Have you ever watched your dog walk and turn in circles before settling in for a nap? Do you know why dogs do that? There’s a few theories but it seems to be it’s an instinct that has descended with dogs from their wild ancestors.
Some experts believe circling before lying down is a leftover behavior. Wolves and other wild dogs have been noted to circle before lying down as a means of leveling and flattening the grass or snow, like creating a nesting area. Other experts say it is may also serve as a sign to other dogs that the territory is claimed. Also, dogs may paw at a surface to “fluff it up” as if creating a border. This has been speculated as a dog’s sense of creating a dip with sides to keep heat in and insulate themselves from the cold.
As owners, we may unconsciously also be reinforcing this behavior when we laugh, pet, or talk to our dogs after they’ve created their sleep spot. In many cases, watching our dogs circle and circle before they plop down and let out that long sigh is cute. Dogs may read our body language and verbal cues as approval and make it a habit that endures.
However, if your dog’s circling behavior seems to have changed and they circle more or keep changing direction, there might a cause for concern. Sometimes excessive circling may indicate a neurological issue or a sign that your dog has some pain such as the beginnings of arthritis. Watch for other signs in your dog’s daily behavior to see if there might be something else going on. Common signs may be problems getting up after sleeping, small limping, change in activity levels, change in appetite, confusion at commands, and change in attention seeking behavior. If your dog is exhibiting changes like these, a trip to the vet may be in order.
Dogs are unique and we may not always understand what they are doing or why but if we know our dogs well enough, we can tell when something is going on and quickly address any possible health concerns.
Image from Vetstreet