Why Does My Bull Terrier Trance? What To Do About It?


Time to read 5 min

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Does your Bull Terrier ever go into trances and seem to walk in slow motion? If you have never seen it before and your Bull Terrier starts doing it at home, it can be a bit unnerving to watch.

This is a behavior reported by a number of Bull Terrier owners. What exactly is Bull Terrier trancing and why would Bull Terriers walk in a trance-like state?

Wonder no longer! We're diving into a dog trance state and will uncover the mystery behind it.

What is trancing?

Trancing, also known as ghost walking or weed walking, is when your Bull Terrier will slip into super-slow motion. They start walking in a trance-like fashion when they feel something that gently touches their heads and backs as they walk by.

Bull Terriers let a plant, tablecloth, or curtain gently tickle their back. They may freeze and may or may not easily snap out of it.

Bull Terriers in a trance state will therefore walk slowly and then may become very still or they may walk back and forth. These trance episodes tend to last anywhere between a few seconds to more than half an hour.

Since trancing is quite common in Bull Terriers, it's often referred to as the “Bull Terrier Ghost Walk.”

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Why Does My Bull Terrier Trance?

There is no scientific explanation as of yet as to what causes trancing in dogs and why Bull Terriers seem to be affected more often than other breeds. Among many other dog behaviors, this is one that still needs some research.

Trancing seems to not have been associated with any medical or behavioral disorder. In 2004, a study on Bull Terrier trance was conducted to identify the link between 'trancing' behavior and neurological abnormalities. Overall, 86 percent of the Bull Terriers, entered in the study, were considered normal while 14 percent were showing neurological issues.

73% of all dogs in this poll (both normal and those with neurological issues)  trance, and 27% do not.

Out of the 258 dogs described as normal, the statistics are the same as above: 73% exhibit trancing behavior and 27% do not.

Out of the 42 dogs described as having neurological issues, 71% exhibit trancing behavior and 29% do not.

Well, this seems to suggest that the Bull Terriers who engage in the trancing behaviors were normal, happy dogs. 

Is trancing a type of seizure?

Trancing is not a seizure or other neurological condition. Most of the research on the subject determines that it has nothing to do with a neurological issue. So, usually it's not something that warrants a visit to the vet. Bull Terriers seemingly just fall into trance.

Unlike a seizure, a trance “spell” can be easily broken. Bull Terriers that are trancing will be completely normal before and after the trance episode. However, Bull Terriers that have a seizure episode often do not seem completely normal after the episode. They can take hours to be completely back to normal.

What causes trancing in Bull Terriers?

Researchers from the British Veterinary Association explains that the trancing seems to have no social or instinctual purpose or medical cause behind it. Most dog owners state that their dogs start trancing when they are exposed to specific tactile triggers found in their environment.

Some dog behaviorists suggest that Bull Terriers trance because they are fascinated by a draping object such as a plant. They walk in a slow-motion around it, with the leaves brushing gently across their back. This could be that the sensation from the plant is very pleasant for Bull Terriers. 

Bull Terriers often have a favorite trancing plant, tree, or specific area. However, there’s no common plant or tree species that might hint at a scent trigger. Some Bull Terriers prefer hanging clothes or even more odd things. Most have in common trancing beneath something that hangs down and scarcely touches their back.

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What to do with Bull Terrier trancing?

Usually, you don't need to do anything if your Bull Terrier engages in trancing behavior. It doesn't seem to harm your pet in any way. Also, trancing doesn't indicate a medical or behavior problem that requires treatment.

If you do not see any other symptoms associated with trancing episodes, there is nothing to worry about. Just allow your Bull Terriers to finish their ritual.

The only time you may want to stop the behavior is if your Bull Terrier is fascinated by a toxic plant or a potentially dangerous object.

If the trance is accompanied by vomiting, excessive drooling, muscle spasms, unresponsiveness to outside stimuli, or sudden unconsciousness, there may be an underlying problem. 

Which other breeds are more prone to dog trancing?

Here are some other dog breeds that are prone to dog trancing:

  • Greyhounds
  • Salukis
  • Basset Hounds
  • Whippet
  • Jack Russell
  • Labrador
  • Irish Setter
  • Cane Corso
  • Cavalier
  • Australian Cattle Dog 
  • Puggle

There is no real explanation for why these dog breeds seem to be affected more often than other breeds. Interestingly, even blind dogs seem to enjoy trancing.

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Final thoughts

Trancing may appear strange and pose a mystery to pet parents, it’s not an indication of health or behavioral problems in Bull Terriers. It just seems to be something some Bull Terriers really enjoy.

Most trancing episodes, when left uninterrupted, last only a few minutes. Once your Bull Terrier is done, they are immediately back to their normal, happy, tail-wagging self.

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