Why Do Dogs Circle Before They Lie Down?

Dogs do some strange things and the reasons behind them are not always obvious. Your dog probably has some quirks of his own, but one strange behavior that most dogs exhibit is circling before they lie down. Why the heck do dogs circle a spot before they lie down? Well, there are a few different factor that come into play with this odd habit.

Your Dog’s Natural Instincts

Your dog might not look anything like a wolf, but he’s descended from wild dogs and still has carry-over natural instincts. Though animal behavior experts don’t unanimously agree, some believe that circling before lying down is a residual behavior leftover from a dog’s days living in the wild. Before lying down on the ground, wild wolves sometimes turn in circles to stamp down the grass or snow to create a more level surface – it’s almost like creating a nest.

Related: Do Dogs Feel Empathy?

Wild dogs have also been known to dig into the earth to create a hole before lying down in it, allowing the earth to help retain the dog’s natural body heat. This may also explain why some dogs scratch or paw at their bedding before they curl up to rest.

Could Circling Be a Cause for Concern?

As you know, sometimes there’s no obvious explanation for why dogs do certain things. Sometimes it’s simply a habit the dog formed and it may not really have a reason. But if you can’t think of a reasonable explanation for why your dog is exhibiting a certain behavior, you may want to look into it a little bit – especially if it’s a new behavior your dog has recently developed.

It’s part of a dog’s natural instinct to hide his pain and weakness. If something is wrong, your dog will probably try to mask it because any weakness could make him vulnerable. Because a dog can’t come out and tell you what is wrong, you have to learn to recognize the signs.

Related: Why Does My Dog Keep Licking His Paws?

In many cases, when something is wrong, the first sign you are likely to notice is a change in behavior. If your dog doesn’t usually circle before he lies down but suddenly starts to do it, you might want to look a little deeper into this change in behavior. In some cases, this kind of behavior could be a sign of restlessness or discomfort.

If your dog can’t seem to get comfortable and keeps circling and circling, it may be a sign of a neurological issue or it could be that something is causing him pain – arthritis is a common cause. Watch your dog closely to see if he is having trouble getting up and lying down then decide if you should take him to the vet for a checkup.

Dogs are unique creatures and we don’t always understand why they do the things they do. Because changes in behavior can signal a health problem, you need to familiarize yourself with your dog’s behavior enough that you are able to quickly identify changes. Don’t worry – it’s easy to do! All you have to do is spend as much time with your dog as possible and you’ll come to know him as well as you know yourself – or better.

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor’s degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.


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