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Why do dogs circle before lying down?

Updated on January 18, 2009

An ingrained habit

According to dog behavior experts, dogs circle several times before lying down to make a comfortable bed. This behavior can be quite perplexing to a doting pet owner. Some pet owners have ensured that the pet sleep comfortably by buying posh highly priced animal beds. Circling before lying down is a deep-rooted habit that was handed down by the dogs’ ancestors who survived in the forest, in the open and in the snow. These ancient dogs in the wild have to make do with what they have to survive and that includes making their own bed.

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For comfort

Dogs are really intelligent creatures. They know that by walking around in circles, the spot they have chosen to lie down will be made comfortable. Grasses will be flattened and loose stones will be removed. If the weather is extremely hot, you will notice dogs digging on the ground and when a hole is made, they will circle several times before lying down. This means that the cooler layer of the ground is exposed and the dog can now sleep comfortably. Dogs that are allowed to sleep outside in winter also dig the snow. Dogs do not want to lie on flat surfaces. Depressions made in the snow will make them more comfortable. They do have weather resistant coats but by circling they will be able to take the position where in they will get maximum protection from the wind.

For Safety

In the wild, dogs make their own beds. By circling over and over they are not only making a comfy bed but they are also informing small predators and the slithering snakes to move out. Dogs circle the place where they have chosen to sleep to make sure that it is not occupied by animals that can pose a danger to their lives. Domesticated dogs do not have this concern but the circling habit is still present.

Understanding the circling habit of the dog

It would certainly be exasperating to see your pet toss the blankets on its bed. Sorry mom/dad, your “baby” does not know that you have paid top dollar for his bed. Your pet does not know that you have explicitly purchased the bed to give him a good journey to slumber land. The dog is only trying to “rearrange” the cushions and the blankets to make the bed a little more comfortable. Circling several times before lying down is genetically programmed in your dog. Unless the dog is making the carpet threadbare with his circling or destroying his fleece slumber bed, let your pet circle if it makes him happy. At least the dog is not asking you to read him a bedtime story before he sleeps!

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