Why Do Dogs Circle Before They Lay Down?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. March 30, 2020
Why Do Dogs Circle Before They Lay Down?

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Before going to sleep, we often see our dogs circle before laying down. This instinctive behavior comes from their ancestors and continues to be part of their daily routine. But why do dogs spin in circles before lying down? Does it help them in some way?

In this AnimalWised article, we are going to explain why dogs circle before laying down, the origin of this behavior and how to know when it becomes excessive. If you're curious in learning more, keep reading as we tackle these subjects.

You may also be interested in: Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Bed Before Lying Down?

Why do dogs circle before lying down?

It's not bizarre to see your dog circle before lying down, but where does this habit come from? Animal specialists believe it's an innate behavior, carried down by their ancestors. This is because when gray wolves or wild dogs had to sleep, they would have to create their own bed to sleep in. To do this, they would pat down tall grass in order to drive away any lurking vermin, such as snakes or insects. This would also help them create a comfortable bed for themselves and their pups. In extreme heat, they would also dig up cool soil to sleep in and when it was very cold, they would dig up a deeper hole to sleep in and retain their body heat.

Animal specialists suggest that another reason dog's ancestors would circle before lying down was to find the best position to lay down. They had to be very careful as they were most vulnerable to attacks when sleeping or resting. Some experts believe that this would be in relation to the direction of the wind and how that can help their sense of smell.

Other experts say that by spinning before they lay down to sleep, dogs leave their scent on their “bed” so that others know it is taken. Nevertheless, we can understand that dogs circle before laying down as an evolutionary behavior passed down by their ancestors. It is mainly for comfort, security and survival.

However, many of us wonder why they continue to do this if they have soft pillow beds in a safe home. Studies show that the majority of dogs tend to circle before laying down on an uneven surface. This suggests that although dogs have a comfortable bed or couch in a safe home, they may spin to pat the surface down and to make it even. Another reason that dogs continue to display this behavior is simply because evolutionary behaviors tend to have a strong influence in future generations.

Why Do Dogs Circle Before They Lay Down? - Why do dogs circle before lying down?

How circling before lying down helps your dog

Now that you know why dogs circle before laying down, you're probably curious in knowing if this behavior is beneficial to them. The simple answer is yes, it can help them in the following ways:

  • Firstly, dogs want to get comfortable. Just like you may position your pillow a certain way or get into a certain sleeping position to help you rest, dogs will do the same. In order to relax and sleep, dogs will want to find the best position to do so. That is when they may spin, pat their bed or even scratch it. Once they find a suitable position they are ready to fall asleep.

  • Secondly, dogs love routine. Dogs are very intelligent animals that get used to a certain routine. As they grow up with their dog companions, they will adapt to their routine and lifestyle. For example, dogs usually know when their dog companion will take them out on a walk or will feed them. They get excited just before as they know that time is coming. The same thing may apply when going to sleep. Spinning before laying down may have begun as an innate behavior but is now part of their bedtime routine. Just as reading a book or drinking tea may help you wind down, circling once around their bed may help your dog get to sleep faster.

  • Lastly, dogs seek warmth. As their ancestors would do, dogs may circle around before laying down, scratch their bed and even sleep curled up when they are cold. Doing this will help them find the best position to sleep and maintain their body temperature. If you see your dog scratching their bed and then curling up to sleep, perhaps you can provide them with a blanket so they can sleep comfortably.
Why Do Dogs Circle Before They Lay Down? - How circling before lying down helps your dog

Can dogs circling before lying down be a cause for concern?

Although in most cases dogs are simply performing an innate behavior, in some cases excessive spinning may be a signal that something is wrong. Dogs that are in pain may circle excessively in order to find the position that hurts the least. This may be due to sore joints, pain in the abdomen, back pain or other factors.

In order to know if your dog is in pain, observe their behavior. Is this the first time they circle before laying down? Are they spinning more than they used to? If so, it would be best to take them to the veterinarian for a check-up.

Another problematic reason for excessive circling may be due to a neurological problem. If you see that your dog is circling compulsively and at any time of the day, you must go to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Lastly, you must beware if circling is accompanied by a tilted head or even vomiting, as this could indicate a vestibular disease or a neurological issue.

If any of these situations applies to your dog, you should consult your veterinarian right away.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Do Dogs Circle Before They Lay Down?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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