Dog Language: What Does It Mean When My Dog Circles Before He Lies Down?

October 26th, 2008 by Dan

I find a great deal of amusement in watching Reef get settled down for the night. She has a bunch of comfy beds, but she insists on making them “comfier”. She turns in rapid circles, rotates in both directions, picks up her bed with her paws, fluffs it, fluffs it again and finally settles down into a small ball of dog. Some dogs have less intricate nesting routines, while others continue for a greater length of time. Have you ever wondered why your dog circles before lying down?

Photo by sour_snowflakes

The answer is actually quite simple and is linked back to the days when dogs were not domesticated, as this behavior is still seen in wolves. It is instinctively ingrained in the genetics of the modern dog. Your dog’s wild ancestors would find a patch of grass that looked like a good area to bed down for the night, but before they could do that they would get a good whiff of the area to make sure it was safe. Next, they would begin the turning process (the same one we see repeated in our living rooms on a nightly basis) to trample down high grasses and form a more comfortable spot for sleeping. The digging behavior has been observed in wolves more frequently during hot months as they desire sleeping in the cooler earth that is revealed during the process.

So when you see your Shih Tzu or Collie performing his bedtime routine, now you know he’s feeling the call of the wild!

Photo by jrbrown206

6 Responses to “Dog Language: What Does It Mean When My Dog Circles Before He Lies Down?”

  1. John Dewey Says:

    I figured out that the scratching, digging action was an inspection of the bed site. But I didn’t know why my dogs would turn in circles.

    Here’s a link to a dog story I’ve written which people seem to enjoy:

  2. Anita Says:

    I tend to agree about the nesting thing, although I recently read an article by a dog obedience trainer who said they circle to position themselves facing north because it improves their circulation. But really, how does anyone really know what a dog is thinking and why he does what he does?

  3. tom Says:

    I have tested and observed the facing north theory on three different dog breeds and found it to be true. They do sleep facing north.All the time!

  4. Pete Says:

    I found this site because I was looking for information about our dog’s nesting behaviors.

    It should be noted that she is sleeping facing south right at this very moment.

  5. Pete Says:

    No, wait – sorry, she just moved. Now she’s lying facing east. Theory is still bunk.

  6. louanne studer Says:

    my dog loves to face north too

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