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Why do Dogs Turn Around Before Laying Down?

Updated on January 27, 2010

Both my dogs enjoy ''building up their nest''

Your dog is getting ready to take a nap: as he heads with sleepy eyes towards the soft blanket you have placed for him on the floor, he sniffs the area and then curiously starts turning around meaninglessly in circles. It may take three or four turns before he curls up and gets ready to snooze. The ritual takes place every time now and you have grown eager for a plausible explanation.


So Why Do Dogs Turn in Circles Before Sleeping?

Your dog is getting ready to take a nap: as he heads with sleepy eyes towards the soft blanket you have placed for him on the floor, he sniffs the area and then curiously starts turning around meaninglessly in circles. It may take three or four turns before he curls up and gets ready to snooze. The ritual takes place every time now and you have grown eager for a plausible explanation.

There may be several theories but one of the most valid ones comes from the belief that in the wild dogs turned around in circles in order to press down the  tall grass so to make a comfortable bed. Today, therefore this instinct may well still be alive in our domesticated dogs, even though they may no longer sleep in grassy areas but have a soft blanket and pillows instead. 

Another valid theory is that  dogs may turn around in circles because in the wild canines used to dig and sleep in dens. Dens were underground areas where dogs used to sleep in and raise their puppies. Digging dirt up to create a comfy spot is still as of today common practice in dogs especially in the summer, when dogs dig up dirt to create a shallow and cool area to sleep in. Turning around in circles therefore may be a dog's instinctual trait  with the primary purpose of creating ''den like impressions'' with its paws before falling asleep.

Some experts may on the other hand claim that dogs turn in circles to sniff the ground and check  for the scent of enemies. Indeed, often dogs that turn around in circles will do so by keeping their head quite low to the ground as if carefully inspecting the sleeping place. Only once the area appears safe, the dog will therefore lay down and enjoy a well deserved sleep.

Among all these theories, I personally believe that the ''stepping on grass instinct'' is the most valid. Both my dogs, have slept on the tile floors all summer long and have never turned around in circles, until this winter when they were offered a comfy blanket. Both started this turning around behavior out of nowhere and they now seem to put a lot of effort in making their ''bed'' comfy each night. 

Turning around before laying down is therefore part of the many ingrained instincts dogs may carry along from the wild. Often such behaviors cannot be stopped and will continue in dogs no matter what. No dog teaches another dog this behavior, but it is rather programmed in their mind and will occur regardless if  they live indoors or outdoors.


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    • Teresa Schultz profile image

      Teresa Schultz 

      8 years ago from East London, in South Africa

      I wonder if dogs ever wonder why humans don't just plop into bed and not move again, rather than what they (humans) really do: pull their bedding up over them, wriggle around a bit, perhaps shift their head and neck around a bit to make sure they feel really comfortable, push their long hair out of the way...

      This only really occured to me now, and it was your hub that made me think of this, so, well done!

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      LOL very funny, and my little poodle will do this also, at the same time she diggs and moves the bankets around until she feels comfortable. Great hub, thanks for sharing.

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