Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before Lying Down?

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why do dogs walk in circles before they sit down

Have you ever watched your dog turn in circles and scratch at the floor before lying down, and then once he does lie down, he lets out a satisfied sigh? If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably wondered at one point or another why dogs do this. Several animal behaviorists have done research on this subject and have come up with a variety of theories. Here are some of the most popular.

Creating a Nest

Your dog’s ancestors lived in the wilderness, where they had to be alert to be safe and fend for themselves to stay healthy and comfortable. When wild dogs walk in circles outside on the ground, they pat down the grass or snow in their space. When they dig, they create a depression in the ground, revealing subsurface soil that can help keep them cool in the summer. In the winter, this depression helps keep them warm by containing their body heat.

Claiming Their Territory

Another possible reason for walking in circles before settling in may be to claim a territory. Flattening down the ground will scare away bugs or other animals in the immediate area. It also shows other creatures that the area is occupied, so they should stay away.

Staying Alert

According to some theories, walking in circles helps a dog determine which direction the wind is blowing. By lying down with his nose to the wind, a dog can remain alert and pick up the scent of any other animals that approach. This could help him avoid an attack… or at least be ready for one.

Protecting the Pack

Some dogs were bred to keep track of a herd or pack. Spinning around helps the leader of the pack make sure no danger is present before settling in for the night. Whether this be for his own wolf pack or a herd of sheep or cattle, the same concept applies.

When You Should Be Concerned

If you notice that your dog walks in circles an abnormal number of times or can’t seem to get settle in and get comfortable, he may have a health problem. In this case, you may want to take your dog to the vet to get him checked out. This behavior can be a result of arthritis or a painful neurological problem.


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About Sean

I’ve been training people and dogs in Seattle for the last decade and a half. My main focus when working with clients every week in one-on-one, private lessons is to help people learn to get their dogs to a functional level so that they can actually enjoy spending time every day with their dog instead of stressing about their dog’s behavior issues.

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