5 Possible Reasons Dogs Circle Around Before Going To Sleep

5 Possible Reasons Dogs Circle Around Before Going To Sleep

Author WDF Staff


Have you ever seen your dog circling before settling down for the night? We've noticed our dogs perform this exercise several times - they'll circle their dog beds four or five times before ultimately plopping down for a nap or a good night's sleep.

We all have our own personal comfort routines. Still, some dogs go too far, scratching at their pillows like they're looking for treasure or nuzzling their heads into the cushion's edge. We wondered if this was a sign of how uncomfortable their beds were or if it was just a strange habit.

To learn more about this peculiar canine activity, we did some research and discovered that our dogs are not alone, and circling is a typical dog behavior. In fact, dogs got this feature from their distant predecessors, the wolves. Here's everything you need to know about dogs circling before sleeping.

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What is the source of the behavior?

Dogs and their evolutionary ancestors used to sleep outside. In that scenario, circling served a variety of functions, which we'll describe later. The fact that this behavior is observed in dogs sleeping indoors implies that the circling is a "fixed activity pattern." To put it another way, it's a hardwired evolutionary feature that still remains with our dogs. Circling before sleeping still serves several objectives for dogs who sleep outside.

Getting comfortable

Circling would have helped trample any grass, hay, or other hard surfaces into a more pleasant sleeping environment. Although this hypothesis is widely accepted among specialists, it hasn't been thoroughly tested. In reality, the closest thing we have is an unofficial experiment conducted by Stanley Coren, Ph.D., a psychologist who reported about it in Psychology Today in 2016. Coren set up 62 dog exercise pens. The smooth carpet covered half of them. A tougher shag carpet was used on the opposite half. Coren reached a conclusion that one incentive for "pre-sleep circling" would be to provide a more comfier surface for sleeping after noticing that 31 dogs with the smooth carpet in their pens exhibited the behavior of circling around before going to sleep. However, as Coren points out, this is only one aspect that could come into play.


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Keeping their body temperature in check

Have you ever caught your dog would dig a small hole in the sand before laying flat in it while you're on a beach? Removing the topsoil reveals the cooler earth beneath. Dogs' circling activity could be linked to their inclination to search for colder ground. Dogs may also circle prior to twisting into a fluffy ball, especially in chilly conditions to retain body heat.

Detecting predators and unwelcome bedfellows

What else may explain why our dogs circle before going to sleep? Before sleep, turning around allows them to check their surroundings for potential predators one more time. Even while napping, circling can assist a dog in determining the wind direction. They can arrange their nose to rapidly detect a threatening scent. Circling allows dogs to observe and banish any "unwanted tenants," such as lizards, insects, or snakes, from their resting place.

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Keeping an eye on the pack

Dogs, as we all know, are pack animals. Before lying down, circling around would allow them to evaluate the pack situation and search the area for any members who had fallen behind.


Claiming space for sleep

Circling before sleeping could let other pack members know that "this" is "my" spot. This messaging can take the form of both visual and scent cues. Furthermore, rubbing their smell around their resting environment may encourage emotions of well-being, comfort, and protection, which can help them sleep better.

When should you consult a veterinarian?

Circling before sleeping is something most dogs do, but as with anything, moderation is crucial. If you notice your dog circling frequently, it can point out that they are in pain. Excessive circling, for example, could indicate an ear infection or joint discomfort. So, if you're noticing increased circling, you should probably contact your veterinarian.

Excessive circling in domestic dogs can sometimes be an indication of nervousness. If your dog circles like that on a regular basis, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian to figure out what's causing it and how to fix it.

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Finally, if your female dog is circling while also gathering household objects such as blankets or plush animals and taking them to a nesting location could indicate that she is pregnant. That necessitates a visit to your veterinarian.

World Dog Finder team

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