The Ultimate Answer Guide to Dog Trancing

If your dog has a fervent love of a certain bush, houseplant, or curtain, don’t worry – He’s not crazy or having a seizure!  He’s “trancing!”

Trancing is a canine behavior done by some dogs for sensory pleasure.  The hallmarks of trancing are walking under an object, slow movement, and the faraway expression of the eyes, from which it gets its name.  The purpose of trancing is to stimulate the nerves along the dog’s back, which the canine likes in the same way he enjoys it when a person scratches his back.  It is seen more frequently in greyhounds and bull terriers than in other breeds.

Whether you are concerned that your hound might be having some form of neurological problem, or are simply curious about his odd trancing behavior, I am here to provide answers and some anecdotal evidence of this phenomenon which will put your mind at ease and bring a smile to your face…kind of like your dog’s trancing does!

Table of Contents

How to Know if your Dog is Trancing

I first encountered the concept of trancing shortly before getting my third greyhound, Lily.  Here is how it was told to me:

“A friend of mine has a greyhound, who was so starved for attention, that she used to walk back and forth under one of those beaded door-curtains that used to be so popular during the ’60’s.”

The mental image of the dog passing through the hippie beads was so captivating, that I let pass my friend’s incredible lack of self-awareness (both for herself and her friend), that the dog was still feeling neglected to the point of neurosis, even after years as a housepet.

It was not long after that conversation that I adopted Lily, who quickly formed an attatchment to the long drapes which hang in front of the sliding door to my deck.  Six years later, Lily still adores these curtains – Walking behind them, sleeping against them.  Of course, Lily has to be the eccentric, even in the field of a perculiar behavior that is limited to a handful of breeds.  Her own twist on trancing is that she “roaches” on her back, so the curtains can brush along her belly.  

In both of these cases, those of Lily and the hippie-bead hound, the diagnosis is, clearly, trancing.  If your dog shows the following signs, he, too, may be trancing:

  • Having a preferred object for his trancing.
  • Moving slowly, so that the object strokes his back (some prefer having their sides or neck touched)
  • A dreamy, faraway look.
  • May seem self-conscious if he feels that he is being observed…almost as though his privacy is being invaded.

Do All Dogs Trance?

Although logic would have it that any dog might enjoy trancing, it is seen more frequently in greyhounds and bull terriers than in other breeds. That said, you will see several other breeds represented in my trancing video.

Even among the couple of breeds who may trance, it is somewhat of an unconventional behavior.  Although there are no actual statistics, anecdotal evidence points to it being a “there’s one in every crowd” preference.  Here are a few samples from the Greytalk forum:

“Out of the 11 greys we’ve had only one was a habitual trancer.”

‘Our dog trances in the ornamental grasses, and of 20 campers he is the only who has been a trancer.’

“Out of 7 greys, I had one trancer.”

When is it Not Trancing?

A hound who sticks his head in the same bush every time, but does not move, may be reacting to the smell, sight, or sound of a bunny or other small creature.  This can happen because he has seen one there in the past, or he can smell that one has been there.

Appearing to be “in a trance,” without an object to rub against, is not “trancing.”  This can happen if your dog catches a scent, is listening to a sound off in the distance, or otherwise senses something of interest.  

Also, it’s good to know that dogs can haves seizures, some of which can have the symptom of a blank stare.  If your dog’s eyes are darting back and forth like one of those Kit-Kat clocks, he may be having a vestibular problem.  These are often a one-time incident.

Any time your pet is having symptoms, plugging them into a search engine can reveal a wealth of useful information.  It can also give you a good sense of whether to call your veterinarian, and can enable you to give him more complete information, which may lead to a faster diagnosis.

In the case of trancing, though, the best prescription is for the owner: just sit back and enjoy…and take plenty of pictures!

Resources for Further Exploration

By Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too!