lives in a tiny gap or perhaps he's trying to hunt down a family of mice living under the deck or even within the walls.

If in doubt, you may want to give a call to your exterminator, just to make sure there aren't any critters living inside or around your house.

A Matter of Age

Why do dogs stare at walls? Old age can be a factor. How old is your dog? If your dog is senior and he recently started staring at the wall, you may want to take him to the vet to get him checked out for canine cognitive dysfunction, the canine version of Alzheimer's disease.

Usually, there are other accompanying signs suggesting the onset of dementia, but the good news about this condition is that when caught early, its progression can be slowed down.

According to the checklist compiled by Florida Veterinary Behavior Service, staring into space, whether at a ceiling or wall, can be a sign of disorientation that can be caused by cognitive dysfunction. Getting stuck into corners may also be another sign.

Other signs of cognitive dysfunction include aimless wandering, no longer recognizing familiar people, lack of participation in activities, sleeping more during the day and acting restless at night, and setback in the potty training department. 

A Focal Seizure

We often think of seizures as violent, full-body movements that cause dogs to paddle and foam at the mouth; however, there are also seizures that may affect only one part of the dog's body.

A seizure affecting only one part of the body is known as a focal seizure, and when a dog exhibits one, it may look as if he's engaging in some strange behavior such as snapping at invisible flies or "star gazing" where he intently stares at the ceiling.

According to veterinarian Dr. Pete, the classic diagnostic test to determine if you're dealing with a seizure is seeing if the dog can be distracted from the behavior. If the dog cannot be distracted, there are chances it may be a partial seizure. Recording the staring episodes on tape may be further helpful so the vet can watch it and come to a diagnosis.

Dog Head Pressing 

Why do dogs stare at walls? In some cases it can be a medical problem affecting your dog's organs.

If your dog is standing close to a wall head-first, consider that sometimes this can be due to a veterinary condition that is known as "head pressing." This condition can occur because of a poorly functioning liver.

According to veterinarian Dr. Michael Salkin, when the liver isn't working properly, it may cause ammonia levels to rise in the dog's bloodstream causing intoxication of the brain.

To rule out a medical condition such as head pressing, it's important to bring the dog to the vet and possibly, get some blood work done to check the dog's liver health status.

A Compulsive Disorder

Some dogs are prone to develop compulsive disorders which entail repetitive behaviors. This is often seen in bored, under-stimulated or stressed out, high-strung dogs. Some dogs will chase shadows or lights, some others will repetitively lick and some others may chase their tails.

Among the symptoms of compulsive disorders dog may display, veterinary behaviorist Lisa Radosta also lists staring into space. Sometimes, though, what seems to be a compulsive disorder is actually an attention-seeking behavior. If a dog craves attention, any type of attention is desired.

If you happen to look at your dog, talk to your dog or touch your dog every time he starts staring into space, you may inadvertently reinforce the staring behavior, making it more likely to occur in the future. If you catch your dog staring intently at the wall and you cannot find an explanation, see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Now That You Know....

As seen, staring at walls can be due to a multitude of issues. And no, in most cases there is nothing paranormal going on, so no need to keep the Ghostbuster crew on speed dial.  Getting to the root of the problem requires often a veterinary exam to rule out medical problems.

  • Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction can be managed with prescription medications when caught early. Melatonin can help them sleep. 
  • Dogs with seizures may require medications to control their frequency. 
  • Dogs with liver issues may need prescription meds meant to help this organ. 
  • Dogs with compulsive disorders may benefit from behavior modification conducted under the guidance of a dog behavior professional along with prescription drugs. 
  • Once medical problems are ruled out, you can evaluate whether your dog may be staring at the walls for attention of boredom. 
  • Attention seeking behaviors may improve if the behavior is ignored and the dog is given attention when not engaging in staring the wall.
  • Bored dogs benefit from increased exercise and mental stimulation.