Do you ever watch your dog get ready for a nap? Dogs, unlike humans, don’t just plop into bed. First, he digs a hole in his (or your) bed. Then, he circles a few times before finally lying down with a contented sigh. So how do we answer why dogs circle before lying down? This is what veterinary experts had to say about the sleep routine.
It started with their ancestors
Historically, dogs slept outside. Dogs in the wild didn’t have comfy beds to sleep in. Circling would have helped flatten down any grass or rough surface to make a more comfortable sleep. The fact that this behavior still exists in dogs that are sleeping indoors would seem to indicate the circling action is an evolutionary trait.
Circling behavior may be related to regulating their body temperature. Outdoor dogs can’t turn on the air conditioner when it was hot. So, instinctively they dug for cooler earth. In colder climates, dogs can’t grab a blanket so they circled before curling up into a tight ball to conserve body heat.
Before lying down circling would have also signaled to other pack members that “this” is “my” place. Besides visibly seeing this signal, it could also be via scent. Dogs have scent glands in their paws. Also, rubbing their scent around their sleeping area may promote feelings of well-being and security that support a better night’s sleep.
These are all the reasons dogs circled before lying down in the wild, but how does this relate to our domestic dogs that have cozy lives in our homes?
The desire for comfort is instinctive, so one could say that our dogs circle before lying down to get their beds just right. But their bedtime ritual is more than that. It’s a duplication of what their ancestors did before going to sleep under the stars.